When patients are harmed in a hospital, it is usually a direct result of the doctor’s actions. However, the doctor him or herself is typically an independent contractor which means he is not employed by the hospital itself. Although some doctors are not employees of the hospital, they still maintain an agreement with the hospital to use their medical facilities and their pay structure. However, there are scenarios in which the hospital may be held liable and the doctors avoid the claim. The hospital is generally liable for malpractice caused by health employees that are employed by the hospital itself such as nurses, paramedics, and technicians.
Hospitals and Liability
Since doctors are independent contractors, the hospital is only liable for those that they employ, according to Vicarious Liability. So, if a nurse or technician was to commit malpractice, the hospital would be held liable for their negligence. Another possible case of hospital liability is when the hospital commits its own mistakes such as negligence in hiring, supervising their employees, and sterilizing the equipment properly. Employees who can hold a hospital liable based on Vicarious Liability include:
Physicians: Cases for physician negligence can include misdiagnosis, failure to prescribe or administer proper medication, or provide improper care affecting birth or pregnancy.
Nurses: They usually perform minor tasks that the doctor doesn’t typically do. However, these tasks are still important and can still be done negligently. Some examples include, but are not limited to, failure to monitor a patient correctly, administering the wrong amount or type of medication, failure to respond to a patient’s call quickly enough, and failure to enter accurate records into patient charts.
Therapist: A therapist may possibly avoid doctor instruction and apply too much force in a single area. He or she must make sure that they are providing the appropriate type of treatment to the correct area. Failure to do so may cause more infliction of pain, or worse, a rebreaking of the bone.
Doctors are usually Independent Contractors
For the most part, hospitals are not liable for doctors because they are independent contractors. This means that they are not employed by the hospital, but have an agreement with the hospital to use its facilities to provide services. Because doctors are usually not employees of the hospitals, this prevents you from suing the hospital for the doctor’s negligence in most cases. If the doctor committed medical malpractice, only he or she will be held liable, unless the hospital employees also participated in negligent activities.
Possible Indicators that a Doctor is an Employee
Although most doctors that work in hospitals are independent contractors, this is not always the case. Some doctors may be employees of the hospital. You can tell if the doctor is an employee by taking note of a few characteristics of the doctor’s relationship that include:
Doctors Working Hours or Vacation time: If the hospital is in control of these aspects, then the doctor is probably an employee of the hospital
The Doctor Fees are set by the hospital: This is an indicator that the doctor does not control what he or she can charge, thus, probably making him an employee of the hospital rather than an independent contractor.
The doctor’s employment status isn't always clear. However, it is not something to worry about because this problem can always be resolved in court discussions.