When suing for medical malpractice, should I sue the individual doctor or the hospital where he or she works?

It will take some investigative work to tell if an injured patient should sue the individual doctor or the hospital. Because liability issues in these types of cases can be complicated, they usually necessitate help from an attorney.

Determining Liability between a Doctor and Hospital

Doctors can be sued if they breach the duty of care owed to a patient and it results in serious or fatal harm. This can occur in a number of ways, such as a delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis, medication mistakes and improper prenatal care.

When it occurs in a hospital setting, it could lead to a claim against the facility, if the doctor was employed by them. That’s because hospitals are liable for the negligent actions of their employees.

However, if it’s determined the doctor wasn’t employed by a hospital and worked as an independent contractor, it would be difficult to find the hospital responsible when suing for medical malpractice. At the same time, if the hospital doesn’t make it clear to the patient (such as during admissions) that the doctor isn’t an employee, it may still allow for the hospital to be accountable.

ER doctors who work independently are many times an exception to the rule. Generally, the hospital still will be liable for medical negligence on behalf of an ER doctor because the patient sought treatment at the hospital's facility, not necessarily with a particular doctor.

Another scenario in which hospitals pose challenges when suing for medical malpractice is when the injuries are caused by a healthcare provider working under a doctor’s supervision. Let’s say a nurse on a surgical team accidentally leaves one of the gauzelike sponges used to soak up blood inside a patient, and the surgeon sews him or her back up unknowingly. The doctor (or surgeon) responsible for supervising the nurse might be liable, but the hospital isn't necessarily liable.

Determining liability when suing for medical malpractice under these circumstances sometimes can be tricky. There are different factors to consider, which is why it’s a good idea to consult legal counsel because medical malpractice can span stroke deaths to emergency room errors. You can call and ask Jason R. Schultz questions at an initial consultation (404) 474-0804.