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Vicarious liability: Your right to claim against a hospital

You had always heard about the potential for medical malpractice to impact you, but you never thought it would. You went to the same doctor for years, and even scheduled your surgery with him because you were comfortable with your care.

Come the day of surgery, you found out that your doctor was out and that another surgeon was stepping in. Although you were unhappy about it, you went through with the surgery. You later found out you suffered complications as a result of that surgeon's errors and that he was an employee of that hospital. You worry that the hospital didn't do enough research before hiring him and want to hold it responsible.

What is vicarious liability?

Vicarious liability is when one person is held accountable for another's actions. An employer is held liable for its employees actions, as an example. In medical malpractice cases, it's possible to hold a hospital accountable for its staff members' negligence. A hospital may also be held accountable if it retains the services of a physician or staff member but does not make reasonable inquiries before hiring that person.

Is there a limit to vicarious liability?

The only real limit that plays a serious role in a vicarious liability case is if the person who harmed you is an independent contractor or otherwise self-employed. For instance, if your surgeon is self-employed but comes to the hospital to perform the surgery, the hospital may not be liable for the doctor's actions. It could, however, be liable for problems with the surgical ward or staff members it employs.

Source: FindLaw, "Vicarious Liability," accessed May 11, 2018

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