Can I Sue a Hospital for Emotional Distress?

Can Hospitals Be Sued for Emotional Distress? | Law Offices of Mickey Fine

Seeking treatment in a hospital can be a trying experience. The delays, uncertainty, and costs involved can all seem like too much for many people to bear. Despite this, however, most patients get the treatment they need and they are eventually able to move on with their lives.

But what if your hospital experience is worse? What if you suffer from emotional distress as a result of your experience? Or, what if you are forced to watch a loved one suffer unnecessarily due to the negligence of the hospital’s personnel?

In these cases, you may be able to sue the hospital for emotional distress.

When Can You Sue a Hospital for Emotional Distress in California?

There are three primary circumstances in which a hospital may be liable for causing patients and their families emotional distress. Under California law, these situations include:

  1. Medical malpractice resulting in physical and emotional harm
  2. Medical malpractice resulting in emotional distress prior to death
  3. Being a “direct victim” of negligent infliction of emotional distress

1. Medical Malpractice Resulting in Physical and Emotional Harm

If you believe you were harmed by medical malpractice (or any other form of negligence) in a California hospital, you can file a lawsuit against the hospital to recover financial compensation for your physical and emotional harm. You may be entitled to compensation for emotional distress, which encompasses damages related to:

  • Anguish and suffering
  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Nervousness, fright, and horror
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Shock
  • Shame and humiliation

When patients suffer injuries, illnesses, and other complications due to medical negligence, it is not unusual to experience all of these emotions. It can be difficult to accept that you have unknowingly misplaced your trust, and it can be even more difficult to accept that you may have to live with the consequences of someone else’s mistake for the rest of your life.

If you suffer harm due to medical malpractice, you are entitled to seek compensation for all of the effects of your healthcare provider’s error. Given the serious, long-term consequences of errors in a healthcare setting, emotional distress could account for a significant portion of the damages in your claim.

2. Medical Malpractice Resulting in Emotional Distress Prior to Death

If your loved one passed away due to medical malpractice in a California hospital, you can seek financial compensation for the emotional distress your relative endured prior to death. In wrongful death claims, family members effectively pursue the compensation a loved one may have recovered had he or she survived.

Generally speaking, family members cannot recover financial compensation for the emotional distress they experience as a result of witnessing a loved one’s passing due to medical negligence. While California law allows “bystander” claims in some cases, this generally isn’t a possibility in the hospital setting.

3. “Direct Victim” Claims Involving Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

While medical malpractice claims require evidence of physical harm, hospital patients in California can also pursue claims without evidence of physical harm in cases of negligent infliction of emotional distress. These are known as “direct victim” claims (in contrast to the “bystander” claims referenced above).

In order to pursue a claim against a hospital for negligent infliction of emotional distress without evidence of physical harm, a patient must be able to prove that:

  • The hospital owed the patient a duty of care (i.e., there was a doctor-patient relationship);
  • The hospital (or, as is often the case, the patient’s doctor specifically) was negligent; and
  • The negligence of the hospital and/or the doctor caused the patient to suffer serious emotional distress.

As a practical matter, negligent infliction of emotional distress claims against hospitals are relatively rare. In most cases, patients suffer from emotional distress as a result of the physical effects of their doctors’ negligence (i.e., learning that their condition has progressed due to a delayed diagnosis).

However, patients can pursue these claims in appropriate cases. If you have experienced emotional distress as a result of negligent care in a hospital under any circumstances, you should absolutely speak with a lawyer about your legal rights.

Are You Entitled to Compensation for Emotional Distress?

Nobody wants to go to the hospital. Most visits are occasioned by a sudden injury, worsening health, and other unforeseen issues. When you go to the hospital, you expect the doctors and staff to employ the utmost care in diagnosing and treating your condition.

Unfortunately, medical errors can lead to significant trauma. Malpractice can harm you physically and result in emotional distress for you and your family.

Attorney Mickey Fine has more than 30 years of experience handling a wide range of personal injury claims. When you hire the Law Offices of Mickey Fine, we explore all options for recovering the full compensation you deserve.

Please call (661) 333-3333 today for a free case evaluation. The Law Offices of Mickey Fine handles claims involving hospital negligence in Bakersfield and other areas of California.

Personal Injury
by Mickey Fine Law
Last updated on - Originally published on