Article Updated:  April 5, 2022


How Much Can You Sue a Hospital for Wrongful Death ?

In terms of how much can you sue a hospital for wrongful death, the answer will vary based on:

   Date of Death

   Manner of Death

   Number of Eligible Beneficiaries

  State Where Injury Happened

   Economic Losses

Keep in mind, I’m talking about “could,” as in what’s legally possible.  Please do not confuse legally permissible (possible) with factually likely based on your case facts (probable).

With that said, keep reading to learn more about how much you can sue a hospital for wrongful death.

Can I File A Wrongful Death Suit Against A Hospital?

The short answer to this is yes, you can sue a hospital for a wrongful death.

However, it is important to understand  that there are some cases where you cannot and even in cases that you can sue, you need to prove certain things took place.

A wrongful death lawsuit happens when someone dies because the negligence of another person.  The surviving family can then file a lawsuit against the hospital and attempt to recover damages.

When the wrongful death happens in a hospital this will likely be a medical malpractice case.

In such cases, the surviving family can bring suit against a number of people who work in the hospital as well as the hospital itself.

This can include people such as:





 Any other person formally in the hire of the hospital

What negligent acts can the hospital and its agents commit to make themselves liable to a wrongful death lawsuit?  Some possibilities include:

 Failure to treat the patient adequately


 Wrong dosage of medications given

 Dispensing the wrong medications

 Mistakes during surgery

How much you can sue a hospital for wrongful death will depend on what form of negligence took place, how negligent the hospital and its staff were, and who was involved in the death, date of death, and state of death, just to name a few of the variables.

When Is The Hospital Liable?

A hospital is liable for a death when it is proven that basic standards of care, cleanliness and due diligence are ignored or treated lightly.

When these shortcomings lead to a death, you may have room to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital and its agents.

Many examples of this exist including:

 Failing to staff their hospital adequately

 Not screening, training or monitoring the actions of their staff

 Lack of cleaning standards

 Ignoring patient safety rules

Wrongful DeathsStandards of care expected in hospitals are clearly outlined and cover most aspects of patient care.

Everything from which supplies are kept in stock, how many employees are working on a shift and what tests and procedures need to be taken are established in general orders and operating procedures.

In 2013 it was determined that every year between 210,000 and 400,000 preventable deaths occur in the US because of medical errors that could have been avoided

If a death occurs and it is found that it could have been avoided had the hospital’s own well-established practices been followed, they can be sued for wrongful death.

Who Can I Sue In The Wrongful Death Suit?

In the case of a wrongful death the hospital may be the obvious target that you want to go after for a wrongful death.  You are not wrong to feel this way, but you can and should also take action against the agents of the hospital as well.

This can include anyone who works for the hospital in an official capacity.  Individuals that work directly for the hospital includes clinical staff like doctors and nurses, but also administrative and support staff like the custodial employees.

What do examples of these mistakes look like?

  Pharmacist dispenses the wrong medication for a patient

  Cleaning staff accidentally moving a patient or their equipment

  Delaying diagnosis of a serious medical condition which causes there to be loss of chance to survive

  Administrative staff failing to properly put records into a patient’s charts

  Medical technicians making mistakes when checking for vitals

  Mistakes during the discharge process, i.e. discharging too early

Any individual who is directly employed by the hospital is going to be liable for any actions that show a breach of duty. Anyone ranging from medical/ clinical staff, to non-clinical staff can be sued if their actions led to the death of your lived one.

At times this can be hard because the doctor or other individuals who may have been involved the patients care are not named, known or knowable, which can impact your ability to sue.

Nonetheless, with a proper attorney, you can figure out who was involved in the death, but this is often difficult as the patient’s family are left with the task of dealing with a loved ones death and also ferret out the name of those who were involved.

The difficulty comes because the Supreme Court has decided that the acts that led to death are more important than the people that caused the death, but for you, the people involved will be just as important and you will want them held accountable.

Who Can’t I Sue In A Hospital Wrongful Death Suit?

Just because a doctor is working in a hospital does not mean that it is a formal member of staff for that hospital.  There are times when a doctor or nurse is working in the hospital but not for the hospital.

These can be doctors and surgeons who are using the hospital’s facility to perform surgery or procedures, or other employees who are independent contractors .

In cases like this, you usually cannot sue the hospital for a wrongful death, but before you can know for sure whether you can or cannot sue, you should have an attorney look at your case.

The main reason for this is that there is a fine line between being a contractor and an employee.

Understanding the employment status of all people involved in the wrongful death can be a complicated legal issue that needs understanding of employment contracts.

An attorney can help you figure out how much control the hospital had over the doctor’s work conditions and their overall performance.

How much you can sue a hospital for in a wrongful death may therefore be influenced heavily by how your state classifies the relationship between independent contractors and the hospital.

Who Can File A Hospital Wrongful Death?

Who can bring a wrongful death suit changes from state to state as each jurisdiction has specific rules governing who can pursue financial claims against individuals who may have caused the death of a loved one.

These parties can include, but are not limited to:

   Parents of the deceased

   Siblings of the individual who died

   Children of the deceased

   Spouses of the patient who died

Usually, the person who brings a wrongful death claim is a member from the immediate family of the deceased and is filing a claim on behalf of the individual’s estate.

One way to look at this is to ask, had the person not passed away, could this same person bring forth a medical malpractice suit? If the answer is yes, then this person can also file a wrongful death suit.

What To Expect In A Wrongful Death Suit

If you think your family member’s death in a hospital was wrongful one, then you need to prove why and how it was wrongful.

Doing this helps to prove that the hospital was negligent and their negligence is what led to the death.

Often the hospital was attempt to claim that the death was due to the medical conditions of the patient and that the hospital did everything correctly and the death could not be avoided.

Just because the hospital makes this argument, as they often do for those who are terminally ill, it does not mean that there is no wrongful death path you can take and you should seek the help of an attorney to see what your options are, i.e. wrongful death claims versus survivorship claims.

How much you can sue a hospital for in wrongful death cases comes down mainly to whether or not the hospital did not follow hospital protocols for care and therefore acted in a negligent manner.

Steps You Should Take

What do you need to do in order to prove your case?  First things first, you need to gather all of your documentation and evidence so that you can clearly prove that there was negligence in the situation.

Preparing documentation will mean getting access to and collecting documents such as:

 Medical records

 All prescriptions

 All communications between you and medical providers

 Writing down all relevant details of events while they are fresh in your head

At the same time you should also make all efforts to contact a legal professional to help you in the process.  Many aspects of a wrongful death case are complicated and you can benefit from the help of a professional who is used to cases like yours.

One major thing to remember in a wrongful death case with a hospital is that there are clear statue of limitations for these cases in every state.  Failing to act quickly can cause you major problems because in some jurisdictions knowledge of the wrongful conduct starts the clock running on of the statute of limitations while other states may have different starting points.

This again is where an attorney can help you establish an accurate timeline and to operate in a fast manner.

Proving Wrongful Death

What is the key to proving wrongful death?  Negligence.

Wrongful Death Hospital

What you need to do in order to file a successful wrongful death claim is to prove that there was negligence. In order to prove that there was negligence, there needs to be a certain number of things shown.

The hospital had a duty to provide the patient under its care with proper and safe medical care.

There was a breach of duty on the part of the hospital, its agents and the doctor in providing this proper and safe medical care. If this was not provided, then there was a breach of duty.

The actions or the inactions of the hospital caused the death of the patient.

There were damages that came from the mistakes, i.e. the death caused damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, etc.

The life of the people left behind are going to be impacted when a loved one dies and the damages awarded in a wrongful death case are meant to compensate for those impacts.

This should be possible so long as the steps in the wrongful death are shown and done in a timely manner.

Potential Recoverable Damages

You are entitled to recover losses when the lax attitude of medical providers leads to the harm or death of your loved one.

While you can never fully be compensated for the loss of a family member, you can recover damages to deal with their absence in your life and to help with dealing with the death.

The damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death include but are not limited to variables such as:

  Medical bills and expenses

  Funeral and burial costs

  Lost wages or income

  Pain and suffering

  Loss of companionship

The value of such cases and lawsuits tend to be higher than other medical malpractice cases because of the seriousness of a death.

Many things can make the value of the payout higher, such as if there are children and/ or a spouse that are now left financially vulnerable.

Because of these factors, a wrongful death case can on average run between $500,000 to $1,000,000.

There may also be additional damages awarded if the court finds that the actions were particularly harmful and egregious and the hospital needs to be punished for their actions.

Punitive damages like this can add anywhere from $50,000-$350,000 on top of the wrongful death damages you are awarded.

Damages for wrongful death are tied heavily to what state you are in.  For example, in the state of Virginia who employed the doctor can impact who you bring the claim up against, and which law you bring the case up against, such as Virginia Tort Claims Act.

The state you bring the case up in will also impact the statue of limitations and can limit how much your case can be settled for.

Damages caps can vary from state to state and can also be limited by specific rules that dictate what amounts there can be given for negligence associated with medical malpractice.

Are Damages Different State To State?

Damages for wrongful death are tied heavily to what state you are in.  For example, in the state of Virginia, who employed the doctor can impact who you bring the claim up against, and which law you bring the case up against, such as Virginia Tort Claims Act.

The state you bring the case up in will also impact the statue of limitations and can limit how much your case can be settled for.

Damages caps can vary from state to state and can also be limited by specific rules that dictate what amounts there can be given for negligence associated with medical malpractice.

Many states have some sort of cap on damages. Some examples include:

  California $250,000

  Hawaii $375,000

  Louisiana $500,000

  Mississippi $500,000

  Montana $250,000

Some states have no cap, including:

  New York

  Rhode Island



  Washington D.C.

By this point in the article, you have enough information for me to say this: If you’re looking for a numeric response to this question of how much can you sue a hospital for wrongful death, you now realize a response does not and cannot exist in a vacuum, and here’s why.  Just look at some of the variables I list throughout this article.  You must mix and match close to 10, if not more, variables to get your answer.  That means the answer to the question of how much can you sue a hospital for wrongful death is not “an” answer, it is hundreds of answers depending on the facts of your case.

It’s also important to note that lawyers speak technically.  Meaning, when a lawyer says you “can” get $100, that may just mean that is the permissible ceiling of recovery under your facts.  That does not mean you “are likely” to get that ceiling.

In short, you must speak with a lawyer to have that lawyer analyze how much you can sue for, in addition to how much your claim might be worth.

Wrongful Death Payout Examples

“A 95-year old female patient died in the hospital after suffering from poorly treated dehydration and sepsis”

$212,500 (NY). While in the care of a hospital a patient was neglected and her condition was not treated in a timely manner. This lack of proper treatment led to her death from a combination of sepsis which led to shock and dehydration. Her death was deemed to be a wrongful death as the hospital failed to take proper steps to conduct the needed tests to diagnose her fast enough to be able to treat her condition properly.

“An 82-year old man’s family were awarded a wrongful death suit after he died in a hospital for cardiopulmonary arrest after being denied timely care”

$300,000 (NJ). This wrongful death action was brought after a man was brought to the hospital with difficulty breathing and was held up in the waiting room longer than hospital protocol allowed for. This delay in his care ultimately led to his death. It was deemed that the hospital and its agents had failed to act in a diligent manner and their inaction caused the patient’s death. The hospital denied liability, but the court found that hospital had in fact departed from accepted medical practice by failing to check the decedent’s airways, vitals, and admitting them immediately upon them coming to the hospital.

“Man’s family awarded a wrongful death payout by hospital after the hospital staff failed to properly take care of patient’s burns”

$410,000 (MO). A 73 year old male patient was brought to a hospital after suffering burns while in the bath. The hospital failed to treat the wounds in a consistent and timely manner. This lack of proper care led to the patient’s death from the lack of wound care and complications caused by the burns.

Suing a Hospital For Wrongful Death Q&A

Is there any situation in which I cannot bring a wrongful death suit against a hospital?

Yes, there are some cases in which you cannot bring a wrongful death lawsuit against a hospital. This is mainly when the doctor or nurse who takes part in the negligent behavior that causes the death, is an independent contractor and not an actual employee of the hospital. In a case like this, you can bring a suit against the doctor or nurse, but you cannot bring a suit against the hospital unless you can show that the control and relationship between the hospital and the doctor was more formal and like a regular employment.

Is there a statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death lawsuit?

Yes, there is a statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death lawsuit to court. Each state has its own rules on how long this time period is, and it can range from 1-2 years on average, although, even states with a limitation have some additional rules that can extend the limitation period.

Are there caps on wrongful death lawsuit payouts?

Yes, there are caps on wrongful death lawsuit payments in certain states. Some states have no cap while others have caps on economic versus non-economic damages, or allow for additional punitive damage payouts, which themselves can potentially have caps on them.

Are there different rules for wrongful death cases across states?

Different states have different rules for wrongful death and some even have different guidelines for wrongful death and survival actions that you can take if there is a negligent death at a hospital. The first step you will need to take is to understand the specific rules that your state has for wrongful death cases.

How much can you sue a hospital for wrongful death?

A hospital can be sued for economic and non-economic damages as well as punitive damages in a wrongful death suit. The average amounts can range from half a million dollars to a million dollars on average.

Get Help With Your Wrongful Death Suit

Proving wrongful death cases for hospital claims is a difficult process that you should not navigate alone.

If you believe that a member of your family has died due to the negligence of a hospital and their agents, you will need experienced and compassionate counsel in your corner.

One thing you can be guaranteed in a wrongful death case against a hospital is that the medical community and the hospital staff will stick together and will not help you make sense of complicated medical files and information.

It takes supportive and active counsel to ensure that you can make sense of these documents and processes.

As your counsel, I can help you navigate all the legal hurdles you will face and make sure the hospital does not attempt to shift liability away from themselves or slow down your ability to get compensated for the death they caused your family to suffer.

When you are ready to speak about your loss, I am here for you, 24/7.

Just send me a private message via the contact form on this page, email me directly, or call me.


Reza Davani, Esq.
State Bar No.:     1212110211
Federal Bar No.: 30168

Elder Abuse Lawyer

Peeples, R., & Harris, C. T. (2015). What is a life worth in North Carolina: A look at wrongful-death awardsCampbell L. Rev.37, 497.

Berkman, E. T. (2019). Limitations period not tolled in wrongful death caseRhode Island Lawyers Weekly.

Casaceli, B. (2013). Losing a chance to survive: an examination of the loss of chance doctrine within the context of a wrongful death actionJ. Health & Biomedical L.9, 521.

Matheson, V. A., Rosenbaum, D. I., & Schap, D. (2015). Wrongful death: Who recovers what, where, and how. J. Legal Econ.22, 25.

Buchanan, K. (2017). Immunity from Wrongful Death Liability: How Mickels Fails to CompensateMo. L. Rev.82, 843.

Ganske, S. (2015). Noneconomic Damages Caps in Wrongful Death Medical Malpractice Cases-Are They Constitutional?Fla. St. U. Bus. Rev.14, 31.

About the Author

This nursing home and medical malpractice article was written by Baltimore, Maryland nursing home attorney Reza Davani, Esquire.  Mr. Davani received his Juris Doctor degree from a Tier 1 law school, the University of Maryland Francs King Carey School of Law.  He received his first license to practice law from the State of Maryland’s Court of Appeals (MD State License No. 1212110211), and just four months later received a federal law license from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland (Federal License No. 30168).

Mr. Davani has been practicing law for over 10 years.  He began practicing law by helping clients as a sanctioned student lawyer before receiving his law license, and second chaired his first jury trial in federal court before even graduating law school.  He is a registered member of the Maryland Association for Justice (MAJ), the American Bar Association (ABA), the American Association for Justice (AAJ), and was formerly on the MAJ’s Legislative Leader’s Circle.

Mr. Davani has taken over 20 cases to trial in state and federal court, and favorably settled well over 100 cases for injured victims.  He has personally helped his clients recover over $15,000,000 in personal injury, medical malpractice, and nursing home abuse settlements and verdicts in Maryland and other states.  He is dedicated to fighting for justice, and welcomes the opportunity to help you.

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