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Which professionals besides doctors can be liable for medical malpractice?

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2022 | Personal Injury

If you’ve been harmed or injured by medical malpractice, what are your legal rights? Who may be held liable? What steps can you take to recover compensation? Your first step after a medical malpractice incident is scheduling a consultation with an Indiana medical malpractice lawyer.

And your lawyer’s first step will be investigating the medical malpractice incident to determine which party or parties may have liability. Doctors are not the only parties who may have liability for medical malpractice.

Depending on the details of a medical malpractice incident, liability could be assigned to a doctor, a nurse, an anesthesiologist, a clinic, a pharmacist, a pharmaceutical company, a dentist, a psychiatrist, or a hospital.

Keep reading this brief discussion of medical malpractice and your rights under Indiana law to learn more about who may be held responsible for medical malpractice and to learn more about what it takes to prevail with a medical malpractice claim in this state.

What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in Indiana?

Medical malpractice may be defined as negligence on the part of a health care provider that causes further injury or harm to a patient, a decline in the patient’s medical condition, or the patient’s wrongful death.

In a medical malpractice claim, the malpractice victim is called the “plaintiff,” and the party accused of malpractice is called the “defendant.” Three steps are required in order to succeed with a claim for medical malpractice.

  • First, a plaintiff’s Indiana medical malpractice attorney must show that a health care provider or a health care facility violated the “duty of care” that health care professionals have to their patients.
  • Secondly, a medical malpractice attorney must prove causation. The attorney for the plaintiff must show that the health care provider’s negligence – the breach of the duty of care – was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injury or deteriorating medical condition.
  • Finally, a plaintiff’s attorney must show that the plaintiff suffered quantifiable, economic and/or non-economic damages, and is therefore entitled by Indiana law to recover compensation.

When May a Doctor Be Held Liable for Malpractice?

Most Indiana doctors are committed professionals. A small number of doctors are not as committed and don’t always take the measures necessary to reduce the risk to patients. However, medical malpractice involving doctors rarely takes place during surgery or in an operating room.

Misdiagnosis is the most frequent medical malpractice that involves doctors, and misdiagnosis happens every day in Indiana. If a doctor prescribes the wrong medicine or recommends the wrong treatment or surgery, that doctor may be deemed liable for medical malpractice.

When May a Hospital Be Held Liable for Malpractice?

In some medical malpractice cases, hospitals are deemed “vicariously” liable due to the negligence of employees. In other situations, a hospital may be “directly” liable for negligence – if the hospital hired someone negligently or failed to hire sufficient personnel, for example.

Typically, hospitals may only be held liable vicariously for the actions of employees. If a health care professional works at a hospital as an independent contractor, and if that individual is responsible for medical malpractice, the hospital probably has no legal liability.

When May a Nurse Be Liable for Medical Malpractice?

When a nurse breaches the professional duty of care to a patient, and that breach causes negligence that leads to medical malpractice, is the nurse liable, or is the hospital liable?

A hospital may be held liable for the nurse’s negligence if that nurse was an employee acting within the “course and scope” of employment duties at the time of the malpractice incident.

Can Pharmaceutical Companies Be Liable for Malpractice?

A drug company’s professional duty is principally a duty to doctors. For example, if a doctor prescribes a drug that injures or harms a patient, the drug company is only liable if it didn’t adequately warn the doctor about the medicine’s potential side effects and risks.

Drug companies owe the public a basic business duty to ensure that their pharmaceuticals are reasonably safe when those drugs are prescribed by doctors and used properly by patients. There is a legal presumption that doctors can decide best if a specific drug is right for a specific patient.

Thus, the doctor (and not the pharmaceutical company) has the duty to explain to individual patients the possible side effects and risks of any specific type of prescription medicine.

Can “Urgent Care” Centers Be Held Liable for Medical Malpractice?

An urgent medical care center’s staff must provide – at a bare minimum – the basic professional standard of medical care. Additionally, urgent medical care center personnel should not make medical decisions that they are neither qualified nor authorized to make for patients.

If you’ve been injured or if your health has been impaired by an urgent care center’s medical malpractice – and if you and your Indiana medical malpractice lawyer can prove it – you will be entitled by Indiana law to recover monetary compensation.

Can a Psychiatrist Be Deemed Liable for Malpractice?

Psychiatric patients are sometimes victims of neglect, abuse, and psychiatric malpractice. Malpractice by a psychiatrist meets Indiana’s definition of medical malpractice, and psychiatric malpractice cases are handled in exactly the same manner as other medical malpractice cases.

What is the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act?

Under Indiana law – the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act – a Medical Review Panel determines if a medical malpractice claim can move forward. Before a case goes to trial, it is reviewed by a panel of qualified healthcare providers who will decide if medical malpractice in fact happened.

The process can take up to nine months. If you disagree with the panel’s decision, you are still free to take a health care provider to court, but you should know that the Medical Review Panel’s findings will probably be introduced at a medical malpractice trial.

When Should You Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?

Every medical malpractice case is different, so victims must have personalized legal advice, and they must have that advice as quickly as possible after the malpractice incident. For most cases, the statute of limitations for bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Indiana is two years.

If you have missed that deadline, there are several legal exceptions, and your case may qualify as an exception, so go ahead and speak to an attorney. But if you have been injured by medical malpractice recently – or if that happens to you in the future – contact an attorney at once.

If you’re a medical malpractice victim in Gary, Highland, Portage, Crown Point, or anywhere else in northern Indiana, contact an Indiana medical malpractice attorney as quickly as possible to discuss your legal options and your right to compensation.