When Is a Hospital Liable for Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice has three essential elements. There must be a duty of care between the health provider and the patient. The health provider’s care must be below acceptable standards. The improper cause must be the proximate cause of any injuries the patient suffers. Medical malpractice includes a failure to make a proper diagnosis, errors during surgery, prescribing the incorrect medications, and many other errors.
Most patients in Southeast Washington who file medical malpractice claims assert that a physician committed the malpractice. Many other healthcare providers, such as nurses and pharmacists, may also be responsible for providing incompetent care. Hospitals may also be responsible for medical malpractice, even though a hospital is a type of business and not an individual. At Telaré Law, our Kennewick medical malpractice lawyers often file claims against hospitals when the mistake was caused by an employee of the hospital, someone hired by the hospital, or someone with the authority to use the hospital’s facilities.
What is hospital liability based on employment?
Hospitals are generally liable for the conduct of their employees. “Employees” is the critical word. Employers are normally directly liable for the conduct of their employees, and may be liable for the conduct of independent contractors – under specific limited conditions.
This means that if any of the following hospital workers are employees and they commit medical malpractice, then the hospital will likely also be held liable for the malpractice:
- Radiologists and other diagnostic technicians
- Physical therapists and many other types of therapists
Some of the many ways that employee health providers may commit medical malpractice include:
- Improper diagnosis or a missed diagnosis. An improper diagnosis means that you may receive treatments such as prescriptions for disorders you never had. Those treatments and drugs can cause physical and emotional harm. If a doctor makes an incorrect diagnosis or misses a diagnosis, your health condition can worsen. If you have cancer, heart disease, or other conditions, the delay could be deadly.
- Failure to order the correct diagnostic tests. Doctors must know what imaging tests, blood tests, and other tests to order so they can make a correct diagnosis. The doctors must read the results of the tests correctly.
- Mistakes during surgery. Surgical mistakes include operating on the wrong body part or the wrong person, leaving medical tools inside a patient, failing to respond to emergencies, not monitoring the patient, and other mistakes.
- Medication mistakes. These errors include prescribing the wrong medicine, mixing up medication, prescribing the incorrect dosage, and other medication mistakes.
- Mistakes during the delivery of a baby. Birth injuries such as cerebral palsy can mean your newborn never has a chance at a typical life.
- Other medical mistakes, such as:
- Failure to obtain written consent from a patient.
- Failure to monitor the patient’s vital health signs and medical condition.
- Releasing a patient before the patient is ready for discharge.
- Medical mistakes specific to certain types of healthcare.
What is hospital liability based on negligence?
Generally, hospitals are not liable for the medical malpractice of any contractors who perform work in the hospital. However, hospitals often give outside physicians visiting privileges to monitor their patients and for other reasons. Some hospitals allow physicians to use their surgery center. Whether the hospital is responsible for the conduct of independent contractors depends on the contracts and arrangements between the hospital and health providers.
If a hospital agrees to assume responsibility for some of the services a physician provides, even though the physician is not an employee, then the hospital may be liable if the physician commits medical malpractice. A hospital may also be liable if the physician worked in a part of the facility regulated by federal or state law. For example, surgery centers may be regulated by Medicare or Medicaid.
Our Kennewick medical malpractice lawyers also review whether the physician is really an employee and not an independent contractor. We examine, for example, whether the hospital controlled the procedures and treatments of the doctors, the patients that are treated, who arranged for the anesthesiologist, and other matters.
Other reasons to hold a hospital responsible for malpractice
A Washington hospital may be liable for the medical malpractice of any employees for reasons other than the healthcare provider’s employment status. There’s a reason administrators are paid good salaries. Hospital administrators have a continual duty to:
- Ensure qualified healthcare professionals are hired. This includes checking the workers’ credentials, education, licenses, work experience, and any record of litigation or complaints.
- Hospitals need to understand what types of care they provide. They then need to ensure that they have enough physicians, nurses, medical technicians, and other providers to provide competent care for all the patients in the community that need medical help.
- Hospitals have numerous compliance issues at the federal and state levels. Local medical boards generally have their own compliance requirements for their physicians. Hospitals that fail to be in compliance may be liable for any medical malpractice that relates to the compliance issues.
- Policies and procedures. Hospitals should have safety polices in place to protect patients at every level of their care.
At Telaré Law, we understand how angry you are. Patients who go to a hospital expect to improve their health, not to have it worsen. Medical mistakes can decrease your quality of life, and many mistakes can’t be corrected. Our Kennewick medical malpractice attorneys work with a network of physicians and healthcare professionals who understand when and how doctors and hospitals should be held accountable. We demand compensation for all your pain and suffering and economic losses.
To speak with lawyers who have the experience and resources to fight hospitals and doctors, call us at 509.581.1714 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. Our offices are located in Kennewick and Richland. We proudly serve the Tri-Cities and all of Southeast Washington.