Forensic, General & Medical
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When Can the Hospital Be Sued for Malpractice?


Expert Witness: HG.org
When a person is injured while in the hospital, he or she may consult a personal injury attorney who focuses on medical malpractice claims. One of the first questions that an attorney of this nature will try to answer is who may be sued. In addition to surgeons or other healthcare staff, hospitals may also be sued in some cases for malpractice. The hospital may be able to be sued if one of the following situations is applicable.

The Hospital Was Negligent

A lawsuit may be founded on the basis that the hospital acted in a negligent manner. For hospital cases, the issue is often that the hospital did something unreasonable or failed to take certain precautions that led to a patient’s injuries or death.

The hospital may be found liable for negligence if it did not ensure that hospital staff had the required education, ongoing training or licensure. Additionally, it may be liable for not properly checking the backgrounds of other individuals who are not direct employees, such as surgeons or attending physicians, who administer care to patients. If a patient’s condition
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worsened because he or she had to wait longer because there was not adequate staff, the hospital may be found to be negligent.

The Hospital Is Responsible for the Conduct of the Healthcare Provider

Hospitals may be direct employers of certain healthcare staff, including paramedics, medical technicians and nurses. For individuals with whom the hospital shares an employer/employee relationship, the hospital may be sued under the doctrine of respondeat superior. This Latin terms means that the master must answer for the servant.

This means that if an employee or other individual under the direction of the employer acted in a negligent manner, the employer is responsible for the injuries that resulted. Generally, nurses, medical technicians and paramedics are the direct employees of the hospital. If the hospital employee was performing a job-related function when the patient was injured, the patient can usually sue the hospital for the employee’s mistake.

In most cases, doctors are not considered the direct employee of the hospital, but rather independent contractors. However, in some situations, doctors are employees. Doctors are more likely to be found to be employees of the hospital if the hospital controls the doctor’s working hours, vacation time and the fee schedule for the doctor’s services. In a few exceptions, a hospital may be found to be liable for a non-employee doctor’s services.

For example, if the hospital appeared to others to be the employer of the doctor, the patient may be able to sue if the hospital did not clearly state that the doctor was not actually an employee. Additionally, a hospital may be sued in some states if it knows that a doctor is incompetent or dangerous and still keeps the doctor on staff. Barring these exceptions, if a hospital employee commits negligence while the non-employee doctor is present and the doctor had control of the situation to prevent the employee’s negligence, the hospital may not be able to be sued.

Common Causes for Liability

Every medical malpractice case is different and relies on a unique set of facts. However, there are scenarios that more commonly align with a medical malpractice case. For example, a nurse or medical technician may give a patient the wrong type of medication or dosage. Another reason for a medical malpractice case is if the hospital employee did not follow the treating physician’s instructions regarding the care of a patient.

A patient who did not have his or her wounds dressed or treated properly and later develops an infection may decide to sue. If an anesthesiologist or other employee gives the patient a drug that he or she should have known would cause issues, the patient may pursue a medical malpractice claim. A common cause for a medical malpractice claim is when the patient was misdiagnosed or had a delayed diagnosis due to a mistake.

This situation is the cause of many medical malpractice complaints and occur when a healthcare provider either does not diagnose a condition initially or misinterprets the symptoms for another condition. When this situation arises, the patient loses the opportunity to be treated sooner and harm may not be prevented.

Expert Testimony

Medical malpractice claims must usually be supported by expert testimony. An expert must usually testify about how another competent doctor in the same specialty field would have acted. If the doctor did not follow this standard, liability may lie.


Provided by HG.org


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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