Most people are uncomfortable with hospitals, yet we all know that they are necessary – that hospitals save peoples’ lives and get them the care they need in emergencies. We also know that hospitals are often reminders of sickness and death. For some, hospitals are worse: they are the institution responsible for harming them.
Hospitals are supposed to be places of healing, but sometimes, due to irresponsible staff, infections, and other dangers, they do more harm than good.
Sometimes, the harm a patient suffers is due to the fault of a particular doctor, nurse, or orderly. If these healthcare providers are employees of the hospital (and not a private practice), the hospital itself can often be held liable for the injuries as well. In other cases, the hospital itself, as an organization and a business, is responsible for the injuries a patient receives.
In either case, a hospital is a business, and will fight accusations that may cost them money by hiring powerful legal defense teams. If you have been harmed by a hospital’s negligence, you need your own legal team. If you were harmed in Baltimore, Bennett and Heyman, P.A., is available to represent you against a hospital. With years of experience, we know how to get our clients compensation for the harms caused by hospital negligence.
Can Hospitals be Sued for Their Staff’s Negligence?
Many doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are employees of the hospital they work at. Others are part of a private practice, owned and operated by a smaller circle of doctors. When an employee is negligent while at work, the employer can often be held responsible for the employee’s negligence. This is a “vicarious liability” doctrine called “respondeat superior.” Vicarious liability allows one party to be held accountable for someone else’s negligence. In the context of medicine, this means holding the hospital responsible for the negligence of its on-staff doctors and nurses.
In order to hold hospitals responsible this way, the employee physician must have been acting within the scope of their employment when they harmed you. For doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, this means they must have been treating your condition, performing surgery, doing tests, or otherwise providing you with healthcare. If the hospital staff member was off-duty, or otherwise acting outside of their role as a healthcare provider, then you may not be able to hold the hospital liable for the harms.
Because some other medical professionals work for their own private practices, you cannot sue the hospital for their negligence. Instead, you must sue those doctors directly. They only have permission from the hospital to use their facilities, but are not their employees. Although, this does not mean the hospital had nothing to do with the harm, and you might still be able to sue the hospital for its own negligence.
Typically, all nurses, technicians, and other staff are employees of the hospital. If they are working with private practice doctors, the hospital may be able to argue that the private doctor is responsible for their actions, as their temporary boss, rather than the hospital.
When is a Hospital Itself Negligent?
Hospitals have their own duties toward patients. While a hospital may allow private practice doctors and nurses to use their rooms and equipment, the hospital itself is still responsible for many of the things that occur.
A hospital’s general duties to a patient may include:
- Providing safe facilities, free from safety hazards like slippery surfaces or stray needles
- Providing a clean environment for surgery or other medical care
- Maintaining hospital equipment and machines
- Keeping proper records of care for patients staying in the hospital
- Warning nurses of patient allergies and current medication
Some of these may seem basic, and they are. Some of the responsibilities a hospital owes to a patient, especially one who has been admitted and will be staying there overnight, include the basic safety and wellness duties a homeowner or hotel would owe to overnight guests.
Who Does My Doctor Work For?
If you need to ask who your doctor works for, you may already be experiencing the kind of confusion that many medical malpractice patients face. If your doctor’s office is outside the hospital’s campus and has its own name, it is likely that you understand they do not work for the hospital. If you only ever met your doctor at the hospital, though, it might be unclear whether they are a private practice doctor or a hospital employee.
Every hospital’s employment practices are different. Some try to have as many physicians as possible on-staff and do not let many private practice physicians use their facilities. Others keep emergency room doctors and other various physicians on staff, but most of the doctors belong to private practices. In other hospitals, the “hospital network” keeps their brand name on dozens of buildings, offices, and practices, and it really is not clear whether the doctors work for their own practice or the hospital.
Especially if you were treated in the emergency room, you may have never met your doctor outside the hospital, or even talked to them before they tried to treat you. Even under these circumstances, it is not clear if you were treated by a hospital employee or a doctor whose practice happened to be responsible for the ER that day.
In situations where the doctor holds themselves out to be an employee of the hospital, or it is unclear who they work for, and no one tries to correct your understanding, you may be able to sue the hospital anyway. Even if the doctor ends up being a private employee who simply uses the hospital, the hospital did not make that clear. In these situations, you may be able to treat the doctor as if they were a hospital employee.
Ultimately, if the doctor is not a hospital employee, you can always sue the doctor himself – you just might not be able to bring the hospital into the suit, too.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Attorneys Are Available
If you were harmed by a hospital in Baltimore, talk to experienced Baltimore malpractice attorneys about your case. The medical malpractice lawyers of Bennett and Heyman, P.A., are available for free consultations about your case. Act quickly, though; your case may have important deadlines to meet. Call today at (410) 429-7856.