Is a Hospital Acquired Infection Grounds for Medical Malpractice?

By Peter DePaolis

Earlier this month, a patient visited the emergency room to undergo what was supposed to be a straightforward outpatient procedure. Three days later, he found himself back in the emergency room with searing pain and a leg swollen more than twice the normal size. Once admitted, the patient was told he had a very serious staph infection. Fortunately, the patient was treated and discharged. But, he left the hospital with a new perspective on the dangers of hospital-acquired infection.

Many do not realize how fast and lethal hospital-acquired infections can be, even to those who are otherwise healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in every 25 patients contracted a hospital-borne infection each day. In 2011, 722,000 patients in the U.S. developed hospital-borne infections, approximately 75,000 of whom died during time in the hospital, and those numbers have only increased in recent years. While hospitals are striving to find new disinfection techniques, especially in light of “superbugs” such as MRSA, it is possible hospitals are not doing enough to protect patients.

I Came Down With a Hospital Acquired Infection—Do I Have a Case?

Hospital-acquired infections are fairly common and if treated quickly, can be relatively harmless to a patient. However, if a patient’s infection goes undiagnosed and untreated, the patient can suddenly slip into septic shock or even die. Typically, hospital-acquired infections have nothing to do with the patient’s condition or diagnosis they received when they were initially admitted. In most cases, an infection that occurs 48 hours after a patient is admitted is likely a hospital-borne infection. The most common types of hospital-borne infections are:

  • Staph infections
  • Bloodstream infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Surgical site infections

In order to prevent infections, hospitals are required to adhere to very strict practices to keep a sterile and cleanly environment. If a hospital fails to keep a sterile environment and an infection occurs, it is possible there is grounds for medical malpractice. Hospitals are expected to do the following to prevent infections:

  • Keep sterile medical devices
  • Maintain clean surfaces
  • Filter the HVAC system
  • Have clean water
  • Enforce frequent hand washing
  • Use antibiotics appropriately, especially when giving intravenous medication, catheterization, intubation or other invasive procedures

In addition to being painful and terrifying, hospital acquired infections are also very expensive and can add tens of thousands of dollars in treatment costs. If you believe an infection was contracted in a hospital due to lack of sterility, a medical malpractice attorney can investigate the circumstances of your infection and assess your rights moving forward.

Our D.C. Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help

Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P. is a personal injury law firm that helps medical malpractice victims in Washington, D.C. Contact us today!

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.