In a medical malpractice case, there may be more than one party that can be held liable. In addition to the doctor who may have made an error, the hospital where the error occurred could also be held legally responsible. This is referred to as vicarious liability.
For this term to apply in a case, the error must have occurred within the scope of employment. An employee is determined to be acting within the duration of his or her employment if the act occurred while on the clock. It may also be within the scope of employment if the act was one which the employee was hired to perform. Finally, if the employer benefited from that act, it could be considered within the scope of employment.
One defense to a vicarious liability claim is to argue that a doctor was not an employee at all. Depending on the amount of supervision a doctor receives while working at the hospital, it may be possible to say that the doctor was really an independent contractor. In that scenario, the hospital could be shielded from any type of liability claims in a medical malpractice case.
Injuries that are a result from a doctor or surgical error could cause serious consequences such as permanent disability or chronic pain. However, it may be possible to win compensation for lost earnings or future medical bills related to fixing the error. Those who choose to take legal action against their doctors or other responsible parties may wish to seek the help of a medical malpractice attorney. An attorney may be able to help protect a patient’s rights and increase the odds that the suit is filed in a timely manner.
Source: Findlaw, “Vicarious Liability“, December 31, 2014