Basics of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

We at Thompson Law know that medical errors rank third in the leading causes of death in the U.S., and this fact is tragic when you consider what it means for patient injuries—potentially long-term impacts to health can be caused by mistakes doctors make during treatment. If you are thinking about filing medical malpractice lawsuits because of the oversight or misconduct of those who were supposed to care for you during your hospital stay, an experienced attorney can help sort through many complex factors. If you find yourself injured while receiving treatment at a hospital, the first thing on your mind might be: Who should I sue?

Whose Actions Resulted in Negligent Treatment?

If you were injured by the actions of a hospital employee, your legal claims would likely be against the institution itself (as opposed to an individual). Generally, a hospital is considered an “employer” of those who work there. So if the person who injured you was employed by the hospital, your claims against them will likely fall under workers’ compensation laws (although there are exceptions).

If they were not employed by the hospital at all (e.g., they were an independent contractor or from another company), then your lawsuit would be based on negligence rather than employment law. Nurses, technicians and other hospital staff members are a good example of actual hospital employees. As an easy example, if you get an infection because a technician does not adequately sterilize the equipment, the hospital will probably be the ones liable.

Are There Exceptions?

Yes. If a hospital employee commits medical malpractice while under the watchful eye of a doctor, one who happens to not be on the hospital’s payroll, you will most likely be suing both parties. Especially if the doctor was there at the time and had the ability to prevent their coworker’s error. For example, if a nurse miscounts sponges during surgery and the surgeon injures a patient by leaving one inside an incision, it may be deemed that the surgeon was negligent. The hospital would not necessarily bear responsibility for this sleight of hand—even though they employ the nurse.

If you were not informed that a doctor was being hired as an independent contractor rather than an employee, then you may have grounds for a malpractice suit against the hospital if your injury was caused by negligence on the part of this doctor. Most often, these establishments will settle this by providing notice to you on admissions forms that the doctor is not a hospital employee. If a hospital continues to employ an independent doctor who has shown themselves to be incompetent—and you are injured by that doctor as a result—you may be able to make a suit against the hospital if something goes wrong. However, it may be harder to prove your case if there is no record of negligence on the part of the hospital itself, so you’re better off in a suit against a hospital than one against an individual.

Our staff understands how difficult medical malpractice cases can be. If you’re looking for more support and insight into your specific case, contact a lawyer from Thompson Law today for assistance.