What You Need to Know About Claims for Hospital-Acquired Infections

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Medical Malpractice Published on November 18, 2022 and updated on December 4, 2022.

inserting IV into handOne of the dangers of surgery or other invasive procedures is infection. If an infection is not caught early, there is a risk of sepsis, septic shock or even death. Even if doctors catch it in time to slow it down and stop it, infections can complicate your recovery and lead to more pain and suffering than you would have otherwise had.

While there are various reasons why an infection can develop, sometimes it is the result of medical malpractice. Doctors or other medical professionals may not have followed the proper protocols to keep the environment clean and sanitary. The hospital may not have had the proper procedures to keep things clean and reduce the risk of an infection.

If you think your infection was caused by negligence, contact The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl today to discuss potential legal options. We have taken on a variety of medical malpractice cases and have obtained millions on behalf of our clients, including results of $7 million, $5 million and $4.5 million.

Our services come at no upfront cost, which includes the initial consultation with a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer. We are ready to help because we know how medical malpractice injuries can upend peoples’ lives.

Call Peter T. Nicholl Law Offices today: 410-401-9979.

Why Do Infections Occur at Hospitals

Infections are not always caused by lack of cleanliness or the failure of hospital staff to wash their hands or replace bandages. Sometimes patients develop infections because they have risk factors. There are also times when infections are more likely to develop because a patient has a severe illness or has stayed in the hospital for a long time.

However, hospitals are required to take reasonable steps to help prevent the spread of an infection. For example, hospitals need to make sure their air conditioning system is filtering the air properly. Some of the other steps include:

  • Ensuring the water is clean
  • Using sterile equipment
  • Cleaning surfaces

Doctors, nurses and others in the hospital need to keep their hands clean before, during and after working with patients. Hospitals have protocols for how often hands must be washed and sanitized. If these protocols are not followed, infections may be more likely to occur.

When an invasive procedure is underway, staff members must make sure the equipment and tools they use are clean. For example, catheters and IVs need to be sterile. These materials also need to be safely disposed of after use to prevent the spread of an infection.

While infections may be more likely to occur during invasive procedures, they can occur at other times. If tools or other materials are not clean or a doctor or nurse did not wash his or her hands, an infection could occur during a minor procedure or even routine treatment.

Types of Hospital-Acquired Infections

Some of the most common infections that happen at hospitals and other medical facilities include:

Staph Infections

This is an infection with the bacteria called staphylococcus. Staph infections usually start on the skin, but they can spread into your bloodstream and:

  • Joints
  • Bones
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Brain

There are many ways a staph infection can spread in a hospital. For example, you could get this infection from a catheter, IV or breathing tube. If you have a pressure sore or surgical wound you may be at higher risk for contracting a staph infection, like MRSA.

Often, staph infections are spread through skin-on-skin contact between an infected person and someone else. You could also contract the infection by touching things that have been contaminated, such as objects or surfaces.

Medical Device-Related Infections

If hospital staff do not keep medical devices clean, they can become contaminated before they are used on patients. This includes devices like syringes, catheters, IV bags, respirators or ventilators. Doctors, nurses and others need to make sure their hands are clean before handling these devices. They need to wash their hands regularly and make sure to change their gloves when appropriate.

Infections Around Surgical Sites

These are infections at the surgical site where you were cut open. Doctors may not have done a good enough job keeping the area clean while they were operating. They may have used tools that were unclean. There are also times when hospital staff does not keep the area clean after surgery, while the patient is recovering.

Respiratory Infections

These infections may be caused by contaminated breathing tubes or ventilators. The air conditioning system might not be filtering the area properly to eliminate contaminants.

Urinary Tract Infections

When patients need to use catheters there is a much higher risk of a urinary tract infection. These infections could involve a variety of bacteria, such as E. coli. The infection can spread from the urethra to your kidneys.

Infections in the Bloodstream

These infections may start off in a cut or surgical wound and find their way into the bloodstream. These infections can be extremely dangerous because the bloodstream can carry an infection to your vital organs.

Dangers of Hospital-Acquired Infections

If an infection is caught early, doctors may be able to treat it with antibiotics and everything will be fine. However, if an infection is not caught soon enough, there is a risk of sepsis. This condition could damage your internal organs, cause organ failure or severely complicate your recovery from your medical procedure. There is also a risk of death.

Proving the Source of an Infection

This can be quite a challenge because there are so many ways for a patient to develop an infection. It will take a thorough investigation to find out who caused the infection and how you contracted it. Your lawyer will need to determine all the people you were in contact with and what treatment they provided to you. This includes things like:

  • Drawing blood
  • Checking wound dressings
  • Inserting an IV
  • Performing surgery
  • Assisting a patient with toileting
  • And more

Your attorney will need to work backward from when you were diagnosed with an infection to determine when it started.

Doctors, nurses and other health care providers are often the ones held liable for damages caused by medical malpractice. However, it may be possible to hold a hospital liable as well. For example, the hospital could be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employees. It depends on whether the doctor or other worker who caused your infection was an employee of the hospital or an independent contractor.

If you develop an infection that is diagnosed during your stay at the hospital or within one to two days of leaving the hospital, you can be certain you contracted the infection at the hospital. It is important to contact an experienced attorney to discuss your legal options.

Peter T. Nicholl Law Offices is Ready to Help Malpractice Victims

Are you or a loved one a victim of medical malpractice?

One of the most important steps for victims to take is meeting with a licensed attorney to discuss what to do next.

At our firm, there are no upfront costs. We do not get paid for representing you unless you receive compensation.

Call today. We are ready to help during this difficult time. 410-401-9979.