Seattle Hospital-Acquired Infections Lawyer
Nobody wants to go to the hospital. But when you do go, you expect to get good treatment and be released in better condition than when you arrived. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen – particularly when patients fall ill with infections that they picked up while staying at a hospital. In some cases, hospital-acquired infections aren’t preventable.
However, if medical negligence caused you to pick up an infection at the hospital that otherwise could have been prevented, you may have a medical malpractice claim. Through this type of personal injury lawsuit, you can recover compensation for your full range of losses and damages, including medical bills, future medical treatment, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and more. If you picked up a preventable hospital-acquired infection during a stay at a Seattle medical facility, we at Menzer Law Firm, PLLC, are here to help. With decades of combined experience, we will work hard to help you get the money that you deserve. We offer free initial consultations and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you.
What Is A Hospital-Acquired Infection?
A hospital-acquired infection is exactly what it sounds like: any type of infection that is contracted at a hospital or other health care facility. The infection may be from a virus, bacteria or fungus. When it is passed to a patient due to the negligence of a health care provider or the facility as a whole, it may be considered medical malpractice. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every 31 patients will contract at least one health care-associated infection (HAI). These infections may also be referred to as nosocomial infections. Most of these infections pass through the bloodstream. The CDC maintains data on infection rates and areas of concern for hospitals based on information from the Washington State Department of Health. This gives us insight into the types of infections that most often occur during hospital stays. Some of the most common examples of hospital-acquired infections include:
- Urinary tract infections (UTI), with as many as 75% of all UTIs caused by the placement of urinary catheters
- Pneumonia, often caused by the introduction of germs into the lungs through a ventilator; may be referred to as ventilator-associated pneumonia
- Surgical site infections, which develop where the procedure took place, during or after surgery
- Bloodstream infections, which are associated with the placement of central lines in hospital patients; may be referred to as central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs)
While these are the most common types of HAIs, patients may also be exposed to a number of other types of infectious diseases while hospitalized. These may include tuberculosis, gastroenteritis (infectious diarrhea), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C-difficile or C-diff). If left untreated, some HAIs may cause life-threatening illnesses, such as sepsis. Patient risk factors for acquiring an HAI at a U.S. hospital include the severity of their original illness or injury, the duration of their hospitalization and the function and capacity of their immune system. For this reason, patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) may be particularly vulnerable to these and other types of infections. Hospital-acquired infections are a leading source of complications in acute care hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, dialysis facilities and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. While not all HAIs can be prevented, the implementation of prevention and patient safety practices can significantly reduce the rate that patients suffer these types of infections. To limit the spread of HAIs, hospitals can take simple steps such as encouraging hand hygiene, improving infection control procedures and more limited antibiotic use to limit the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and pathogens. Other practices that should be followed include:
- Ensuring that all tools and instruments are sterile
- Thoroughly cleaning or replacing ventilators between patients
- Regularly assessing a patient to determine if a ventilator is still needed
- Raising a patient’s head between 30 and 40 degrees when on a ventilator
- Only using catheters when necessary
- Properly inserting, maintaining and removing catheters using sterile equipment
- Treating known infections before surgery
- Thoroughly cleaning both the incision site and the areas around the site
When doctors, nurses and support staff fail to follow these procedures or otherwise act carelessly, a patient may acquire a preventable HAI. In this situation, the hospitalized patient may be able to file a medical malpractice claim against the hospital and/or health care provider.
When Can You File A Medical Malpractice Claim For A Hospital-Acquired Infection?
According to the CDC, most infections acquired during hospitalization are preventable. If you acquired an infection in the hospital due to medical negligence and suffered an injury as a result, then you may be able to file a claim against the facility. Medical malpractice is a type of personal injury claim. Also referred to as medical negligence or a medical tort, it occurs when a medical provider fails to uphold the appropriate standard of care and a patient is harmed as a result. Under Washington law, a medical tort is the rendering of professional service without informed consent or an error or omission in professional practice by a health care provider, which causes death, injury or other damage to a patient.
A Seattle patient who suffers a hospital-acquired infection may be able to file a lawsuit if they can establish that some form of medical negligence caused their illness. For example, if a hospital failed to follow basic infection prevention measures, such as frequent hand washing using antimicrobial soap, that may be considered a form of negligence if it leads to a hospital-acquired infection. In some cases, a health care system or doctor’s delay or failure to diagnose or treat a hospital-acquired infection could be a form of medical negligence. Similarly, if health care workers do not monitor patient symptoms properly, it could be the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit. Sometimes, it can be hard to determine whether an infection was caused by negligence on the part of a doctor or health care facility. A skilled Seattle medical malpractice lawyer can investigate the facts of the case and work with experts in epidemiology and other specialties to determine the exact cause of the infection.
Why Are Hospital-Acquired Infections Difficult To Treat?
Many hospital-acquired infections, or nosocomial infections, are caused by bacteria. Because antibiotics are heavily used within hospitals, the bacteria that cause infections within hospitals often have greater levels of antibiotic resistance. This can cause serious complications – or even death – for patients who acquire infections during hospital stays.
Who Is Most At Risk Of A Hospital-Acquired Infection?
All patients may be susceptible to contracting a hospital-acquired infection. However, certain patients are at greater risk than others, including the very young (children), the very old (elderly people) and people with compromised immune systems. Although hospital-acquired infections are common, that does not mean that no one bears responsibility when they occur. If you suffered an injury due to an infection that you picked up at a hospital, you may be able to file a medical negligence claim against the facility with the help of a Seattle medical malpractice lawyer.
How Long Do I Have To File A Lawsuit For A Hospital-Acquired Infection In Seattle?
The state of Washington has a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including medical malpractice cases. With some exceptions, this means that you have three years to file a lawsuit against the hospital. Proving that you had a hospital-acquired medical infection can be challenging. That is why it is important to contact a Seattle medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible after being diagnosed with a hospital-acquired infection. Your lawyer can make sure that your case is filed within the statute of limitations and work to gather evidence that your infection was the result of medical negligence.
We’re Here For Victims Of Medical Malpractice
Hospital-acquired infections have become an all-too-common phenomenon in hospitals across the United States, including here in Seattle. If you or a loved one developed an infection during a hospital stay, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the health care facility and/or medical professionals who treated you. At Menzer Law, we can help. We represent injury victims who have been harmed by the negligence of others. We aggressively advocate for our clients, working hard to help them achieve the best possible outcomes. To learn more or schedule a free consultation with a Seattle medical malpractice lawyer, contact us today by calling 206.970.2685 or filling out our online contact form.