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Who is Responsible for a Medical Error – the Doctor or the Hospital?

Alabama Medical Malpractice Law Firm - Law Office of J. Allan Brown

When you have been injured by a healthcare provider, knowing who to hold responsible for that harm can be confusing. Expecting a doctor or medical facility to be forthright about their role in a medical mistake is unrealistic at best. In truth, a majority of providers will either try to downplay their role or obscure the circumstances entirely.

Unfortunately, errors in treatment have become so pervasive that anyone seeking care is now at risk. According to the Journal of Patient Safety, as many as 400,000 people die each year due to preventable medical errors. This is equivalent to nearly the entire population of the Mobile metropolitan area. Preventable medical mistakes cost this country tens of billions of dollars annually and do irreparable harm to patients and their families.

Who is Responsible for a Healthcare Injury?

When you or a loved one have been injured due to the negligence of a healthcare provider, there may be several parties at fault. This means that a doctor, their practice, the hospital, and even other hospital staff could be responsible for your injuries and damages. The law and facts that are uncovered in your case may eventually narrow the scope of responsibility. Your experienced Mobile medical malpractice attorneys can help explain who might be at fault in different types of cases as well as your options to pursue justice.

Does Your Doctor Work for the Hospital?

In many medical malpractice cases, there is confusion about the nature of your physician’s employment. You pay your doctor to provide the best and safest medical care possible, but who is their boss?

When a physician is employed by the hospital, the choice is clear. There is a legal doctrine called “respondeat superior,” which refers to the “vicarious liability” between employers and their employees. This means that an employer can be held responsible for the negligent actions of their employees.

But, when the hospital claims that the doctor is under contract or an independent contractor, this complicates matters. Some physicians work for or own their own practices, and aren’t considered hospital employees. In these instances, you may or may not have a case against the hospital for damages.

Can You Still Sue the Hospital for Damages?

Even if your treating physician was a clear independent contractor, you might still be able to include the hospital in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The fact remains that any hospital treating patients has a duty to provide non-negligent care and to ensure that the physicians it allows into its facility are also fully competent. Failing in either of these regards places the hospital in a precarious position and opens them up to a lawsuit claiming legal damages due to various negligent acts.

In many cases, a patient and his or her family will choose one hospital over another because of that hospital’s reputation for competent medical care. Patients also sign paperwork when receiving care in a hospital that indicates treatment will be provided by the facility and its staff. So, to turn around and claim that there is no dependent relationship between the treating physician and the hospital after harm is done generally doesn’t hold legal water.

Depending on the nature of the harm done, hospitals also own and control all of the facilities in which the injury took place such as operating rooms, recovery rooms, and emergency rooms. They also usually own diagnostic and other medical equipment such as MRI, CT, and X-ray machines. Failure of these tests could lead to responsibility being placed with the hospital. Finally, any other hospital staff, such as nurses or orderlies, that contributed to your injuries will open up the facility to a lawsuit for negligence.

Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney in Mobile

If you or a loved one have been injured due to the negligent acts or omissions of a medical provider, an experienced and knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney can guide you through the complex legal maze of an Alabama medical malpractice lawsuit. The personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of J. Allan Brown understand the intricacies of these cases, while also approaching each client with compassion and integrity. Contact us now at 251.473.6691 or online to schedule a free consultation about your case.


J. Allan Brown, LLC
Law Office of J. Allan Brown, LLC, is located in Mobile, AL and serves clients in and around Mobile, Bucks, Satsuma, Eight Mile, Semmes, Spanish Fort, Citronelle, Theodore, Saraland, Montrose, Irvington, Saint Elmo, Wilmer, Point Clear, Grand Bay, Chunchula, Fairhope, Creola, Bayou La Batre, Axis, Coden, Bay Minette, Silverhill, Baldwin County and Mobile County.
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