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Who's liable for medical malpractice?

When injured or ill, we go to the hospital. We expect to be treated well and, in most cases, receive care that helps us on our way to recovery. Unfortunately, in some instances a mistake is made. Instead of helping the recovery process a medical professional's negligent or reckless action results in additional injury. In these instances, compensation may be available to the victim to help cover the cost of additional treatment, rehab and lost wages through a medical malpractice claim.

Essentially, medical malpractice claims are used to establish that a medical professional failed to provide adequate care to a patient and this failure resulted in an injury. Those who suffer injuries in these situations may not be sure who exactly is responsible for the injury. A recent case discussed how determining liability can be confusing, noting that there are often two responsible parties: the physician and the hospital.

When is the physician responsible for the injury?

The physician providing care is likely one of the first parties to consider for a medical malpractice suit. If the physician failed to provide care in a manner that is acceptable within the profession, a claim for malpractice may exist.

In the example case noted above, a patient was scheduled for a biopsy of a mass in his neck. The physician conducting and interpreting the biopsy stated the mass was malignant and recommended an invasive, two-part surgical procedure. The patient moved forward with this recommendation, which led to the discovery that the mass was not cancerous and that the surgical procedure which had been completed was unnecessary.

When is the hospital liable for the injury?

Generally, if the hospital employed the physician it could also be held liable for the injury. However, there are exceptions. In this case, the physician was an independent contractor, not an employee of the hospital. However, neither the physician nor the hospital made this fact known. The patient's only interaction with the doctor was at the hospital and a clerk at the front desk of the hospital guided the patient to the physician's office within the hospital. The facts of the case make it unlikely that any patient entering the hospital for care from this professional would have any idea that he was not an employee of the hospital.

Ultimately, the court agreed. It found that a "reasonably prudent" patient would be unaware of the fact that the physician was an independent contractor. As such, the court refused the hospital's attempt to remove itself from the suit.

When does a medical malpractice claim exist?

It is important to note that these claims require an injury to move forward. In this instance, the patient suffered from permanent neck pain and was disfigured by the procedure. Injuries in these situations can manifest in a number of ways, including a failure to diagnose cancer which progresses untreated and causes additional damage, completion of an unnecessary procedure, faulty monitoring systems or anesthesia errors to name a few.

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Ameduri Galante & Friscia Staten Island Personal Injury Attorneys

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