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How does vicarious liability play out in a medical malpractice?

A hospital in Greenbelt, Maryland, typically employs different health-care providers, including nurses, physicians and other staff members. And each medical staff member may have their own role in providing good and adequate services for the hospital's patients. However, all of them are responsible for maintaining patient safety in the health facility. Failing to do so may result in liability, not only for the hospital itself, but also for its staff involved in the case.

For example, if a medical staff commits a medical error on a patient, the liability of that medical mistake may be the responsibility of the supervisor, the person who hired that staff member and other third parties. This is possible because of a vicarious-liability rule that applies to medical malpractice cases such as medical errors, surgical errors and misdiagnosis.

Under the legal doctrine of "respondeat superior," an employer may be responsible for the negligence of its employee. The doctrine may apply where the employee was acting within the course of employment when the medical error occurred. Vicarious liability is a significant doctrine for every patient. It determines who will be responsible for the damages caused by the medical error and it guarantees the patient that someone will be financially responsible for the damages.

In certain situations, health-care providers are considered independent contractor rather than hospital employees. In that case, any medical mistake that occurs may be the sole responsibility of the provider. This means that the hospital is not responsible for the damages. This exemption places a delicate distinction on what medical malpractice cases are the shared responsibilities of a hospital. However, hospitals can be solely liable for their own negligence, particularly in cases that involve hiring an incompetent or unlicensed physician.

Source: Findlaw, "Medical Malpractice:Who Can Be Sued?", Accessed on Oct. 23, 2014

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Maryland Trade Center III
7501 Greenway Center Drive # 460
Greenbelt, MD 20770
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