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Vicarious Liability and Medical Malpractice Claims

Written by Berkowitz

Connecticut Medical Malpractice Attorney - Berkowitz and Hanna LLCWhen a patient is treated for an injury or illness, the last thing he or she thinks about is the business relationship between the treating physician and the hospital or clinic where treatment is administered. This relationship between a physician and hospital becomes important, however, when a patient needs to hold a hospital liable for injuries or costs, if:

  • When a treatment does not go as planned, or
  • The patient is harmed due to medical malpractice.

Traditionally, individuals working in the emergency room and other areas of the hospital were employees. Because of this relationship, and the long-standing doctrine of respondeat superior, a hospital could hold vicarious liability if one of its employees inflicts injury or commits malpractice. Today, however, the hospital can be immune from malpractice lawsuits when the negligent physician is considered an independent contractor. As most hospitals now share a contract relationship with physicians, their liabilities are generally reduced.

When assessing a case for medical malpractice, the hospital will be assessed to determine if it is subject to the two types of liability:

  1. Vicarious Liability – The employer is liable for its employees’ negligence; therefore, the hospital would be liable for injuries caused by its physicians or staff.
  2. Hospital Liability – The hospital itself is liable for its own mistakes or negligence. This can include aspects like hiring processes, employee supervision, proper repair of safety hazards, etc.

When Hospitals Can Face Vicarious Liability Suits

Most physicians and healthcare providers who work in a hospital setting are considered independent contractors, since most physicians have hospital privileges instead of direct employment. There remain, however, those who work for the hospital as employees. If the injury or malpractice occurred because of an independent contractor’s negligence, the hospital would not be vicariously liable; rather, you would have to bring your suit against the healthcare provider.

The professionals who could be held liable in a malpractice suit can include:

  1. Physicians – Physician malpractice claims often fall into one of several categories, such as misdiagnosis, negligence during pregnancy or childbirth, surgical errors, or mistakes in prescribing or administering medication. If the physician was employed by the hospital, the hospital could be liable for any injuries as well.
  2. Nurses – Nurses, like physicians, owe the patient a duty of care and can be found liable if they fail to provide such duty. Some things that nurses are commonly held liable for include failure to monitor a patient, failure to take vital signs, failure to report information to the overseeing physician, and failure to check a patient for sores or signs of distress. Nurses are almost always employees of the hospital; therefore, a nurse’s malpractice would often qualify for vicarious liability.
  3. Therapists – Therapists, whether they are psychological or physical, may also be found negligent in a malpractice claim. When a therapist fails to diagnose a mental health condition that later leads to the patient’s injury, his or her failure to assist the patient or report the condition could make her liable. If the therapist is employed by the hospital, then it would be vicariously liable.

Speak with a CT Medical Malpractice Attorney

To determine if a hospital is vicariously liable, you will need to speak with a medical malpractice attorney. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Call us or contact us online to get started.