Consider the following case: a concerned woman in her 30s visits you because of a lump in her breast. You order an ultrasound, which the radiologist interprets. He determines the lump is a benign cyst. Still, doing your due diligence, you refer your concerned patient to a surgeon, who reviews the ultrasound report and reexamines your patient, and determines that there is no need for a biopsy.
A year later, after your patient and her family has moved to a new city, she approaches her new doctor, concerned about yet another newly discovered lump. The new doctor orders a biopsy and discovers that the patient does indeed have breast cancer. The patient, understandably heartbroken, files suit.
Who’s to blame in this case? You? The radiologist? The surgeon? The healthcare system?
Though this sounds like a game of Medical Malpractice Clue, the above story is taken from an actual case, and is typical of medical malpractice suits in which “vicarious liability” is in play. Often, several parties will be named in malpractice cases. Under this legal principle, a court can assign blame to multiple parties in a medical malpractice claim. In the above case, though the healthcare systems themselves absorbed the brunt of the suit, the surgeon got hit with 5% of the liability.
There are a few important lessons to glean from this. First, treating patients is complicated, and often involves a network of separate parties. Not all adverse situations are completely under your control. If you were the surgeon in the story above, your decision was partly dictated by the radiologist’s expertise, just as the primary care physician’s decision was partly dictated by yours.
The next point is related: if you have physicians working under you, you may also be vulnerable to vicarious liability. According to the legal doctrine of respondeat superior, the blame for a physician’s adverse care can be legally assigned to that physician’s employer. All that is required for you to be held liable for the adverse care provided by one of your employees is that the employee in question committed the act within the normal scope of his or her expected duties.
The last point to consider is for those that are working in teaching hospitals. Respondeat superior also can apply to a physician whose student provided adverse care under his or her watch.
You don’t want to have to worry about the negligence of those you work with. You should rather be focused on providing excellent care. That’s why it’s important that you speak with an agent to make sure your policy covers you for matters such as these. Are you covered for vicarious liability under your current policy? If so, how much vicarious liability insurance does your current policy offer? Your needs will vary a great deal depending on your situation. Let eQuoteMD help to make sure you’re protected against vicarious liability. Get a free quote today!