(Last Updated on: July 23, 2024 )

Medical practitioners take an oath to reduce or prevent harm. But sometimes the very people meant to save our lives will put it in even greater danger. 

But does this mean you can sue a hospital for emotional distress? Maybe, but not likely. Even when emotional distress results from genuine medical malpractice, the statistics look grim for victims seeking justice.

Although a study released by Johns Hopkins revealed that medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the US, the relative success of these claims is low. 

Some states have raised awards for non-economic damages: up to $350,000 for medical malpractice cases not resulting in wrongful death. You may be entitled to compensation if your emotional distress resulted in visible harm.

For instance, in California, only 56,000 actions against state licensure for medical professionals occurred between 1990 and 2017. 

In cases where the evidence of medical negligence is weak, defendants win 80% to 90% of the time. With varying evidence, the offending doctor will succeed in 70% of trials. And even when there’s strong evidence of negligence or injury, it’s still pretty much fifty-fifty

The odds are stacked if you can’t prove negligence or medical malpractice. But, with solid evidence, you can try to prove your claim.

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In any state, you can make a claim against a physician, nurse, midwife, pediatrician, primary care doctor, or other healthcare providers. Hospital staff like administrators or janitorial workers can also be sued if they were involved in your injury.

At Hodes Milman, we also have experience pursuing cases against institutions like hospitals, medical groups, nursing facilities, and surgery centers. Contact us online or by phone at (949) 640-8222.

Suing a Hospital for Emotional Distress Isn’t Straightforward

Suing a hospital for emotional distress isn’t straightforward. It’s important to note which emotional distress claims can be made in the United States.

When it comes to specifying emotional harm done you’ll either need to prove intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) or negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED):

  • IIED claims arise when the hospital’s actions were outrageous and intentional, causing severe emotional trauma. 
  • NIED claims, on the other hand, stem from carelessness or breach of duty that resulted in emotional harm.

Be mindful of the statute of limitations of medical malpractice claims in your area. In many states, you only get one year to prove your case. Don’t wait for justice. Let us help you gather evidence.  Contact us online or by phone at (949) 640-8222 to get justice for your loved one.

Examples of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Intentional infliction of emotional distress can take place during a routine procedure, a medical intervention, or outside of the place of practice. 

Any behavior by a medical professional that oversteps the boundaries of patient-doctor privilege can be seen as an attempt to cause emotional distress. The most common forms are:

Sexual Harassment by Medical Staff

If you are subjected to unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate behavior by healthcare providers, such as unsolicited touching, suggestive comments, or sexual propositions, you are a victim of medical malpractice.

Physical Harassment or Deliberate Roughness

Physical harassment or abuse by medical staff involves any form of physical mistreatment, such as hitting, restraining without cause, or performing procedures without consent. This abusive behavior can cause severe emotional and psychological harm to patients, leading to feelings of fear, helplessness, and betrayal

Obvious Signs of Negligence

Deliberate neglect occurs when necessary medical care is intentionally withheld or patient needs are deliberately ignored. Deliberate negligence is more likely if the victim is a woman, heavier, a person of color, transgender, or disabled in some form or fashion. 

It’s important to document all instances of negligence if you fall into one or more of these categories.

False Imprisonment (With Exception to 5150 Holds)

False imprisonment in a medical context refers to unlawfully confining a patient without their consent, such as holding them in a facility against their will. With the exception of a 5150, this is usually considered appropriate grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

Repeated Verbal Abuse by Staff

Verbal abuse involves intentionally using abusive or demeaning language towards a patient. Everyone deserves the same level of dignity when seeking help. But don’t forget that doctors suffer from the same biases we all do as human beings. 

Protect yourself and record conversations if legal where you reside. Otherwise, you can always ask a family or friend to bear witness to any verbal abuse.

Experiencing abuse at the hands of a person in power is never easy. But you deserve a healthy life without harm. Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers are here to help you regain your dignity through litigation. Contact us and we’ll go through your options.

Examples of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Chronic Pain Caused By Surgical Error

Chronic pain after surgery refers to persistent pain that continues long after a surgical procedure. Changes in physical or cognitive ability may also count toward a medical malpractice claim where it applies. 

It’s most important in these instances to document your decline with available medical professionals. 

Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

Most misdiagnosis lawsuits involve the failure to diagnose cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. However, many have the opposite experience — they are falsely diagnosed, which leads to unnecessary treatments and suffering. Both are potentially worthy of significant compensation.

Birth Injuries Caused by Negligence

Birth injuries can lead to profound emotional trauma for parents. The child’s life may forever be altered leading to permanent physical or mental disability. 

This form of negligence is often exacerbated by the demands of caring for an injured child, significantly affecting the parents’ emotional and mental well-being.

Wrongful Death of a Family Member

Wrongful death due to medical malpractice causes severe emotional distress for family members.

The unexpected loss of a loved one can lead to profound grief, anger, and a sense of injustice. The emotional trauma can be long-lasting, affecting their ability to cope with the loss and move forward.

Procedural or Administrative Errors

Medical errors, such as mistakes in medication administration can lead to potential memory loss, behavioral changes, or worsening health.

The realization may lead to a heightened sense of vulnerability. But, it’s important to remind a loved one experiencing this to document their changes with alternative medical professionals.

Lack of Informed Consent

Lack of informed consent occurs when patients undergo medical procedures without information about the risks and potential outcomes. It’s important to review documentation before any medical procedure. 

Make sure you understand the risks and ask questions as needed. If your doctor can’t provide sufficient information, consider getting a second opinion.

Inadequate Postoperative Care

Inadequate postoperative care involves improper care and monitoring after a surgical procedure, leading to complications or prolonged recovery. 

An aftercare plan should be provided before and after any major medical procedure. And if you’re not, it may be the first sign of negligent behavior on the part of your medical staff. Always get a second opinion and avoid prolonging a stressful event.

A mismanagement of a patient’s dosage may be a simple clerical error, but it could lead to significant life-threatening changes to the party impact. If you’ve been affected by negligence, reach out immediately at (949) 640-8222.

How to Sue a Hospital for Emotional Distress: A Checklist

If you want to have a shot at receiving adequate compensation for your emotional distress or trauma, you’ll need to have sufficient evidence including:

  • Therapy Records: Keep detailed notes from sessions with therapists or counselors, including dates, the nature of therapy, and progress notes.
  • Medical Documentation: Obtain records of any medications prescribed for emotional distress, such as antidepressants or anxiety medication.
  • Pain and Trauma Symptoms: Maintain a journal documenting symptoms of pain, trauma, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and other issues.
  • Impact on Daily Life: Record how the emotional distress affects your daily activities, work, and relationships. This can include missed workdays, decline in performance, and social withdrawal.
  • Witness Statements: Collect statements from family members, friends, or colleagues who can attest to changes in your behavior and emotional state.
  • Photographs and Videos: Visual evidence can be compelling, showing physical manifestations of emotional distress like weight loss or self-harm injuries.
  • Communication Records: Save any relevant communications, such as emails or messages, that discuss your emotional state.
  • Expert Testimonies: Engage mental health experts to provide professional assessments of your emotional condition and its link to the hospital’s actions.
  • Financial Records: Document financial impact due to emotional distress, such as therapy costs, medical bills, and lost wages.

Though chances of winning an emotional distress claim are slim, you can improve your odds significantly with thorough documentation of your interactions with any licensed medical practitioner.

Hodes Milman Can Sue a Hospital On Your Behalf

So, can you sue a hospital for emotional distress? It’s tricky. You’ll need an experienced attorney who wants to treat your claim with the importance it deserves. At Hodes Milman, we make ourselves available for any medical malpractice claim.

Our attorneys boast millions in damages. What sets us apart is our genuine understanding of your daily struggles. At Hodes Milman, our experience and proven track record speak for themselves. 

We promise to advocate for the best outcome for you and your loved ones. If you have a claim to pursue, reach out online, or by phone at (949) 640-8222.

Related Resources

If you found this Emotional Distress & Medical Malpractice content helpful, please view the related topics below:

Contact us if you have specific questions on the matter or if you’d like to schedule a free consultation.




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When you work with us, you’ll see the difference. A lot of firms are quick to show you numbers, and it is absolutely true that your lawyer should have experience and a strong track record in the area that you require. However, we’ll take it one step further. We also believe that your attorney should put your needs, cares and desires first. Because you deserve more than just compensation for your losses - you deserve a true advocate.

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