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Why Is "Vicarious Liability" Important in Malpractice Claims?

If you or a loved one was injured or sickened by medical professionals, determining who can and should be held accountable for medical malpractice isn't always clear. This is particularly true if you were hospitalized. Doctors and others were likely coming in and out of your room all the time. If you had surgery, even more professionals were involved in your care -- many of whom you didn't know.

Often, attorneys seek to hold the hospital as well as individuals it employs responsible for an instance of medical malpractice. This is called "vicarious liability." A term you may hear when vicarious liability is discussed is "respondeat superior." It means "let the master answer."

For any employer to be held responsible for the actions of an employee, several factors must be shown:

  • The employee was doing something he/she was hired to do.
  • The injury was caused by that employee's actions.
  • The employer received a benefit from that activity.

Thus, if a doctor is performing surgery in a hospital where he or she is on staff and something goes wrong, the hospital can be held vicariously liable. If the doctor makes an error in his or her own practice, the hospital likely can't be held responsible. However, the doctor could be held vicariously liable if someone working at that practice, including another physician, makes an error.

Not surprisingly, hospitals and other medical facilities may contend that they were not responsible for the person whose malpractice is alleged. They may claim that they were not in a supervisory role over a physician or perhaps that the staff member in question was an independent contractor.

Medical malpractice cases can be quite complex, particularly here in Florida where noneconomic damages are capped in medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death. However, Florida courts have rejected these caps in some cases.

That's why it's essential to seek legal guidance from Miami medical malpractice attorneys experienced in determining who should be held responsible for an injury or wrongful death and in working to get victims and family members the compensation they deserve.

Source: FindLaw, "Vicarious Liability," accessed Aug. 17, 2015

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