You might assume that a medical malpractice case would be between a health care provider and their patient.
Though that is how many cases work, there are cases in which the hospital itself can be at fault for negligence. These cases look different from other medical malpractice cases, so it is essential to understand the basics.
Harmonson Law Firm helps New Mexicans dealing with personal injury cases such as medical malpractice, and we are dedicated to getting justice and compensation for our clients. Read on to learn from our attorneys when you should pursue a claim of hospital negligence.
Hospitals Are Liable for Employee Actions
The first thing to learn in these types of medical malpractice cases is the term “respondent superior.”
Respondent superior is a legal doctrine that holds an employer or principal legally responsible for the wrongful acts of an employee or agent if such acts occur within the scope of the employment or agency.
Due to respondent superior legal doctrine, a hospital itself can be sued in negligence claims. These claims occur when an employee of the hospital is negligent and causes further harm to a patient. Examples of hospital employees who fall under this doctrine include employee nurses, pharmacists, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), techs, nurses’ aides (CNAs), respiratory therapists and physical therapists.
This doctrine works in cases where a nurse or other employee healthcare, through their own negligence, causes injury to the loss of life to a patient under their care. In these situations, the hospital is legally responsible for the actions of the negligent employee under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Types of hospital negligence cases include:
- Birth injuries caused by nursing staff failing to review and interpret fetal monitoring strips
- Bedsores caused by nursing staff’s failure to turn and re-position an immobile patient.
- Medication errors like administering the wrong dose or type of medicine or failing to timely administer an ordered medication to a patient
- Failure of nursing staff to timely inform the attending physician of important patient status changes
Is the Doctor an Employee of the Hospital?
One important aspect of this in hospital negligence claims is ensuring that the said hospital indeed employed the doctor.
It is important to note that while some doctors are considered employees of hospitals, most are not. Rather, they are considered part of the independent trade and are independent contractors.
Two ways to figure out if the doctor is indeed an employee of the hospital include discovering:
- If the hospital controls the doctor’s working hours and vacation time, or
- If the hospital sets the fees the doctor can charge
What about when the Hospital doesn’t employ the Doctor?
Even if the hospital doesn’t employ the doctor, there are still cases where the doctor could be at fault for the harm and wrongful care. There are two common ways in which this can occur.
- Hospital Appeared to be the Doctor’s Employer: In this case, the hospital does not make it clear upfront that the doctor is not an employee of the hospital. A doctor may be called to be the ostensible or apparent agent of the hospital under these circumstances and the hospital may be legally liable for the physician’s negligence, even though the doctor was not employed by the hospital.
- Incompetent Doctor on Staff : When a hospital keeps an incompetent doctor on staff, even if they are an independent contractor, the hospitable can still be held liable. For example, if a doctor comes to work at the hospital inebriated and the hospital fails to stop them from working, the hospital can be held accountable for any problem that the doctor causes. This type of case is commonly referred to as a negligent credentialing claim.
Contact a New Mexico Medical Malpractice Attorney today
Hospital negligence claims in New Mexico can be challenging to navigate, given the many different variables. Having someone in your corner who will fight for you is of the utmost importance. At Harmonson Law Firm, we will do just that. With over 17 years of experience, our medical malpractice attorney can bring the expertise in steering this case to benefit you and help you receive the compensation you deserve.