When an injury or illness occurs as a result of medical malpractice can you sue for damages? And if so, who should you sue? Be aware that not every error is as significant as negligence but if reasonable care and caution were not taken when treating a patient and an injury was sustained, that could be medical malpractice. The hospital, however, may or may not be held responsible for the injury depending on who committed the error. Although it can be confusing, there are some factors to consider when deciding who to sue for a death or injury.
Hospitals Are Liable for Employee Actions
A hospital can be sued when their employee does not exercise reasonable care when treating a patient or was doing something job related and it results in a patient injury.
Who are Hospital Employees?
In most cases nurses, paramedics and medical technicians are direct hospital employees.
Isn’t the Doctor a Hospital Employee?
Actually, typically doctors are not hospital employees; they are contracted workers and would be sued directly if they committed medical malpractice. One way to know that a doctor is not a hospital employee is that they send a separate bill for their services.
Note that although it creates a gray area, if a hospital employee acts negligently under the guidance of a doctor, the patient could sue the doctor while the hospital remains untouchable.
You can tell if an employee is under a doctor’s supervision because the doctor was present when the employee committed the malpractice and the doctor could have prevented the malpractice by noticing the employee’s error.
When is a Doctor a Hospital Employee?
The doctor’s relationship with the hospital will give clues as to whether he is an employee or an independent contractor. A doctor who is a direct employee would likely have their hours, fees and vacation time set by the hospital.
Is a Hospital ever Responsible for a Non-Employee Doctor’s Negligence?
If you are hitting a dead end, you may wish to retain the services of a medical malpractice attorney to determine if your case warrants an exception. In some cases, a hospital can be held responsible for a non-employee doctor’s actions.
The Doctor Appeared to be a Hospital Employee
Hospitals typically state that doctors are not hospital employees in your admissions paperwork. Once you’ve signed in, you are stating your understanding that the doctor is a contract employee solely responsible for his actions. In the case of emergency rooms visits where paperwork is not signed before care is given, the hospital is often held liable for medical negligence. In a few states, a hospital can be sued for emergency room malpractice regardless of whether the patient understood that the doctor was a contracted employee.
An Incompetent Doctor is Retained
In many states, a hospital can be held liable for medical malpractice if it retains the services of an incompetent doctor. The hospital can also be responsible if they should have known that a doctor has become incompetent, for example, because they have become an alcoholic.
Medical Malpractice law is complicated and varies from state to state. It is advisable to seek legal advice and representation from a medical malpractice attorney in your area.
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