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When Is A Florida Hospital Liable For Independent Contractor Physicians?


You might not think too much about the working relationship between your treating physician and the hospital where you received care. However, there could be important distinctions and the question will likely come up more often in the coming years. Statistics reveal that around half of doctors in all specialty areas are in private practice, while the other half are employed by hospitals, clinics, and related health care facilities. The trend toward more physicians having an employer-employee relationship with hospitals came into play around 2020 with the pandemic.

Therefore, there is a 50-50 chance that your treating doctor will be an independent contractor, which is irrelevant when you receive quality patient care. If you suffer harm, the legal relationship will be at the forefront. Independent contractor versus employee will affect who you can pursue and the theory of liability. While you can trust your Miami hospital negligence lawyer to manage strategy, an overview is useful. 

  1. Apparent Authority: Vicarious liability is a theory of liability that applies to the employment relationship, in which the employer can be liable for the negligence of an employee. Hospitals often use the lack of an employer-employee relationship as a defense for acts by independent contractor physicians.

However, vicarious liability also covers situations of apparent authority. The hospital can be liable when it creates the outward impression that the physician is an employee. For example, allowing a doctor to access hospital facilities and conduct patient rounds makes it seem that he or she is an employee. 

  1. Corporate Negligence: Even when there is no employer-employee relationship, hospitals must use reasonable care when contracting with independent physicians. It may be a breach of duty if the facility:
  • Fails to conduct a background check
  • Does not confirm medical licensing and credentials
  • Contracts with a doctor with a history of censures or other disciplinary proceedings
  • Retains a physician whose license is suspended or revoked
  • Fails to report issues of professional misconduct to appropriate Florida officials
  • Neglects to include appropriate contractual provisions about medical malpractice insurance coverage for the independent contractor physician
  1. Joint Venture: Another option for purposes of hospital negligence and liability is found in basic business organizations and partnership law. When a joint venture exists between the hospital and the independent physician, liability may extend to the facility. However, to prove a joint venture, you must have facts showing:
  • The parties share common interests
  • They are motivated by a shared purpose
  • Each shares in control over operations
  • The doctor and hospital share in profits from the venture
  • Each party will suffer the same financial losses 

A Florida Hospital Negligence Attorney Can Explain Liability

These theories of liability are complicated, but the information is helpful for understanding the basics about physicians as independent contractors. For additional details, please contact Freidin Brown, P.A. at our offices in Miami or Fort Myers, FL. We are happy to set up a no-cost case evaluation with a skilled medical malpractice lawyer. After reviewing your circumstances, we can advise you on next steps.



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