Whether or not you can sue a hospital for medical malpractice when your doctor, who actually commits the malpractice while treating you in that hospital, usually comes down to the answer to the following question: Was your doctor an employee of the hospital?

What most people fail to realize is that just because a doctor has what are called hospital privileges at a certain hospital does not make him or her an employee of that hospital. In fact, usually he or she is an independent contractor of the institution rather than an actual employee. When such is the case, usually you can only sue the doctor himself or herself for medical malpractice, not the hospital in which the malpractice occurred.

Employee Status

Some hospitals still do employ at least some of their doctors as opposed to contracting with them independently.

Signs that your doctor is a hospital employee include the following:

  • The hospital controls his or her working hours.
  • It controls when he or she can take vacation time.
  • It determines the fees he or she charges for medical services.
  • It takes payroll and other taxes out of his or her paychecks.
  • It issues him or her a W-2 each year, not a 1099-MISC.

Teaching Hospitals

If the medical malpractice from which you suffered injury occurred at a teaching hospital, there’s a much better chance that the doctor who committed it was, in fact, a hospital employee. A teaching hospital is considered an academic institution as well as a medical one. It partners with medical schools, research centers and/or state-approved medical education programs to provide advanced medical education to doctors in training, called residents.

Most of the care you receive in a teaching hospital likely will be provided by a resident, i.e., a doctor in training who works under the supervision of an attending physician, i.e, a fully licensed, senior-level doctor. Per a 2011 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Mayo Foundation v. United States, the Justices held that residents are hospital employees.

Residents are real doctors, having earned their M.D. or D.O. degree from an accredited medical school. During their early residency period, your state likely licenses them to practice medicine via a training certificate. As they progress through their residency and assume more and more responsibility for patient care, however, many residents acquire their personal license to practice.

Obtaining Legal Help

Your wisest strategy if you believe you have been the victim of physician medical malpractice is to consult with an experienced local medical malpractice lawyer. He or she can help you determine whether or not you can sue the hospital in addition to suing the negligent doctor.

Medical malpractice laws vary from state to state; it is best practice to choose legal representation with expertise in the state in which the incident occurred. To learn more about how a local medical mistake lawyer can assist you following an incident, residents choose to contact Cohen & Cohen Attorneys. Contact Cohen & Cohen Attorneys to request a free case evaluation today to get started.