Can I Sue a Hospital for Medical Malpractice?
If you suffered injuries while you were being treated in a hospital, you might wonder whether the hospital might be liable for medical malpractice or negligence. If the treating physician was the person who negligently caused your injuries, the hospital may or may not be liable. While hospitals are typically responsible for the negligence of their employees, including nurses and others, they are generally not responsible for the negligent actions of contractors. Here is some information from the malpractice lawyers in Philadelphia at Raynes & Lawn about hospital liability in malpractice claims.
When Hospitals Are Vicariously Liable
Under the legal principle of respondeat superior, employers are vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees when they injure someone while working. This is because employers gain benefits from their employees’ work, so they are considered to be responsible for their negligent actions while they are working. For hospital employees, including nurses, medical technicians, and others, the hospital will normally have to pay damages when they injure patients through the employees’ negligence. For example, if a nurse employed by a hospital administers medication to the wrong patient, causing the patient to suffer an adverse drug interaction and serious harm, the hospital would likely be responsible for paying damages to the patient in a malpractice lawsuit.
By contrast, however, doctors typically are not employed by the hospitals where they work. Most are independent contractors who have admitting privileges at various hospitals. This means that when a doctor provides a treatment that doesn’t meet the standard of care expected of other physicians in the field of practice in the region, the hospital will likely not be liable for the doctor’s negligence unless they are employed by the hospital.
If a doctor is supervising a hospital employee when the employee commits a negligent act that injures the patient, the victim can file a lawsuit against the doctor. However, the hospital might not be responsible. Determining whether a hospital employee was under a doctor’s supervision at the time of the negligent act involves looking at whether or not the doctor was present and if the doctor had enough control over the situation to prevent the employee’s medical error.
Determining Whether a Doctor is Employed by a Hospital
Determining whether a negligent doctor was employed by the hospital where the substandard treatment was provided is the first step in figuring out whether the hospital might be liable. While some doctors are hospital employees, most are classified as independent contractors. Hospitals are not vicariously liable for the negligence of independent contractors even when they commit medical errors on the hospital’s property. Doctors are likelier to be hospital employees when the hospital has control over the doctor’s vacation time and working hours or when it establishes the fees that the doctor charges.
Hospital Liability for a Doctor’s Actions as an Independent Contractor
While hospitals are generally not liable for the negligent actions of a doctor who is an independent contractor, there are still some situations in which a hospital might be liable.
1. When the Hospital Appears to be the Employer
Patients might be able to file lawsuits against a hospital that fails to inform them that the doctors are not their employees. However, most hospitals try to get around this problem by including statements in their admission forms that the doctors are not employed by the hospitals.
In emergency rooms, the situation is different. The hospital might not have the opportunity to tell patients in the emergency department that a doctor is not a hospital employee. Because of this, emergency room patients often are able to sue the hospital for the medical malpractice of an ER doctor.
2. Hospital Retains an Incompetent Physician
If a hospital gives admitting privileges to a doctor it knows or should know is incompetent, the facility might be liable to pay damages under a theory of negligent hiring. A hospital might also be liable if it keeps a doctor on staff that it knows or should have known had become incompetent. For example, if a doctor became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and the hospital knew or should have known about it because of the obviousness of the doctor’s substance abuse, the hospital might be liable if the doctor injures a patient.
A hospital might hold corporate liability if the hospital failed to check the doctor’s qualifications before forming a contractual relationship with them. A hospital has a duty to maintain its facilities in a safe manner, to maintain its equipment in a safe manner, to oversee the care provided by all of the people who practice medicine within its facilities, and promulgate and enforce policies and procedures to ensure quality care is provided to patients. If a hospital fails to meet any of these duties, it might be liable to pay damages to a patient who is harmed.
For example, when an infant suffers serious injuries because of birth trauma caused by the delivery staff, both the doctor and the hospital might be held liable. In some cases, a doctor’s medical malpractice insurance might not be enough to compensate a victim who has suffered serious injuries. Because of that, it is important to consider whether the hospital might also be named as a defendant when appropriate.
Speak to a Philadelphia Malpractice Lawyer
If you were injured while you were being treated in a hospital in Pennsylvania, you might have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor, nurses, other staff who were involved in the medical negligence, and the hospital. However, not all medical mistakes rise to the level of malpractice, so it’s important to talk to Raynes & Lawn to determine whether your claim is viable.
We offer free consultations so that you can learn more about your legal rights and the remedies that might be available to you. Our attorneys have represented medical malpractice victims for more than 50 years in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. Call us today for a free case evaluation at 1-800-535-1797.
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