When are hospitals liable for medical malpractice?

When medical malpractice occurs, the effects can be devastating. Treatments that are meant to heal can end up causing major injuries or even death if done improperly. In the aftermath, it can sometimes be difficult to tell who is responsible. You know that you are entitled to compensation, but you aren’t sure who from.

According to the legal principle of “Respondent Superior,” employers are responsible for the actions of their employees, so long as those actions are within the normal scope of their employment. In the case of medical malpractice, this means that any negligence on the part of a hospital employee can be found as the responsibility of the hospital. So, when a nurse, attendant, or any other person on the hospital payroll makes a mistake that causes harm to the patient they are supposed to be healing, the hospital as an entity can be held liable.

There is an issue with this though, many doctors are not classified as employees of the hospital. Most of the doctors in America are independent contractors working for the hospital, and respondent superior very specifically does not apply to independent contractors. This is not a rule necessarily, there are certainly some doctors who are employees of the hospital. The distinction is also not always clear, a few good characteristics that can help determine this is as follows:

  • Does the doctor control their hours, or does the hospital?
  • Does the doctor decide their own vacation time?
  • Does the doctor set their own fees, or are they paid through the hospital?

If the doctor can be considered an employee, than the hospital will be responsible for their negligence. However, if they are an independent contractor than they are responsible for themselves, and will be personally liable in the event of medical malpractice.

The best case scenario for the victim will be when the hospital can be found liable. Hospitals will have much more available funds to seek for compensation. As medical malpractice injuries can be very costly to remedy, you may need this in order to fully cover your bills.

If you have been the victim of medical malpractice, speak to an attorney with skill and experience in medical malpractice. An attorney will be able to help you determine who will be the appropriate party to name the defendant, and ensure that you build a case that will earn you every single dime of compensation that you deserve.

Andrew R. Lynch P.C. A special thank you to our partners at Andrew R. Lynch P.C. for their extensive insight into Personal Injury.