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Defining "Vicarious Liability" in the Field of Medical Malpractice

If you have been the victim of medical malpractice, it helps to know the meaning and implications of certain legal jargon, like "vicarious liability." Knowing about this term will help you figure out whom to sue for damages, so all liable parties are brought to book and your chances of claiming compensation for your losses and suffering improve.

Defining Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability is also called respondeat superior, which means "let the master answer." The vicarious liability clause states that a hospital or the medical establishment can also be held accountable for an act of negligence caused by a doctor employed or hired by it. In such cases, there is more than one defendant. However, in this context, the "scope of employment" clause has to be also taken into consideration before pressing charges against the hospital.

The scope of employment theory specifies the circumstances under which the employer, the hospital, can be held responsible for the actions of its employee, the doctor or any other medical professional. Usually, the hospital is held responsible for a doctor's actions whether the latter is on the payroll of the establishment or has been hired to perform specific medical procedures. The employer can also be held accountable if the act of negligence occurred during the official work hours of the doctor and the hospital benefitted in some way due to the act.

Who can be Sued Under the Vicarious Liability Clause?

It is not just the hospital that can be used under the vicarious liability clause. A doctor can be held responsible for an act of negligence by the medical team that carried out his orders. Similarly, an attending physician is legally accountable for any act of negligence committed by his interns or the students whom he supervised.

The vicarious liability clause extends to include doctors in private medical settings. A doctor with his own medical practice can be held vicariously liable for the negligent actions of his medical associates while they were attending to the needs of his patients.

The vicarious liability clause also specifies the instances when a medical establishment cannot be sued for the negligent act of a doctor it has employed or hired.

The hospital cannot be held responsible if the act of negligence occurred outside of the work hours specified by the establishment. The hospital cannot be held responsible if the act of negligence was caused when the doctor was working for his own profit and was using his own team of medical professionals and equipment. This means that the hospital is not responsible for the actions of a doctor in its employment if the act of negligence took place at the doctor's private medical practice. Hospitals are also usually not held responsible for the negligent actions of independent contractors.

What You Deserve

Hospitals often resort to certain defenses to get off the hook, such as claiming the negligent doctor was not in their employment or that he had exclusive staff privileges. You need a dedicated and impressive medical malpractice attorney to help you build a case that stands strong and enables you to receive the compensation you deserve.

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