The unstable state of the South African political and economic environment over recent years has taken a toll on many health services, both private and public.
The consequences of inadequate training, under-resourced hospitals and over-burdened medical practitioners are apparent, with a disturbing spike in medical malpractice and negligence claims against South African hospitals.
Suing a medical practitioner for negligence or lodging a claim for damages against a hospital is, however, a complex, fact-driven process. With the reputation of a hospital or a medical practitioner at stake, the legal journey involved in securing compensation is often a protracted one.
In this guide, we look at when and how to sue a hospital in South Africa, and factors that can affect the success of a hospital injury claim.
When to sue for medical malpractice?
If you believe you or a family member has been harmed or injured as a direct result of negligence on the part of a doctor, nurse or any other hospital employee, you may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim.
In terms of the law, medical negligence is defined as the failure to provide the level of treatment and care as might reasonably have been expected in the specific circumstances.
If, by either an act or omission, a healthcare practitioner does not meet the predetermined standards of care, and you are injured as a result, the practitioner or hospital can be held liable for medical negligence.
Many medical treatments and all surgeries come with a certain level of risk. Medical professionals are required by law to inform you about associated risks and to obtain your written consent prior to treatment.
Failing to meet these requirements may constitute or support a claim of medical negligence.
Who is liable?
Liability is largely determined by the status of the caregiver and medical facility. In the case of a private hospital, you may be able to sue the doctor, anaesthetist or any other practitioner in their private capacity. Alternatively, you may be able to lodge a claim against the hospital itself if nursing or other staff in their direct employ are found to have acted in a negligent manner.
In the public sector, the State is liable for negligence or medical malpractice on the part of all public healthcare providers.
How to sue a hospital in South Africa
For a hospital injury claim to succeed, it must be shown that:
- hospital staff acted negligently and contrary to the level of care prescribed by the norms and standards of the medical profession
- the negligent act or omission was the direct cause of injury or harm.
Seek professional assistance
Medical malpractice claims are complex and require specialist legal expertise to defend.
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in pursuing personal injury claims resulting from medical negligence and malpractice, including hospital injury claims – and we operate on a no win, no fee basis.