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Hospitals and Vicarious Liability

When a doctor’s negligence causes an injury, the patient can obtain compensation for his or her losses in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In some cases, the physician alone can be held liable for his or her mistake, while in others, the hospital that hired the doctor can also be held liable for its employees’ negligence under the legal theory of vicarious liability. Determining who is liable for a physician’s error can be difficult, so if you or a loved one were injured as a result of medical malpractice, it is critical to retain the services of an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can protect your interests.

Hospital Liability

Many healthcare professionals who work in hospitals are independent contractors, which means that they are not direct employees of the hospital. However, other doctors and nurses are employed directly by hospitals, which means that injured parties can hold both the doctor and the hospital liable.

A hospital could be held vicariously liable for the negligence of a number of different types of employees, including:

  • Physicians;
  • Nurses; and
  • Physical, occupational, and mental health therapists.

Most cases of hospital negligence committed by an employee falls under one of the following categories:

  • Misdiagnosis;
  • Mistakes in prescribing or administering medication;
  • Failing to properly monitor a patient;
  • Failing to regularly take a patient’s vital signs;
  • Failing to keep proper records;
  • Failing to respond to a patient’s call quickly enough;
  • Failing to report suspicious symptoms to the physician;
  • Failing to check for bed sores; and
  • Failing to follow a doctor’s instructions.

Independent Contractors

If a doctor, nurse, or therapist negligently made one of these mistakes and he or she worked directly for the hospital, both the employee and the hospital can be held liable for the mistake. This makes the analysis of whether a doctor or nurse is an independent contractor or an employee especially important. Generally, courts look at a series of factors to answer this question, including:

  • The precise terms of the employment arrangement;
  • The amount of control the hospital had over the medical professional’s job conditions and performance; and
  • The method of payment.

If a court finds that a hospital is directly liable for a physician or nurse’s negligence, it can be held responsible for:

  • Negligent hiring, such as failing to verify licensing and certification;
  • Failing to ensure that employees are up to date on licensing requirements;
  • Failing to fire incompetent employees;
  • Negligent supervision;
  • Failing to maintain and repair medical equipment;
  • Failing to establish patient safety protocols;
  • Failing to hire enough medical or nursing staff;
  • Mislabeling medications; and
  • Violating patient confidentiality.

Determining who is responsible in medical malpractice cases can be difficult, due to the number of parties involved as well as the complex relationships between hospitals and medical professionals. For this reason, it is especially important to have the advice of an experienced attorney who can help identify the responsible parties.

Contact a Dedicated Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

If you live in Pennsylvania or New Jersey and were injured while in the hospital, please contact Cohen, Placitella, & Roth, P.C. Attorneys at Law, by calling (516) 567-3500 and we’ll help you schedule a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

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