If a patient suffers harm in a hospital setting, there are many factors that may determine liability, including whether negligent actions were committed by the healthcare provider or by the administration of the hospital, and if committed by a healthcare provider, the status of that healthcare provider’s employment with the hospital. Errors or negligence could involve physician malpractice, nursing malpractice, or malpractice by an occupational or physical therapist. If a patient’s condition worsens or if the patient is injured, the hospital administration may also be held liable for damages.
There are two main types of hospital liability for medical malpractice. These two kinds of liability include (1) direct liability for negligence conducted by hospital employees or caused by the hospital’s administration’s mistakes, including failure in employee hiring, training, and supervision and the failure to update, repair, and maintain equipment, and (2) indirect liability against the hospital based on the actions of a provider who is not actually employed by the hospital, but who is nevertheless deemed to be an agent of the hospital.
Looking At Hospital Liability
Hospital liability varies depending on whether an individual is directly employed by the hospital or if he/she was an independent contractor.
As a foundational matter, nurses, therapists, and administration are almost always direct employees of a hospital and any negligence against those providers is almost always deemed to be negligence against the hospital.
Nurses perform various tasks related to the treatment of a patient. If the nurse’s conduct falls below the applicable standard of medical care, a patient may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim.
Reasons that a nurse could be subjected to a medical malpractice claim include:
- Failure to properly monitor a patient
- Forgetting to take vital signs
- Failure to take vital signs at the appropriate times
- Administering the wrong kind of medication or the wrong dosage
- Failure to document nursing issues or evaluations in a patient’s chart
- Administering medication at the wrong time and not following the schedule
- Failure to properly respond to a patient call
- Failure to check the patient for bed sores
- Failure to report irregular symptoms or complaints to the attending physician
Therapists are another type of healthcare provider whose negligence can lead to patient harm. For example, if a physical therapist manipulates a patient’s injured limb too aggressively and reinjures the limb, that may justify a medical malpractice claim.
Another example would be if a mental health therapist ignored the warning signs and did not notify a doctor that a patient was suicidal and the patient then overdosed, the hospital may be liable.
As well, some hospitals, especially teaching hospitals such as university hospitals, will often directly employ medical personnel such as doctors that are full-time or part-time direct employees of the facility. In that case, a hospital can also be held liable for errors caused by those doctors because of that physician’s negligence or malpractice.
Indirect Agency Liability
In today’s environment, however, it is very common for healthcare providers in hospitals to not be direct employees of the facility, but rather independent contractors. For example, many ER physicians are often self-employed and are contracted by the hospital to offer their services to the general public. The hospital does not hire them as direct employees.
If a physician is an independent contractor, the hospital’s liability for negligence is based on whether or not that provider may be deemed an “agent” of the hospital. That determination is made by evaluating several factors, including how the provider was being paid, the terms of their employment or work, and how much control the hospital had over the healthcare provider’s performance.
For the most part, physician negligence falls into one of these categories:
- Surgical errors
- Medication errors
- Negligence involving pregnancy and/or childbirth
A medical malpractice attorney can investigate to determine if the physician is a hospital employee and who is liable for the damages caused by that provider.
Have You Suffered from Negligence or Errors While at the Hospital?
Whether a healthcare provider is an independent contractor of a hospital or a hospital employee, the hospital may be responsible for the injuries caused to a patient while that patient is being provided care by that hospital.
If you believe you have suffered injuries because of medical malpractice in the hospital, you should consult with a medical malpractice attorney right away. For Los Angeles medical negligence matters, call the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., a firm of California medical malpractice attorneys.