California often leads the way in new standards and laws for America, including those regarding medical negligence. Their doctrine of ostensible negligence provides the opportunity for many victims of medical malpractice to not only hold a negligent physician liable for compensation, but a hospital in which that negligence occurred. For victims, that often means the opportunity to be awarded the compensation they require. For hospitals, it generally means a greater incentive to review and correct their personnel oversight and their safety protocols.
California Ostensible Agency
California laws allow a victim to include a hospital in a claim for medical malpractice when the negligent physician is an agent of the hospital, or when they are an ostensible agent of the hospital. This vicarious liability can be shown in several ways:
- Physician agents – doctors who are on the staff of a hospital and the hospital has control of their hours and activities
- Independent contractors – doctors who have practicing privileges in a hospital, but are not under the control of that hospital
- Ostensible physician agents – doctors who appear to be agents of the hospital, either through the intentional representation of the hospital or the inadvertent representation by the hospital of that relationship
Confusion often occurs in an emergency room situation in which a patient may assume that their treating physician is on the staff of the hospital and therefore endorsed by them when, in fact, they are an independent contractor.
California Medical Malpractice Claims
Another key element of filing a medical malpractice claim in California includes proving that the physician actually acted negligently. While medical records and case files are a vital part of that evidence, these cases also require expert medical testimony to verify that negligence did, in fact, occur.
Claims can only be filed, in addition, when the negligence produced an injury and the injury resulted in damages. A medical malpractice suit is filed to recover those damages, which can fall in three classifications:
- Medical and rehabilitative costs, lost income, and more – classified as economic damages
- Pain and suffering, disability, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and more – classified as non-economic damages
- Willful or intentional negligence – classified as punitive damages
Most insurance companies calculate noneconomic damages based on a multiplier for seriousness of injury times the amount of economic damages. However, some states, such as California, have caps on those damages. In California, that cap is $250,000.
Getting Legal Help with Suing a Hospital in California
Anyone suffering from the negligence of a medical professional has the right to recover compensation for their damages. However, it can be difficult to discern who can be sued, for what amounts, and where to find the evidence to do so. The best way to find the necessary help is to consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can guide the victim through the process and take care of the complex and confusing paperwork.