When you visit the hospital, you expect thorough and effective treatment. Above all else, you want to recover and move forward with your life. When you suffer an injury as a result of hospital malpractice, you may feel betrayed and powerless. However, it is important to know that in these situations you do have options. Doctors are not the only ones who can be held liable for malpractice. The law also holds hospitals to a certain standard of care regarding their patients’ safety and wellbeing.
At Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P., our experienced San Francisco Bay Area hospital malpractice attorneys understand what it takes to hold a hospital liable for the actions of its staff. Our attorneys assist clients who were injured in hospitals throughout San Jose, Santa Clara, Monterey, Alameda, and San Mateo counties, including:
- Washington Hospital in Fremont
- Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula
- Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto
- Kaiser Permanente
When a health care provider is negligent and causes a patient to suffer injury, the question arises as to who is liable for the harm. To recover compensation from a doctor or hospital, the patient must prove the following aspects of a negligence claim:
- The medical provider had a duty of care to the patient
- The medical provider breached their duty of care
- This breach caused the patient’s harm
Usually when a doctor’s negligence injures a patient, then that doctor is liable for compensation for the harm caused. However, a hospital may be responsible for injuries to a patient caused by their staff once the patient is admitted for treatment or screening. This is known as vicarious liability. In general, hospitals are liable for the negligence of medical professionals only in the following circumstances:
- There is an employee-employer relationship between the medical professional and the hospital
- The healthcare provider was acting within the scope of their employment
- The healthcare provider’s negligence caused their patient harm
Whether or not a medical professional is an employee of the hospital is usually determined by how much control the hospital has over how the professional provides care. For example, a hospital has liability for the negligence of nurses and staff when it controls their hours of work, which patients they see, and the procedures they use.
Often, doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals are not actually employees of the hospital. Instead, they are independent contractors. Hospitals are generally not liable for harm to patients caused by independent contractors, although there are exceptions.Hospital Liability for Independent Contractors
In some cases, a hospital may be liable even when a medical care provider is an independent contractor. For this to occur, a doctor or other medical professional who is an independent contractor must be found to be an ostensible agent of the hospital. Ostensible agency occurs in the following circumstances:
- The hospital carelessly or intentionally created the impression the medical professional was their employee or agent
- The patient reasonably believed the medical provider was the hospital’s employee or agent
- The patient was harmed because of this
For example, a well-known doctor uses a hospital to treat patients, but has his own office, hours, and procedures. He is not employed by that hospital and his patient care is not under their control. However, the hospital intentionally acts as if the doctor is their employee for reasons such as attracting more paying patients. The doctor is negligent while treating a patient at the hospital and the patient is injured. In this example, the hospital may be liable for the patient’s injuries because they knowingly made the patient believe the doctor was their employee.Emergency Room Negligence
Emergency rooms are departments in hospitals that have their own complicated issues. ERs are generally required to treat critical patients and often have more patients then they can safely handle. On average, patients in California emergency departments spend almost three hours waiting before being sent home. For admitted patients, their wait was more than five and a half hours. ER doctors and staff must often perform under pressure and frequently in life-or-death circumstances. This type of stressful, overburdened care can lead to negligence by ER doctors and staff.
Patients may assume that everyone in the ER is employed by the hospital. However, ER doctors are often independent contractors. Even though a patient was injured in a hospital emergency room, the hospital might not be the liable party. Our highly experienced medical malpractice lawyers guide patients through these complex claims to determine who is legally responsible for injuries caused by negligence.Is a Surgeon Ever Liable for Staff Negligence?
Hospitals are usually liable for the negligence of their employees, but generally doctors do not have the same vicarious liability for the hospital staff assisting them. However, a surgeon may be liable for the negligence of a hospital staff member when they were under the surgeon’s “special supervision and control.” This happens only in limited circumstances, such as when:
- Surgeon should have discovered the negligence through use of ordinary care
- Surgeon was negligent in letting the nurse or other care provider care for the patient
- Surgeon should have been able to prevent the injury given the circumstances
These types of cases are not typical, but our lawyers have the expertise to determine when a surgeon is liable for staff malpractice rather than the hospital.Common Types of Medical Negligence
Injuries caused by the negligence of hospital staff can be catastrophic or even fatal. Rest assured, our attorneys diligently investigate medical malpractice claims and seek maximum compensation for injuries. Our firm strives to hold hospitals liable for all types of negligent actions by their employees, such as:
- Providing treatment to the wrong patient
- Providing the patient with unnecessary treatment based on a misdiagnosis
- Committing medication errors, such as providing the wrong medication or an incorrect dosage from the hospital pharmacy
- Providing the incorrect anesthesia during surgery
- Improperly sterilizing medical tools, causing infections
- Failing to accurately count surgical tools after surgery
- Failing to properly maintain tools or equipment
- Failing to monitor the patient
- Causing birth injuries through negligence
- Discharging the patient prematurely, resulting in otherwise avoidable decline in health
- Failing to treat or undue delay in treating critical patients
In some hospital negligence cases, patients are required to seek compensation through arbitration instead of litigation. For example, patients injured while under the care of Kaiser Permanente must follow their strict rules and procedures for arbitrating medical malpractice.
Regardless of whether you sue or arbitrate to recover compensation, California law still places caps on how much you can recover. Our attorneys have extensive experience with medical malpractice lawsuits, arbitrations, and Kaiser Permanente’s specific requirements. Working alongside medical experts, we provide unwavering support for patients with disabling injuries.A Dedicated Malpractice Attorney Can Help You Fight Negligent Hospitals
An injury at the hands of trusted hospital staff can be devastating and permanent. At Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P., our experienced hospital malpractice attorneys provide injured patients with caring but determined representation in all types of medical malpractice matters. Contact us online today to schedule a free consultation or call our law firm at (408) 289-1417.