Medical Malpractice Lawsuits: Is the Doctor or Hospital Liable?

When a physician or health care provider breaches the standards of care in the medical industry, patients can suffer the consequences. Medical malpractice refers to the failure to uphold a standard of care, resulting in injury or harm to a patient. The injured patient may have grounds to hold a doctor and/or hospital liable, or legally responsible, for damages during medical malpractice claims in Minnesota. Understanding the liable party, or defendant, in your case may take help from an attorney.

Hospital Negligence

Deciding whether to name the doctor or the hospital as the defendant in your medical malpractice claim takes examining the facts of the case. Liability will come down to the party most responsible for causing the injury or illness in question. The responsible party is the one that owed you a duty of care, breached this duty through some negligent act or omission, and caused your damages as a result. The hospital might be liable if it engaged in unsafe practices that compromised patient care.

  • Poor hiring procedures
  • Lack of employee training
  • No communication between employees
  • Lack of safety protocols
  • Unsanitary premises
  • Old, outdated, or broken equipment
  • Invasions of patient privacy

If your injury or illness arose because of unsafe or unsanitary conditions at the hospital, the center could be liable for your damages. A lawyer can help you investigate the hospital and inspect it premises for signs of neglect. The hospital or health care center could also be legally responsible if one of its employees caused the patient’s injury.

Independent Contractor vs. Employee of the Hospital

If a negligent health care professional caused you or a loved one’s damages, the individual, the hospital, or both parties could be liable. Discerning individual liability from center liability requires asking the right questions. The plaintiff must find out if the individual was an employee of the hospital at the time of the incident, or if he or she was an independent contractor. Many doctors and surgeons are independent contractors. While they work at the hospital or health care center, they are technically their own bosses. This can protect the hospital from liability for the individual doctor’s actions.

Most physicians carry insurance specifically for the purpose of paying off injury or wrongful death claims patients may file against them. As an injured patient, you may have grounds to file a claim with your physician’s individual insurance provider. If, however, the person that harmed you was an employee of the hospital, the hospital could be vicariously liable. Like all employers, hospitals will be liable for the actions and misconduct of their employees. Therefore, the hospital could be liable if a nurse, maintenance person, or other staff member at the hospital contributed to your injuries. Many medical malpractice cases name both the individual physician and the hospital as defendants.

If the hospital failed to make it clear to the patient whether the physician was an employee of the hospital or a contractor, the hospital may still be liable for damages – even if the doctor was not an employee. A hospital’s attempt to avoid liability by making it difficult to find out about its hiring policies may not hold up in court. Most hospitals prevent this issue by informing patients during the admissions process that the doctor is not an employee of the facility.

Third-Party Defendants

Do not ignore the possibility of naming third parties as defendants in your medical malpractice lawsuit. A lawyer could help you determine who or what caused your injuries, and if a third party should have done more to prevent them. For example, if a specialist failed to diagnose your cancer because of an x-ray malfunction, the manufacturer of the x-ray machine could be liable. Other potential defendants could include independent contractors, subcontractors, property owners, and the city government. It is important to work with a medical malpractice attorney to make sure your claim names all the appropriate defendants.