Can You Sue a Hospital for Emotional Distress?
Dealing with significant medical issues can cause great stress across the board. When a medical care provider behaves negligently in your care, it can cause even greater problems, including, for many patients, significant emotional distress.
However, when that emotional distress occurs in a hospital, you may wonder if you have the right to pursue compensation against the hospital with the help of a qualified medical malpractice lawyer. In some cases, you might have the right to seek compensation from the hospital for the emotional challenges accompanying malpractice.
Understanding Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice occurs whenever a care provider behaves negligently or violates the standard of care in treating a patient. Medical malpractice can take several forms, from failure to properly diagnose and treat a patient to failure to properly inform a patient about the risks associated with a specific procedure.
In addition to the many physical and medical complications often related to medical malpractice, the negligent actions of a care provider can cause substantial emotional distress for many patients.
How Malpractice Creates Emotional Distress?
Most people place a great deal of trust in their medical care providers. They put their health and overall care in the hands of those providers and expect a high standard of care. When care providers fail in their duty, it can cause potential challenges.
Patients May Suffer From Increased Anxiety Related to Future Healthcare Needs
Many patients already suffer from considerable anxiety when dealing with healthcare providers. In fact, white coat syndrome can lead to a noticeable increase in blood pressure any time a patient sees or interacts with a medical care provider in a professional setting.
Following any medical malpractice, patients can end up suffering from increased anxiety when interacting with future care providers. That anxiety can make it more difficult for them to pursue future medical treatments, even when they know they need that treatment for any reason.
Patients May Notice That Their Overall Trust in Medical Care Providers Decreases
Some populations, including women and minorities, already know they have an increased risk of medical care providers failing to take them seriously. These individuals may need to engage more with their care providers and may already have decreased trust in them. Experiencing medical malpractice, however, can further erode confidence in the system, causing many people to lose their faith in care providers.
Some Patients May Have PTSD Following Medical Malpractice
Some types of medical malpractice can cause patients to suffer from PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder from the care provider’s general negligence in dealing with that patient. PTSD can cause several symptoms, including flashbacks, sleep disturbances, and avoidance of situations that might evoke those feelings, including avoiding seeking medical care in the future despite a clear and obvious need for medical attention. Many patients with PTSD may find that it interferes with their everyday lives.
Medical Malpractice Can Cause Some Patients to Suffer Immense Distress During the Treatment Process
Often, medical malpractice will mean increased medical procedures for patients. Sometimes, the care provider may catch the error before the patient has to go through substantial treatment.
Still, the patient may suffer from immense distress in the meantime, particularly while planning extensive medical treatments or dealing with the challenges that often accompany substantial medical needs. Patients may find many of those events immensely distressing and struggle to deal with the aftermath of malpractice.
Patients Can Suffer Considerable Ongoing Distress Due to Failure to Diagnose a Condition or Injury
Most of the time, by the time patients see a medical care provider, they already have a significant concern in mind. Often, patients have suffered from pain for quite some time. Failure to diagnose those conditions can mean that the patient continues to suffer that pain and distress, often with no hope for a resolution in sight.
As a result, patients who do not receive a diagnosis from a care provider, although they may show apparent symptoms of a specific type of injury or illness, may lose hope, feel depressed, or struggle to deal with the implication that a healthcare provider cannot offer them a solution for those ailments.
Malpractice Can Have a Substantial Impact on Many Patients’ Relationships With Friends and Loved Ones
Significant medical needs often have a heavy impact on relationships. Women, in particular, may have a higher risk of divorce due to substantial medical diagnoses. Other patients may find that suffering from increased reliance on friends and loved ones during the recovery process increases the risk of growing more distant from their loved ones. Adult children may withdraw or grow more worried about a parent’s needs. Often, those impacts will linger long after the initial health problem resolves.
Including Emotional Distress as Part of a Malpractice Claim
When you suffer any injury due to the negligent actions of a medical care provider, you will generally have the right to file a medical malpractice claim.
A medical malpractice claim will include all the elements of suffering you may have had to go through, including:
- Increased medical bills. Medical malpractice frequently leads to significant increases in the medical bills that a patient has to pay when compared to the bills the patient would have had to pay without the malpractice element, and a medical malpractice claim aims to seek compensation for those losses.
- Lost income. Many patients who suffer from medical malpractice find that they cannot work during the recovery from their initial condition or the damages caused by medical malpractice. As a result, they may have considerable wage losses related to those challenges.
- Pain and suffering. As part of the claim, most patients will have the right to include compensation for the pain and suffering they had to deal with as they went through a medical malpractice claim. Many states recognize emotional distress as a severe issue in its own right, meaning that patients may have the right to include it in a comprehensive medical malpractice claim.
Including emotional distress as part of an overall medical malpractice claim can prove easier than filing for a medical malpractice claim based on emotional distress alone. You may need to follow several steps to include your emotional distress as part of a malpractice claim, even after establishing the extent of your injuries.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Whether you intend to file a claim for emotional distress alone or you need to include emotional distress as part of a larger medical malpractice claim, working with a lawyer offers your best chance of recovering maximum compensation for your losses.
A medical malpractice lawyer can help lay out where you can pursue compensation, including how to best shape a claim that includes emotional distress related to your losses. Filing a medical malpractice claim can prove incredibly complicated. A lawyer, however, can help ensure you understand the legal process and provide you with vital insights into how to protect yourself as you progress with your claim.
Get a Medical Diagnosis for Any Relevant Conditions or Challenges
In many cases, emotional distress can lead to a concrete diagnosis of conditions that heavily impact you. At that point, in addition to seeking compensation for the emotional distress itself, you can also include compensation for any medical costs related to treating that emotional distress.
Suppose, for example, that you suffered PTSD due to medical malpractice. You may have a diagnosis from a psychiatrist or psychologist. You may need to take medications to help with PTSD, including medications that may help you sleep. You may also need to work through the symptoms of PTSD in therapy, which you can include as a medical cost.
Having a definitive medical diagnosis can make it easier to display just how much medical malpractice has influenced your overall mental health. As a result, many patients find it much easier to move forward with a claim that includes the emotional challenges they face.
Document the Emotional Distress You Feel After Medical Malpractice
Articulating your struggles because of a medical malpractice event can feel incredibly difficult. As time passes, those emotions may start to fade, or you may struggle to recall the exact memories of those times. Keep a journal from the early days following medical malpractice.
Include things like:
- Your reaction to the medical malpractice itself. Write about the direct challenges you faced and the issues you went through immediately after you realized what had happened.
- Your daily struggles. What do you have to deal with daily because of medical malpractice? For example, do you suffer from increased anxiety or PTSD?
- Triggering events. For example, you might write about your reaction after seeing a medical care provider about another issue.
- Your relationships. Pay attention to how the medical malpractice event impacts your relationship with friends and loved ones. For example, you may notice that your relationship with some people deteriorates due to your declining physical health.
Talk to your lawyer about those struggles and how to include them in your claim. Your journal can clearly establish all the challenges you have faced. It can also help outline those challenges so you get all the important details when presenting your claim to the medical malpractice board or a judge.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim for Emotional Distress Alone
Often, medical malpractice results in substantial physical challenges and losses. In those cases, you may simply include emotional distress as a larger part of your medical malpractice claim. However, in some cases, your medical malpractice event might involve only emotional distress.
For example, a care provider might mix up diagnoses and give you one that causes you great distress. However, you may never receive treatment for that incorrect condition, and you may not have any increased costs related to that misdiagnosis error. Likewise, you may have suffered increased pain and emotional distress for failing to diagnose an error, but if your condition did not deteriorate, you might not have physical losses.
However, many states recognize emotional distress as a serious problem and may allow you to file a claim for that condition alone.
Get a Diagnosis for Any Conditions
See a mental health care provider and get a diagnosis for any conditions that may have stemmed from your care provider’s negligent behavior. A concrete diagnosis can make moving forward with a medical malpractice claim much easier. Having a definite diagnosis can also help you more clearly lay out exactly what struggle your malpractice event caused. A medical diagnosis can prove the full extent of your suffering, especially in cases where you might not have more concrete financial losses to point to.
Contact an Attorney
Regardless of how you plan to shape a medical malpractice claim, working with a lawyer can make it easier to show exactly how the care provider’s medical malpractice impacted you and what compensation you deserve. Contact an attorney as soon after the incident as possible to allow the attorney to start working on your behalf.
Lay Out Your Suffering
As in medical malpractice cases where you simply want to include your emotional distress as part of a larger malpractice claim, take the time to document your suffering clearly. Keep a journal or other document that includes all the challenges you have faced because of medical malpractice, including your overall emotional distress.
Did You Suffer Emotional Distress Due to Medical Malpractice?
If you suffered any distress or loss due to medical malpractice, you might have the right to compensation. Contact a personal injury lawyer in Bronx to learn more about how to include that emotional distress in a malpractice claim.