Who Can Be Held Liable for Medical Malpractice?

June 20, 2018

If you have suffered injuries due to the negligence of a healthcare professional — or if you have had existing injuries significantly exacerbated by such negligence — then you may be entitled to sue and recover damages pursuant to a medical malpractice claim.  In fact, Pennsylvania is particularly friendly to medical malpractice plaintiffs, as the law does not impose limits on compensatory damages (in the medical malpractice context).

Many plaintiffs with potentially actionable medical malpractice claims don’t quite know how medical malpractice liability actually works, nor do they fully understand who they are entitled to sue.  It’s not at all uncommon for plaintiffs to mistakenly believe that they can only sue negligent doctors.

Let’s clear up this confusion.  We’ll consider the basics, first.

What is Medical Malpractice?

When a healthcare professional commits medical negligence, and in doing so, causes you to suffer injuries, that is defined. as medical malpractice.  Medical negligence requires that the healthcare professional violate the standard of care.

Common examples of medical malpractice include:

  • Failure to properly consider patient’s medical history
  • Failure to clean medical tools and other instruments
  • Failure to correctly diagnose condition
  • Failure to order necessary tests
  • And more

In the medical malpractice context, the standard of care is dynamic, and is governed by the circumstances.  For example, the standard of care for a nurse treating a rare and complicated disease will be generally lower than the standard of care for a specialized epidemiologist.

Liability May Attach to Different Healthcare Professionals

Though physicians are often subject to medical malpractice claims, they are not the only viable defendants in a medical malpractice lawsuit.  In Pennsylvania, as in other states, other healthcare professionals in charge of your care — including but not necessarily limited to nurses, surgeons, physician’s assistants, pharmacists, rehabilitative specialists, and even the clinic or hospital facility itself — may be held liable for medical malpractice.

Hospital/Clinic Liability

The organization that employees your treating healthcare professionals can be held liable in most cases pursuant to the vicarious liability doctrine, which allows you to hold an employer liable for the negligence of their employees.  Further, you may also have an independent claim against the hospital for contributing to the medical negligence at-issue, perhaps by negligently supervising their employees, negligently hiring incompetent or otherwise unqualified employees, or scheduling employees in such a way as to undermine their ability to make reasonably safe decisions for patients.

Healthcare Professionals

Whether an individual healthcare professional is liable for medical malpractice depends on the element of control.  If the healthcare professional is being directed to act by a supervisor — for example, if a physician’s assistant is “just following orders” under the direct supervision of a treating physician — then it is likely the supervising professional who can be held liable for medical malpractice, not the subordinate.  Of course, even a subordinate can be held liable for medical malpractice if it is their own negligence (i.e., incompetence) that caused your injuries.

It’s important to note that multiple parties can be held liable for medical malpractice — you need not “choose” one party to pursue exclusively.  In fact, in many cases, there is a chain of malpractice that flows down the hierarchy.

For example, a surgeon may fail to adequately consider your medical history when deciding to conduct a procedure.  When the situation goes awry during surgery, the surgical assistant may fail to perform the necessary corrective procedures, thus leading to severe injuries.

Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Allentown Medical Malpractice Attorney

Here at Drake Hileman & Davis, PC, our attorneys have several decades of experience litigating medical malpractice claims on behalf of injured plaintiffs throughout Pennsylvania.  We understand how to effectively navigate the minefield of complications typical of medical malpractice litigation, including issues of distributed liability.

Call (888) 777-7098 or submit an online claim form today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Allentown medical malpractice attorney.  During your initial consultation, we will assess your medical malpractice claims and begin developing a strategy for securing adequate compensation.