Medical malpractice is one of the most complex areas of law – and hospital negligence can be one of the hardest forms of medical malpractice to determine. It all comes down to the relationship between the hospital and the medical professional.
Hospitals are responsible for their employees
If a medical professional is the employee of the hospital, then the hospital is liable for that employee. Hospital employees are usually nurses, medical technicians, and the operations staff. If during a hospital admission a patient is injured, the hospital is responsible for the errors of its employees. If, for example, the wrong medicine or treatment is administered by a nurse or medical technician and the patient is injured, the hospital is responsible for the outcome.
Doctors are not usually employees of the hospital
Unlike most nurses and staff, doctors are typically not hospital employees. Most of the time doctors are independent contractors. Characterizing doctors as independent contractors are how hospitals try to protect themselves from mistakes doctors may make.
Not every doctor at a hospital is an independent contractor. If the hospital pays the doctor directly and provides employee benefits, then there is a good chance the doctor is an employee. Most of the time, however, a doctor merely has staff privileges at the hospital.
This also means that if a hospital employee commits malpractice while under a doctor’s supervision, the hospital may not be liable. If the doctor was present when the injury occurred and could have prevented it, the doctor may be the one primarily responsible.
Like anything else in law, there are exceptions. This nuance is why its important to have a good attorney helping you navigate your hospital negligence claim. Here are some of the exceptions that your attorney should look for:
- Is It Clear Who the Doctor Works for?The hospital should clarify to a patient that the doctor is not an employee. Hospitals often avoid this problem through standard disclaimers in the fine print. They inform patients in their admission forms that the doctor is not a hospital employee.
- Did the Hospital Know the Doctor was Dangerous? Hospitals are responsible for providing privileges to work in their facilities. If there were indications that a doctor was or is a risk to patients and the hospital did not address the problem or revoke those privileges, they may be at fault.