As a patient, we put the utmost trust in the care and expertise of doctors and hospital staff. But, what happens when an egregious error is made that affects you or a loved one’s health? There is a specific type of liability to cover instances where a hospital is also responsible for medical errors that are directly caused by a doctor. It is called vicarious liability.
Under respondeat superior, hospitals can be held responsible for the actions of their employees, or doctors and nursing staff, in certain circumstances.
The determining factor of whether respondeat superior applies, is whether the negligent act occurred within the “scope of employment.” Essentially, did the instance causing injury to a patient happen at a time the employee was on the clock, performing an activity the doctor was hired to perform or while the hospital was benefiting financially from the act? As you can see, the determining factors for scope of employment are actually quite broad and would encompass most hospital visits for most patients.
What this means is that, often, the hospital can be held vicariously liable for actions of its staff, such as a surgical error, that caused injury. While the hospital did not actually perform the act causing injury, they can be held responsible since they oversaw the hiring of this person, and thus are responsible for his or her actions on the job. Instances of vicarious liability pop up in just about every type of injury claim since employer/employee relationships are a factor in many injury claims. If injured, it is crucial to understand that there may be more than just one responsible party.
While this is good to know, it is another thing entirely to prove a medical malpractice claim. Evidence, like medical records, are key to achieving this goal. Understanding who could be held liable, is another piece of the puzzle. Slowly, but surely, a medical malpractice claim can fall into place and it can make a world of difference for the injured.
Source: Injury.FindLaw.com, “Vicarious Liability,” accessed on June 20, 2016