Medical Malpractice Liability

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 What Is Medical Malpractice Liability?

Medical malpractice is a category of injury claim that usually involves the negligence of a physician, surgeon, nurse, or other health care professional. In order to prove medical malpractice, typically, a plaintiff has to show that they suffered medical injuries because of the medical professional’s breach of their professional duty of care.

The standard of care may vary depending on the medical professional’s line of work, their educational background, and their medical experience. Examples of medical malpractice may include, but are not limited to:

  • Prescribing the incorrect medications;
  • Providing wrong medical advice;
  • Performing an incorrect surgery; and
  • Reckless handling of a patient’s body.

Medical malpractice liability is which individuals or parties should be held legally responsible for the injuries the patient suffered. Typically, it is the party who breached their duty of care and who was the actual cause of the injuries the patient suffered.

In some cases, however, it may be difficult to determine the liable party. For example, medical malpractice liability may involve more than one individual or entity.

In some cases, the medical malpractice liability may be split between a doctor and a nurse whose combined negligence caused the injury. For example, if incorrect instructions were provided or if one of the professionals failed to correct the other one, there is a chance that both of the parties may be held liable.

Hospital organizations can be held liable for malpractice, especially in cases where the overall policies or the quality of care of the hospital is substandard.

Can a Hospital Be Held Liable for My Injury?

If an individual was injured while they were receiving treatment at a hospital, they may wonder if they can bring a legal claim against the hospital for negligence or medical malpractice. Hospitals are commonly liable for incompetent care provided by their nurses, medical technicians, and employees.

In many cases, hospitals are not responsible for the medical negligence of physicians. Hospitals may be liable for medical malpractice and injuries caused by individuals who work at the facility under the corporate negligence doctrine.

Depending on the relationship between the hospital and the medical practitioner who was allegedly negligent, the level of liability may vary. If an individual is an employee of a hospital, that hospital may be liable for the actions of the employee if that employee acted incompetently and hurt a patient.

It is important to note that a hospital may not be liable for medical malpractice that a physician commits, even if that physician was working for the hospital. For example, if a nurse who is employed by the hospital provides an incorrect injection to a patient that results in injury, the patient will be able to sue the hospital for the nurse’s mistake.

On the other hand, if a physician makes a mistake during a procedure and injures the patient, the hospital may not be liable for the patient’s injuries unless the physician was an employee of that hospital.

Which Doctrine of Liability Holds a Hospital Responsible for the Negligent Acts of Its Employees?

Under the legal theory of respondeat superior, if an individual is an employee of a hospital, the hospital will typically be held liable if that employee injures a patient by acting negligently. If an employee is incompetent or does not act with reasonable caution when treating the patient, the hospital will typically be responsible for any harm the patient suffered.

It is important to be aware that not every mistake or unfortunate accident that occurs in a hospital will rise to the level of negligence. Typically, hospital employees include hospital support staff, medical technicians, and nurses.

So long as an employee was doing something related to their job when they caused an injury to a patient, that patient can typically sue the hospital for the harm that resulted. If, however, a hospital employee committed malpractice under a doctor’s supervision, that patient may be able to sue the doctor but the hospital may not be liable.

Whether an employee is considered to be under the supervision of a doctor when an accident occurs will depend on whether the doctor was present as well as whether the doctor had enough control over the incident to prevent the negligence of the employee. For example, a surgeon may be liable if the attending nurse incorrectly counts surgical sponges, which led to a surgeon leaving a sponge in a patient.

What If I Need to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?

One of the first steps an individual should take if they need to file a medical malpractice claim is to determine which parties may be liable for their injuries. An individual should review the chain of events that led up to their injury and see where the origin of the injury may be, such as faulty medicine, a wrong prescription, or a wrong surgical procedure.

In certain cases, as discussed above, there are different parties that may be jointly responsible. Because of this, it is important for an individual to try and recall and document the nature and extent of their injuries.

It is also important to note that the defendant will likely present any available medical malpractice defenses. An attorney can advise an individual which may apply to their case and how they can combat them.

How Is Medical Malpractice Proven in a Lawsuit?

There are several elements that a plaintiff must prove in a medical malpractice claim, including:

  • The medical professional owed the patient a duty to act reasonably and under the medical standard of care in overseeing the patient’s health, such as while diagnosing, treating, etc.;
  • The medical professional failed to meet the proper standard of care, or their duty, because they were negligent in managing some aspect of the patient’s health;
  • The conduct of the medical professional was the actual and proximate cause of the patient’s injury; and
  • The injury resulted in the patient suffering damages that are measurable.

In addition, if a lawsuit is filed specifically against an organization or the organization’s clerical staff, the plaintiff must show that the medical staff was supervised or trained negligently. There are items and documents that a plaintiff can submit as evidence to support their claim, including:

  • Medical records;
  • Receipts for medical expenses;
  • Documents that caused a misdiagnosis or a mistreatment to occur; and
  • The costs related to the injury.

What Is the Statute of Limitations?

One of the most detrimental mistakes an individual can make is to wait too long to file their medical malpractice claim. There are statutory time limits, called the statute of limitations, that require a patient file their legal claim within a specified time period.

These time limits will vary by state, so it is important to consult with an attorney to determine what applies in an individual’s state. The statute of limitations may be as short as one year from the time of the treatment mistake or injury.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

If you believe you may have suffered an injury resulting from medical malpractice, it is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can. In many cases, attorneys will take on these claims on a contingency basis, meaning that you will not pay unless you win your case.

Your lawyer will know how to best present evidence of your injuries as well as present the necessary expert testimony to prove what injuries occurred. Your lawyer can also help determine which individuals or entities may be held liable for your injury and will represent you throughout the process.

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