Garau Germano, P.C. | Trial Attorneys
No Fee Until Recovery
LOCAL 317-643-4232
TOLL FREE 800-631-6743
Practice Areas

What is vicarious liability?

You may have sustained a preventable injury due to medical treatment you received at an Indiana health care facility and wonder who is responsible for the medical malpractice. The most obvious answer is the treating physician. However, the scope of a medical malpractice claim can extend past the doctor, up to the facility that employs him or her and down to his subordinates. This is the principle of vicarious liability.

According to FindLaw, vicarious liability means that, in some cases, you may hold an employer responsible for the negligent actions of employees according to a principle of "respondeat superior," a Latin phrase meaning, "let the master answer." 

A doctor in private practice usually hires other staff members that assist in the care of patients, such as nurses or physician assistants. According to the principle of vicarious responsibility, if one of these other staff members harms you by behaving in a negligent manner, a malpractice suit against the subordinate staff member may also include the doctor. 

The same principle applies to hospitals and the doctors they employ. For example, if you suffer harm as a result of a botched surgery and sue for malpractice, the suit may name the hospital as a defendant as well as the doctor. 

However, vicarious liability only applies in certain circumstances. First, the injury must result from an activity that is part of the employee's normal duties, i.e., a surgeon performing surgery or an anesthesiologist administering anesthesia. Second, the employee must be on the clock at the time the injury occurs. Third, there must be a benefit to the employer from the activity the employee performs. For example, hospitals receive a portion of any fees that a patient or the patient's insurer pays for surgeries and other medical treatment. 

When determining vicarious liability, it is important to make a distinction between employees and independent contractors. Employers may be liable for negligence on the part of the former, but not the latter.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information