Understanding Hospital Negligence

Understanding Hospital Negligence

No one goes to the hospital and thinks of it like staying at a hotel. There is always a risk of a bad outcome. When treatment at a hospital results in injury or death, victims or their families may question whether it was the result of hospital negligence (a form of medical malpractice). As complicated as medical malpractice can be, it is usually clearer than understanding hospital negligence. That is because hospital negligence comes down to the nature of 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 or medical facility, then the hospital is responsible or 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. That means if the wrong medicine or the wrong treatment is administered by a nurse or medical technician, for example, and the patient is injured, the hospital is responsible for the outcome.

Doctors are not usually employees of the hospital

While nurses and the other staff are employees, doctors on the other hand, are not usually employees of the hospital. Most of the time doctors are independent contractors. Characterizing doctors as independent contractors is 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 employment benefits to the doctor then there is good chance the doctor is an employee.  Most of the time, however, a doctor just 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.

The Exceptions

Like anything else in the law, there are exceptions.  These are reasons to make sure you have a good attorney helping you navigate your hospital negligence claim.  Here are some of the exceptions that your attorney should look for:

  1. Is It Clear Who the Doctor Works for? – The hospital should make it clear to a patient that the doctor is not an employee. Usually hospitals avoid this problem through standard disclaimers in fine print. They inform patients in their admission forms that the doctor is not a hospital employee.
  2. Did the Hospital Know the Doctor was Dangerous? – Hospitals are responsible for giving out privileges to work in their facilities. If there were indications that a doctor was/is a risk to patients and they do not address the problem or revoke those privileges.