Almost Three-Quarters Of Physicians Are Now Hospital Employees
COVID-19 has impacted Florida health care professionals in many immeasurable, devastating ways, but there is one unexpected consequence that you might not consider. A recent study revealed that almost 74 percent of physicians are hospital or corporate employees, and the pandemic was a motivating factor. The proportion of doctors who became employed by hospitals, health systems, or corporations went from 62 percent in January 2019 to over 69 percent 12 months later – to almost 73.9 percent as of January 2022. Researchers cited burnout and strain, as well as the job security of working for a large organization.
This shift is interesting, but you might be surprised at how physicians as hospital employees could impact a medical malpractice claim. The doctor may not be the only party to pursue, which is a benefit in cases involving extraordinarily high damages or where the provider is judgment-proof. A Miami medical malpractice attorney can explain a concept that allows you to pursue the hospital employer: Vicarious liability.
Overview of Vicarious Liability in Medical Malpractice Cases
The initial focus in these cases is whether the physician was negligent, i.e., whether the doctor provided care in a way that deviates from the applicable medical standard of care. The standard is measured by what another health care provider, with the same level of skill or training, would have done under the same or similar circumstances.
When seeking to hold the hospital accountable for medical malpractice by a physician-employee, the concept of vicarious liability enters the picture. It is possible to pursue the hospital for damages if:
- The doctor committed the act of medical negligence during defined work hours
- The negligent act was within the scope of the employee’s authority and linked to tasks the employee was hired to perform
- The work the physician is hired to perform benefits the hospital in some way
Options for Independent Contractor Physicians
It is common for a hospital to defend a medical malpractice claim based upon vicarious liability by asserting that the doctor was an independent contractor. However, it is possible to counter this defense with evidence establishing the reality of the doctor-hospital relationship. If the health care provider utilizes facility resources, is subject to control by hospital policies, and has the power to admit, evaluate, and treat patients, the physician is more likely to be viewed as an employee.
Another strategy to overcome the independent contractor defense is proving that the hospital indirectly granted the physician with authority to act on its behalf. This concept of “apparent agency” may attach liability to the facility when the hospital represented that the physician was an employee and the patient reasonably relied upon the representation.
Our Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyers Will Pursue All Potential Parties
At Freidin Brown, P.A., our team is ready to seek damages from all at-fault individuals and organizations, so please contact us to learn more about vicarious liability in Florida med mal cases. We can set up a free case evaluation at our offices in Miami or Fort Myers to review your circumstances and determine how to proceed.