5 Reasons You Can File a Sepsis Lawsuit November 16, 2023.

Patient in hospital bed with doctor comforting them.

When you contract an infection, your body fights off the infectious bacteria by sending out chemicals to attack it. Your immune system then responds by causing inflammation, which protects the blood and tissue. The inflammation is normally regulated and controlled, so it does not affect the whole body. But, what happens if the inflammation affects the whole body and white blood cells start to kill off healthy cells and tissue? This condition is called sepsis.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines sepsis as the body’s extreme and toxic response to an infection. It is life-threatening if it is not treated immediately. Each year around 1.7 million Americans are diagnosed with sepsis. About 20% (350,000) of people who develop sepsis die each year.

Who Is At The Highest Risk?

Sepsis could happen to anyone, but certain groups of people are at a higher risk. The groups at a higher risk are typically more prone to infections.

These groups at a higher risk include:

  • Ages 65+
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Newborns
  • Expecting mothers
  • People who had sepsis in the past
  • Chronic medical conditions
    • Diabetes, kidney disease, obesity

What Are the Three Stages of Sepsis?

The three stages of sepsis range from mild to severe cases. The stages are sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. The condition gets progressively more life-threatening the longer it goes untreated. To remember the signs and symptoms of sepsis use the acronym T.I.M.E.

This stands for:

  • Temperature- Is the patient's temperature higher or lower than normal?
  • Infection- Was there a confirmed infection?
  • Mental decline- Is the patient confused and sleepy?
  • Extremely ill- Is the patient in extreme pain/ discomfort and short of breath?


Sepsis starts as an infection. Bacterial infections are the most common type, but any infection can progress to sepsis.

Other common infections that can lead to sepsis include:

  • Viral Infections
  • Fungal Infections
  • Parasitic Infections

Early symptoms to look for include a confirmed infection, confusion, a high temperature (above 101 ℉) or low temperature (below 96.8 ℉), and fast breathing.

Severe Sepsis

As the sepsis gets worse, it progresses to severe sepsis. During this stage the organs start to malfunction, causing severe organ and tissue damage. When severe sepsis starts, the patient needs to be immediately transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the hospital to receive proper care. Antibiotic and IV fluid treatments need to be done quickly in order to try to prevent further organ damage.

Symptoms of severe sepsis include:

  • Decreased urine output
  • Low blood cell count
  • Chills
  • Unconsciousness
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Skin discoloration

Septic Shock

Septic shock is the last and most life-threatening stage of sepsis. The death rate increases to up to 50% when the condition progresses to septic shock. The patient's blood pressure drops dangerously low, which causes most of the major organs to fail. 

Symptoms of septic shock include:

  • Not being able to stand
  • Hard time staying awake
  • Low blood pressure
  • Pale skin
  • Skin rash
  • Lightheadedness

At this stage, life or death depends on how quickly treatment is given to the patient and if their major organs are failing. Other factors play a role in how likely it is to recover from septic shock. These factors include age and overall health. The older a patient is, the less likely there will be a recovery. The Cleveland Clinic states that even with treatment, between 30%-40% of patients with septic shock will pass away.

Can I File a Lawsuit for Sepsis?

A victim, or the family of a victim, of sepsis may be able to file a medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice refers to a doctor or medical professional being negligent and irresponsible, which leads to inadequate care. There are several ways that sepsis can turn into a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit. 

The negligent events that can lead to a sepsis medical malpractice case include:

  • Failure to timely diagnose
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Not performing tests
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Nursing home sepsis

Failure to Timely Diagnose

The time between sepsis starting and treatment beginning is the difference between life and death. Sepsis can quickly shut down a person’s organs. Research shows that it can take as little as 12 hours for sepsis to set in and ultimately kill a patient without treatment. So, if medical professionals don't diagnose sepsis in a timely fashion, then the consequences are life-threatening.


Sepsis is often misdiagnosed as other conditions that have similar symptoms. These other conditions include urinary tract infections, staph infections, and hypotension. A misdiagnosis of sepsis leads to the patient not getting the life-saving treatment that they need. The longer it goes misdiagnosed the worse the outlook is for the patient.

Not Performing Tests

Several tests can be performed to diagnose sepsis. If these tests are not performed, or not performed in a timely manner, then there could be a case for medical malpractice. 

The tests that can diagnose sepsis include:

  • Blood 
  • Urine
  • Saliva
  • Wound secretion

If the proper tests are performed, then this could easily rule out other conditions and the patient can get the treatment that they need.

Unsanitary Conditions

Disinfecting equipment is a standard procedure in all healthcare facilities. If the staff is negligent and does not take the time to properly clean equipment, such as the IV access port and IV tubing, then this puts patients at risk of contracting a severe infection. This could also happen if a medical professional uses tubing that is not capped correctly. Dirty IV ports and tubing provide an entry place for dangerous bacteria to get into the body.

Deadly infections can also spread if medical professionals don't disinfect their hands properly, wear gloves, or wear personal protective equipment. This leads to the spread of healthcare-associated infections (HAI). The Centers for Disease Control states that around 75,000 patients with HAIs die during their hospitalizations each year.

Sepsis In Nursing Homes

Sepsis is commonly seen in nursing homes, which can indicate abuse or neglect within the home. In fact, nursing home residents are seven times more likely to develop severe sepsis in comparison to non-nursing home residents. 

Residents are at an increased risk for sepsis if they have catheters, IVs, or a ventilator. Bedsores are another common way that nursing home residents also get sepsis. Bedsores, or pressure sores, occur when a resident is constantly sitting or lying down, putting pressure on the same area. If the bedsores are not treated, the skin will open making an access point for bacteria to enter the body.

Residents are at an increased risk for sepsis if they have catheters, IVs, or a ventilator. Bedsores are another common way that nursing home residents also get sepsis. Bedsores, or pressure sores, occur when a resident is constantly sitting or lying down, putting pressure on the same area. If the bedsores are not treated, the skin will open making an access point for bacteria to enter the body. 

Shockingly, it is estimated that around 25,000 nursing home residents die from sepsis each year. This is due to nursing home staff being negligent, not knowing the symptoms, and not getting the residents proper treatment in time.

Contact Our Sepsis Medical Malpractice Attorneys

If you or a loved one suffered from sepsis due to medical malpractice, you may be able to file a claim. The victim or family of a victim of sepsis can receive compensation if it is proven that the healthcare professionals were negligent.

Contact The Mellino Law Firm medical malpractice attorneys by calling our office at (440) 333-3800 or filling out our online contact form.