Medical malpractice is a difficult branch of law for a variety of reasons. Of course, not every problem that results from a hospital visit is malpractice, and even when it is, legal action is not always the correct course of action. Furthermore, who is legally responsible for malpractice varies based on the circumstances. Here are some factors to consider in regards to potential malpractice cases and hospital liability.
What Constitutes Medical Malpractice
In order to have a case, the alleged malpractice must have led to some sort of injury, whereas a mistake that is harmless has no legal weight. Furthermore, because of the expense of a malpractice suit, most attorneys will not take a case unless the consequences were severe, such as a permanent injury or a long term loss of work. Otherwise even a victory is not likely to make enough money to cover their expenses.
Determining Legal Responsibility
If one has a case worth pursuing, the next question becomes: “Who do you file a claim against?” The answer is usually either the doctor or the hospital, but different factors affect who is considered legally responsible.
A hospital is generally responsible for any actions carried out by its employees. However, most doctors are not actually employed by hospitals, but work as independent contractors. This means that if they make a mistake, the responsibility rests on them, rather than the hospital. However, other staff members, such as nurses, technicians and paramedics, are usually employed by the hospital directly, and thus the hospital is liable for mistakes that they make.
Conversely, hospitals are usually responsible for a doctor’s malpractice if they fail to inform the patient that the doctor was not their employee. To prevent this, most hospitals put this information in their admission forms. However, because it is difficult to give this information in the emergency room, in most states the hospital can be held legally responsible for a doctor’s ER errors. They can also be held responsible for retaining a doctor’s services if they had reason to believe that said doctor was not competent.