June 6, 2018
If you’ve ever been admitted to the hospital for an extended period of time, you know its halls contain a non-stop flow of activity. Depending on your needs, no fewer than three shifts of nurses will watch over your care, and for serious illnesses or injuries, whole teams of doctors weigh in on your best treatment options.
Though highly skilled and trained professionals, every one of these workers is also a human being. They all have good days and bad days, and they all make mistakes from time to time. As much as we like to pretend the risks in hospitals are zero, accidents happen.
Accidents are unfortunate and can even result in tragedy, but they are an assumed risk when trusting our care into the hands of imperfect humans. It’s when doctors overstep their bounds or take unnecessary risks that these accidents can fall under medical malpractice. Often, these incidents have a clear defendant: the doctor alleged of committing negligence. However, not every occurrence of medical malpractice that occurs in a hospital is caused by doctors — sometimes, the hospital as a whole is to blame.
Who’s Employed by the Hospital?
You may be surprised to know that only a few types of professionals are actually employed by the hospital in which they work. Usually, nurses, administrators, and service personnel are hospital employees, but the majority of skilled health professionals are not.
This alters how medical malpractice cases are handled when they’re filed against different professionals. Some are independent contractors, and the hospital isn’t liable for medical malpractice lawsuits filed against them.
However, the medical technicians that work for the hospital can be involved in an act of medical malpractice. In these cases, the victim may be able to hold the hospital liable for their injury and any damages they may be entitled to receive.
Accidents Caused by Hospital Employees
Even if a patient is injured by a hospital employee’s negligence, that doesn’t necessarily mean the injury is grounds for a medical malpractice case. When accidents happen in hospitals that aren’t related to medical treatment or a technician’s professional duty, they may not be classified as medical malpractice claims, but rather as personal injury claims.
Sometimes, the line between what constitutes medical negligence as opposed to non-medical negligence is tough to identify. Typically, accidents that involve slips and falls are not considered medical malpractice, whereas injuries that happen in more specialized scenarios, like transporting a comatose patient, are harder to judge without more detail.
A helpful rule of thumb for hospital lawsuits is that if the hospital as a whole could be held liable for an injury, it’s likely that it may not be medical malpractice.
Doctors Acting as Hospital Employees
In rare scenarios, doctors who are clearly incompetent and yet continue to provide medical care to patients under a hospital’s supervision may transmit medical malpractice liability to the hospital through corporate negligence.
This idea is based on the precedent that hospitals are directly responsible for the care of their patients, including the staffing of adequately qualified and responsible health professionals. Hospitals must hire, train, and supervise doctors to ensure their competency on a continual basis.
If an independently contracted doctor causes negligent harm to patients and the hospital knew or should have known that such behavior was likely, the hospital may be liable for the doctor’s medical malpractice.
How to Start a Medical Malpractice Claim
Medical malpractice lawsuits are no picnic. The number of legal precedents, loopholes, and filing guidelines is massive. It’s difficult to know where to begin.
If you’re thinking about beginning to file a medical malpractice claim, give our lawyers a call or contact us online. Your first consultation will help you get an idea of what you can expect from the claim process, and it’s totally free.