When patients are harmed in a hospital, it may be a direct result of a doctor’s actions. However, the doctor themself is typically an independent contractor which means they are not employed by the hospital itself.
Although some doctors are not employees of the hospital, they have 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 some doctors are independent contractors, the hospital is only liable for those that they employ, according to Vicarious Liability. So, if a nurse or technician were to commit malpractice, the hospital would be held liable for their negligence.
Another possible instance 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:
Examples of physician negligence can include, but are not limited to, misdiagnosis, failure to prescribe or administer proper medication, or provide improper care affecting birth or pregnancy.
Examples of nursing negligence can include, but are not limited to, failure to intervene in a decline in patient condition, administering the wrong amount or type of medication, failure to maintain patients' skin integrity, and improper placement of intravenous lines.
Examples of therapist negligence can include, but are not limited to, deviating from doctors' orders and applying too much force in a single area. Therapists must make sure that they are providing the appropriate type of treatment to the correct area. Failure to do so may inflict pain and even cause reinjury.
Doctors may be Independent Contractors
Hospitals may not be liable for doctors' negligence because they may be independent contractors. This means that they may not be employed by the hospital, but have an agreement with the hospital to use its facilities to provide services.
If a doctor is not an actual employee of the hospital, this might prevent them from being sued.
If the doctor committed medical malpractice, they will solely be held liable, unless 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.