Can a Hospital Be Held Liable for Medical Negligence?

by vtaylor
Can a hospital be held liable for medical negligence?

When you enter a hospital, be it for emergency care or a routine procedure, you expect the highest standard of care. There is an accepted standard for all hospitals in the United States, including Pennsylvania. Should that standard falter, it could lead to medical malpractice. You want redress for the injuries caused, yet you may wonder, “Can a hospital be held liable for medical negligence?”. There are times when the hospital itself can be held responsible for the injuries you or a loved one sustained.

The hospital medical malpractice lawyers of Raynes & Lawn have worked diligently throughout the years with multiple clients in Pennsylvania who have suffered from medical negligence. We will work with you to gather evidence and determine which parties are responsible for the pain you have experienced.

Let’s discuss further about how hospitals can be held liable for medical negligence.

Key Takeaways

  • Hospitals must maintain a standard of care to avoid medical malpractice.
  • Hospital negligence includes protocol failures, staffing issues, negligent hiring practices, miscommunication, equipment failures, infection control issues, and inadequate supervision.
  • A hospital may be held liable for medical negligence through vicarious liability for actions of employees, including nurses, physicians, and therapists.
  • Liability may be avoided should the healthcare professional be an independent contractor or if the hospitals actions had no impact on the outcome.
  • Due to the complexities of medical negligence in hospitals, it is recommended that you seek a thorough case evaluation from a legal representative, such as the lawyers of Raynes & Lawn.

What is Hospital Negligence?

Hospital negligence occurs in situations where a hospital fails to meet the level of care required within the medical industry. This type of negligence can occur in a number of ways and involve various parties within the hospital. Some examples of hospital negligence include:

  • Failure to Follow Standard Protocols: Hospitals are expected to adhere to established medical protocols and standards. Negligence may occur if a hospital fails to follow these protocols, leading to patient harm.
  • Inadequate Staffing: If a hospital is understaffed, it can result in healthcare professionals being overworked and fatigued, potentially leading to mistakes or oversights in patient care.
  • Negligent Hiring or Training: Hospitals are responsible for hiring qualified and competent staff. If a hospital hires individuals without the necessary qualifications or fails to provide proper training, it can lead to negligent care.
  • Miscommunication: Poor communication among healthcare professionals within a hospital can result in mistakes in diagnosis, treatment, or medication administration.
  • Inadequate Supervision: Hospitals must provide adequate supervision of medical staff, including nurses and residents. Failure to supervise can result in errors that harm patients.
  • Equipment Failures: Negligence can occur if hospitals do not properly maintain or replace medical equipment, leading to malfunctions that could harm patients.
  • Infection Control Issues: Hospitals are expected to maintain a clean and safe environment to prevent the spread of infections. Negligence in infection control measures can lead to patient infections.

Should any—or a combination—of these issues occur and lead to the harm of a patient, the hospital may be held liable for those damages.

Who is Hospital Liable For?

A hospital may be liable for the negligence of employees through a legal concept known as “vicarious liability” or respondeat superior, where one party is responsible for the actions of another. Vicarious liability is often in the workplace, where one individual or entity has authority over others. The key idea is that even if the party being held liable (the “principal”) did not directly cause the harm, they are held responsible for the actions of another party (the “agent”) because of their relationship.

In other words, a hospital may be held liable for the actions of the following employees:

  • Nurses and nursing assistants
  • Physicians
  • Surgeons
  • Physical therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Radiologists
  • Phlebotomists
  • And other health care providers

When Are Hospitals Liable for Medical Malpractice?

Hospitals are commonly held liable for the negligence of their employees but not all of the time. Let’s explore some scenarios where a hospital be responsible for medical malpractice.

Misrepresentation of Treating Physicians

Hospitals can face liability when there is a misrepresentation of treating physicians. If a hospital presents a physician as an employee without transparently communicating their non-employee status to the patient, legal consequences may arise. For instance, in scenarios where patients are not made aware of the distinct employment status of attending physicians, the hospital may be held accountable for any mistakes made by the physician during the course of treatment.

Communication Challenges

Emergency room settings, where time is of the essence, pose a unique challenge. The duty of hospitals to ensure patients are properly informed about the employment status of attending physicians becomes crucial. In high-pressure situations, failure to effectively communicate this information may result in patient confusion. This dynamic presents a nuanced scenario where the urgency of medical care intersects with the obligation to provide accurate information to patients, adding complexity to the determination of hospital liability.

Granting Staff Privileges to High-Risk Healthcare Professionals

Hospitals bear a responsibility for granting staff privileges judiciously. Granting privileges to healthcare professionals with known substance abuse or competence issues can expose the hospital to liability. For example, if a physician with a history of substance abuse is granted staff privileges and subsequently commits malpractice, the hospital may be held accountable.

Failure to Screen and Monitor Healthcare Professionals

The hospital’s duty to thoroughly screen and monitor the competence of healthcare professionals is a critical aspect of risk mitigation. Neglecting this responsibility can result in hospitals being held liable for subsequent malpractice by individuals with problematic histories. For instance, if a hospital fails to conduct proper background checks or regularly monitor the performance of its staff, it may be held accountable for any harm caused by professionals with known issues.

When Are Hospitals Not Liable for Medical Malpractice?

Here are some specific scenarios where hospitals are exempt from taking on the responsibility of medical negligence:

Independent Contractor Dynamics

When a doctor is classified as an independent contractor rather than a direct employee, hospitals are typically not held liable for the actions of these physicians. In such cases, legal action must be pursued directly against the doctor.

Supervision by Independent Contractor Doctors

The liability of a hospitals shifts instead to an independent contractor when the employees are under said doctor’s supervision. In these instances, the supervising doctor will assume any responsibility for mistakes made during a patient’s treatment. This responsibility is particularly emphasized when the supervising doctor is in control of the situation and present at the time of the incident.

Lack of Effect on Outcome

Determining whether the hospital’s conduct significantly influenced the course of events is crucial in establishing liability. This requires a thorough examination of the facts surrounding each case, considering the hospital’s level of involvement or lack thereof in the alleged malpractice. As such, cases where the hospital’s actions are deemed to have had no impact on the outcome may absolve the hospital of liability.

This is why it is important to have legal representation. A medical malpractice lawyer like those at Raynes & Lawn will be able to look at the details of your specific case to see who is responsible for what.

Can You Sue a Hospital Under Medical Malpractice Law in Philadelphia?

Yes, you can sue a hospital under Pennsylvania’s medical malpractice law. However, as outlined earlier, there are various instances where a hospital can and cannot be held liable. It will take a careful examination of your case to understand who will be held responsible for the injuries you sustained.

Aside from ascertaining whether the employee or employees who were negligent are considered hospital staff or independent contractors, there are other factors to consider. For example, did the hospital communicate the healthcare professional’s employment status to you, the patient? If a hospital presents a healthcare professional as an employee without clarifying their non-employee status to the patient, it could impact the hospital’s liability. Failures in this communication process may expose the hospital to legal consequences.

If it has been established that it was an employee of the hospital who was responsible for the negligent treatment of a patient, the next step is determining the breach in the standard of care. This involves a review of medical records and other evidence and may include:

Medical Records Review

A fundamental component of gathering evidence involves an exhaustive examination of the medical records associated with the case. This includes patient charts, test results, treatment plans, and any other relevant documentation that chronicles the patient’s journey within the healthcare system. Thoroughly analyzing these records allows legal professionals to identify potential discrepancies, errors, or deviations from established medical standards.

Expert Testimony

Expert testimony plays a pivotal role in substantiating claims of medical malpractice. Engaging qualified and experienced medical experts who can provide professional opinions on the standard of care is crucial. These experts can offer insights into whether the hospital’s actions deviated from accepted norms, and their testimony carries significant weight in demonstrating negligence. Experts might include physicians, nurses, or other healthcare professionals with expertise in the relevant field.

Documentation of Protocols and Guidelines

Establishing a breach of the standard of care often involves referencing established protocols and guidelines within the medical field. Legal professionals meticulously examine whether the hospital adhered to industry-recognized standards in the specific area of care under scrutiny. If the hospital failed to follow established protocols, it strengthens the argument for negligence.

Witness Accounts

Accounts from witnesses, including patients, staff members, or anyone present during the incident, can provide valuable perspectives. Witness testimonies may corroborate or challenge the narrative presented by the hospital. These accounts contribute to the overall narrative of the case and help in constructing a more comprehensive understanding of the events leading to the alleged malpractice.

Analysis of Communication Records

Communication breakdowns can be a significant factor in medical malpractice cases. Reviewing communication records, including emails, messages, and internal memos, can reveal any lapses or failures in conveying crucial information. For example, inadequate communication about a patient’s condition or the results of diagnostic tests may contribute to errors in treatment.

Review of Hospital Policies and Procedures

Examining the hospital’s internal policies and procedures is essential. It helps establish whether the institution had established guidelines in place and whether these guidelines were followed or disregarded. Any deviation from the hospital’s own protocols may be indicative of negligence.

Patient Interviews

Directly engaging with the affected patient through interviews can provide firsthand insights into their experience. Understanding the patient’s perspective, including their awareness of treatment plans, communication with healthcare providers, and overall satisfaction, contributes to building a comprehensive narrative. Patient interviews can reveal crucial details that may have been missed in medical records.

How Long Do You Have to Sue a Hospital For Negligence?

Being that medical malpractice is considered a civil case, it falls under the Pennsylvania statute of limitations that limits the amount of time for your claim to two years. This two years begins the moment the injury occurred or was discovered. However, there is also a “statute of repose” in Pennsylvania, which sets an overall maximum limit of seven years from the date of the alleged negligent act, regardless of when the injury is discovered.

The most important thing is to retain legal representation as soon as possible. The sooner you can have your claim heard, the more quickly you will be able to receive your compensation.

What is the Average Payout for Medical Negligence?

According to the 2018 Medical Malpractice Report published by the National Practitioner Data Bank, the mean payout for medical malpractice lawsuits stood at $348,065, with a cumulative total exceeding $4 billion. Settlements accounted for 96.5 percent of the payouts, while court judgments made up the remaining 3.5 percent.

It’s important to note that the actual amount one might receive varies based on several factors, including the specific circumstances of the case, the parties involved, applicable state laws, and the extent of the injuries sustained. Successful claims for hospital negligence typically encompass compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, diminished earning capacity, and the experience of pain and suffering.

Contact Raynes & Lawn Today

Can a hospital be held liable for medical negligence? Yes, but under certain conditions. Establishing liability in such a case will require the assistance of seasoned legal professionals. If you suspect that your injuries result from a hospital employee’s negligence, it is crucial to seek guidance from legal representatives with extensive experience in medical malpractice, such as those at Raynes & Lawn.

The Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Raynes & Lawn possess the depth of knowledge necessary to diligently pursue the maximum compensation for your claim.

We extend an invitation for a free, no-obligation consultation to understand the details of your case while empowering you with insights into your rights in a medical malpractice claim. Should you choose to proceed with your case, our commitment is evident – you only incur legal fees if we successfully recover compensation on your behalf. Trust Raynes & Lawn to be your dedicated advocates in seeking justice for medical malpractice injuries.

Get in touch with Raynes & Lawn today by calling 1-800-535-1797 or by filling out the contact form.



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