Hospital vicarious liability may be used to hold a hospital responsible for injuries that have been caused by the negligence or misconduct of staff members operating within the hospital. In many hospitals, physicians and other staff members may operate as independent contractors within the hospital. Depending on circumstances, the hospital may or may not be vicariously liable for acts of medical malpractice committed by independent contractors operating within the hospital.
Hospital Vicarious Liability Changes
In the past, hospitals could often escape responsibility for the actions of staff members operating as independent contractors. Since these workers were not directly employed by the hospital, the hospital claimed no responsibility for the actions of these medical professionals. In recent years, however, many cases have held hospitals vicariously liable for the actions of contractors operating within the hospital.
Patient Perception and Liability
If a patient is not informed that a medical professional is not a direct employee of the hospital, the hospital may be held liable for the actions of the medical professional. Patients may perceive the medical professional as an employee of the hospital, and associate the credibility of the hospital with the capability of the medical professional. For this reason, several cases have ruled that the hospital was responsible for covering costs stemming from malpractice which was committed by contractors operating within the hospital.
Hospital Liability Avoidance
In order to avoid liability for an act of misconduct committed by medical professionals acting as private contractors, many hospitals have begun to require these contractors to inform patients of the contractor status. However, the hospital may still be held liable if it is deemed that the patient was informed of the contractor’s status at an inappropriate time. Inappropriate times include when a patient is incoherent due to pain or when a physician has already begun treatment or examination. Some hospitals require operating contactors to post signs in addition to informing patients of the status within the hospital.
Systemic Vicarious Liability
Hospitals are also vicariously liable for systemic conditions that may lead to medical malpractice lawsuits. Cleaning instruments may not be something that the hospital owners or managers are directly responsible for, but the hospital may be accountable if an infection is caused by an unclean instrument that has been used within the hospital. If staffing issues cause a patient to be neglected until a condition worsens, the hospital may also be liable for this type of systemic cause of negligence. Hiring policies and practices may also be viewed as a systemic cause of malpractice for which the hospital may be vicariously liable.
Determining Malpractice Liability
The issue of determining the responsible party in a case of medical malpractice may become complex when factors such as vicarious liability are taken into account. In some cases, the medical professionals that treated the patient may be held liable. In other cases, the hospital may be held liable for injuries incurred. This accountability may vary due to state laws or even specific actions that were taken at the time of the malpractice incident.
Vicarious Liability Counsel
An experienced medical malpractice attorney may be helpful in determining the party that should be held liable for the injuries sustained by the patient. An attorney may also be able to provide advice and assistance pertaining to what information must be collected to form a solid malpractice case. In most cases, an expert must be called upon to deliver testimony in agreement with the aspects of the case that prove that malpractice has occurred. An attorney may be helpful in locating an individual qualified and willing to submit this testimony.
A malpractice attorney may also be able to assist patients in receiving compensation for pain and suffering that has stemmed from the malpractice injury. Loss of quality of life can cause mental anguish and psychological trauma as well as physical pain. Malpractice attorneys may be able to help patients receive compensation for this pain and suffering in addition to recovering costs for lost wages and medical care.
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“The 2013 Florida Statutes: Health Professions and Occupations General Provisions.” Online Sunshine. The Florida Legislature, n.d. Web. 3 Apr 2014. <http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?mode=View Statutes&SubMenu=1&App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=malpractice&URL=0400-0499/0456/Sections/0456.50.html>