hospital injury claims

In this guide, we look at when and how to sue a hospital in South Africa, and factors that can affect the success of hospital injury claims.

Our country’s health services are in crisis, with inadequate training, too few resources (including a shortage of specialists) and over-burdened medical practitioners. Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen a disturbing spike in incidents of gross medical malpractice and negligence. In turn, this has led to an increase in claims against South African hospitals.

The law gives patients who are harmed the right to seek compensation. This is vital for justice. It gives the victims an avenue of recourse. It also helps keep hospitals and those who run them accountable.

When to sue for medical malpractice?

If you or a family member has suffered physical harm 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 occurs if:

  • a healthcare practitioner fails to adhere to accepted standards of care, through either action or failure to act, and
  • the patient suffers physical harm as a result.

Who can be held liable for medical malpractice in a hospital?

Liability is largely determined by the status of the caregiver and medical facility.

In the public sector, the State is liable for negligence or medical malpractice on the part of public healthcare providers.

In the case of a private hospital, you may be able to sue a doctor, anaesthetist or any other practitioner in their private capacity. Alternatively, if nursing or other staff in the hospital’s direct employ acted in a negligent manner, you may be able to lodge a claim against the hospital itself.

How to sue a hospital in South Africa

Suing a medical practitioner for negligence or lodging a claim for damages against a hospital is a complex, fact-driven process. It also involves complying with a range of legal and administrative requirements.

It’s typical for a medical malpractice claim to take several years to resolve.

Getting suitable legal representation

The first step is to contact a suitably experienced attorney.

It’s best to contact a firm that specialises in handling personal injury claims, including medical malpractice claims. This type of firm is more likely to have the required resources and know-how than one that handles cases across a diverse range of legal fields.

Proceeding with a claim

Building a successful claim against a hospital involves collecting and evaluating evidence, including medical records, and obtaining expert medical opinions.

Once sufficient evidence has been gathered, your attorney will issue the relevant party with a summons.

Specific time limits apply. Certain special requirements also apply to claims against the State.

Going to trial and/or negotiating a fair settlement

In response, the defendant will submit a plea. This typically denies all allegations of negligence.

Your attorney will apply and wait for a trial date.

The alleged malpractice must then be proved in court, through evidence and expert medical testimony.

A settlement may be offered at any point in the proceedings. However, don’t count on this happening, especially not early on in the process. Where a settlement is offered, it’s important to have sound legal advice so you don’t accept compensation that’s unreasonably low.


Getting 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.

Contact us online or call us on 0861 465 879 for the best possible legal support and representation.

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