In some cases, a hospital may be held liable for patient injuries in a medical malpractice case.
If a person is injured when receiving treatment in a hospital, the patient or the family of the patient can sue the hospital for negligence for mistakes that harm or kill a patient.
Neglect occurs when reasonable care is not taken to prevent injury to a hospital patient. Some examples of negligence include not verifying instructions, not following checklists, and failing to help a patient who needs help. Hospitals often find themselves responsible for incompetent care provided by employees like nurses, paramedics, and medical technicians. However, for reasons discussed below they often are not responsible for a doctor’s medical malpractice.
There are a number of circumstances in which a hospital may be found liable for negligence and-or medical malpractice.
A hospital can be held liable for the negligence of an employee if that person was doing something job-related when he or she injured the patient by acting incompetently. It is important to understand that unfortunate events happens at hospitals and not all of them rise to the level of negligence.
The medical malpractice of doctors who are independent contractors is not something hospitals are usually liable for. However, this changes if the doctor is an employee of the hospital. When a doctor working for a hospital makes a mistake, both the doctor personally and the hospital as a whole can be sued. Whether a doctor is considered a hospital employee or not depends on the nature of his or her relationship with the hospital. The doctor’s employment status, if it is not immediately clear, is an issue that will be resolved in court. In certain situations, the doctor will be treated as a hospital employee if the hospital does not make it clear to a patient that the doctor is not actually a hospital employee.
ER patients can sue the hospital for a doctor’s medical malpractice if they are injured in an emergency room because the patient is going to the ER, not the doctor in particular. In addition, the hospital typically will not have an opportunity to inform an ER patient that their doctor is an independent contractor.
Hospitals can also be sued when a doctor with a history of negligence and medical mistakes continues to get staff privileges, even if the doctor is an independent contractor. The hospital is responsible if knew, or it should have known, that a doctor had gone from being a safe doctor to incompetent. For example, a doctor becomes severely addicted to drugs and the hospital management knew about it, or it was so obvious they should have known about it. A patient injured by that dangerous doctor can sue the hospital.
An alternative to suing a hospital is mediation. This is a confidential, voluntary process in which an impartial third party helps the participants negotiate their differences. Mediators can help craft a mutually acceptable resolution for the dispute or recommend another way to handle the matter, including litigation. According to a study published in Health Affairs, a journal of health policy thought and research, attorneys working on medical malpractice lawsuits against hospitals estimated that they spent approximately 90 percent less time preparing a medical malpractice lawsuit against hospitals case for mediation that they would have spent preparing for trial.