The laws in Florida are the same regarding medical malpractice claims against hospitals and their employees and agents as the claims against individual health care providers.
Hospitals are responsible for the negligent acts of their employees when the care rendered to a patient falls below the appropriate standard of care which results in harm to a patient.
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The first question is who are the staff and agents of the hospital and who are not.
For years, hospitals have reduced the number of staff they employ so as to reduce the hospital’s exposure for claims of medmal against them.
This has been done by hiring independent contractors to perform many of the services that some employees used to be responsible for.
For example, now emergency room physicians groups are not hospital employees but are independent contractors.
This is also true, in many cases, of radiologists, pathologists, etc.
Historically, private physicians who render care to their patients are not employees of the hospital.
However, there are now treating doctors in hospitals who are employed by the hospitals that are called Hospitalists.
They are not private physicians but provide care only in hospitals.
Many private doctors prefer not to see their patients in a hospital setting and have only an office practice.
When one of their patients has to be seen at a hospital, it is the hospitalist who is the admitting and primary doctor for the patients care.
Lastly, in some situations, a private doctor who is not an actual employee of the hospital can be determined to be an apparent employee of the hospital.
This is true when the physician and/or the hospital give the appearance that the doctor is an agent of the hospital.
Also, you should know that some area hospitals are teaching hospitals. What that means is these hospitals are associated with state medical colleges, and many of the doctors on staff are employees of the state and not the hospital. Medical students are trained at the hospital by these physicians, and they are not employees of the hospital either.
If a patient is negligently injured while being treated by one these doctors or a student, no medical malpractice claim can be made against the hospital.
Any claim must be made against the State of Florida, their employer.
Unfortunately, there are caps or limits regarding the amount of compensation that a patient is entitled to for a claim against the state.
Florida Statute 768.28 dictates that the most an injured patient can receive in compensation for an injury, no matter how severe or disabling, is $200,000.
It does not matter how much the medical and hospital charges are or what the total of lost wages are or the degree of pain and suffering.
That is the most you can be awarded.
Also, the attorney fee that the patient’s lawyer can charge for services rendered and costs paid is 25% of the recovery, no matter how much time and expense it took to prevail. This is paid by the client out of the proceeds.
Therefore, the net maximum the patient will receive is $150,000. It is tough to find an experienced trial attorney to handle a claim against the State because the time spent and expenses incurred are not economically viable.
Some of the local area hospitals that are teaching hospitals are Tampa General, Moffitt Cancer Center, All Childrens, Sarasota Memorial and Morton Plant.
These are all excellent hospitals which provide superior care.
However, if an injury occurs because of medical negligence to a patient by a doctor or student employed by the state, you should be aware of the limited compensation you will be entitled to.