The Staphylococcus bacteria that is responsible for staph infections is everywhere, and most living organisms play host to the bacteria and are susceptible to staph infections and complications from those infections. A staph infection that arises from medical negligence, for example, where a doctor or nurse fails to clean a wound properly or uses and instrument that has not been sterilized properly, can give an injured party a cause of action for medical negligence. The prevalence of staph and staph infections, however, is not automatic evidence of that negligence.
A person who suspects that his or her staph infection was caused by medical negligence should ask of themselves, their healthcare providers, and an attorney, the following questions:
- What are all possible cases of the staph infection?
What injuries have been caused by the infection?
- Could any action shave been taken to prevent or reduce the injuries caused by the staph infection?
Causes of Staph Infections
Virtually any individual could theoretically obtain a staph infection from, among other pathways, viral pathways such food poisoning, and contact with airborne staph bacteria, or potentially a worsening of skin infections that introduce staph bacteria into a person’s system. Staph infections that are contracted at hospitals or medical facilities may give rise to a medical negligence cause of action against those facilities, but the injured person should also consider other infection sources. Recent news stories, for example, have reported on staph and other infections arising from locker rooms and health clubs. Unlike hospitals, health clubs are not required to maintain or publicize records relating to disease outbreaks at their facilities. Accordingly, a person who contracts a staph infection may need to do some detective work to locate the source of the infection.
Staph Infection Injuries and Negligence Lawsuits
Staph infections that are contracted through food poisoning can cause vomiting or diarrhea. As long as the infection is not caused by a resistant strain of bacteria (like MRSA), antibiotics will clear the infection within a few days.
At the other end of the spectrum, staph infections can cause death or permanent disfigurement, including limb amputation. A person who suffers more extreme injuries from a staph infection is more likely to have a cause of action for negligence if that infection came through his or her contact with a hospital. Proving the connection and causation will be the most difficult aspect of the staph infection negligence lawsuit.
A person who checks into a hospital is more likely to have a compromised immune system, making him or her more susceptible to staph infections. That person’s doctor is obligated under common medical standards to make the patient aware of the risks associated with hospitalization, including a heightened risk of contracting a staph infection. The doctor’s failure to make this disclosure may form the basis of a medical negligence lawsuit. As with all negligence cases, the outcome of a staph infection medical negligence case will be a function of the facts of each case.
An Individual’s Obligation to Reduce Injuries
A person who contracts a staph infection while already hospitalized may have little opportunity to do anything that reduces injuries caused by that staph infection. Where the staph infection arises after a patient has been discharged, his or her conduct after hospitalization will likely be scrutinized in any lawsuit alleging that the infection was caused by medical negligence. For example, if a patient failed to keep a wound clean or did not take prescribed medications, his chances to receive monetary compensation for his injuries may be substantially reduced or altogether eliminated. Different states will treat an individual’s contribution to his injuries differently, but in all cases, a person who suffers a staph infection is best served by adhering to his physician’s orders and recommendations.
A person may be discouraged from filing a lawsuit for a staph infection medical negligence because of the prevalence and commonality of staph infections, and the difficulty of proving a causal link between any alleged negligence and the injury. That person’s decision will best be made following consultation with an attorney at the earliest possible date after the staph infection is diagnosed. An experienced attorney will understand what facts to examine and whether responsibility for the infection and the injuries it causes can only augment the liability incurred by a given medical facility.
For general information on staph infections, see: