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Medical malpractice insurance may not cover every medical injury

Most doctors and physicians in Rhode Island and around the country fully understand the medical liability risks their practice presents, but there are events that can occur that will not fall under the general definition of medical malpractice, and thus may not be covered under ordinary malpractice insurance. Take for example a case recently discussed in an industry publication where a family sued a hospital and several of its staff members claiming medical negligence after their newborn child suffered a brain injury due to a case of jaundice that went untreated.

The family named the medical director in the lawsuit who it claimed was responsible for the development and initiation of policies, procedures and protocols for dealing with the care of newborns at the hospital. The lawsuit claimed that the doctor failed to adopt appropriate procedures for evaluating, testing and treating jaundice in newborns. The hospital responded by requesting the director be removed as a defendant from the lawsuit as she did not provide direct care to the child or his mother and did not have a doctor-patient relationship with the plaintiffs.

This was a case of alleged administrative negligence that involved a supervisor's failure to develop, define and implement policies for medical care procedures involving the care of newborn babies. The plaintiffs alleged in their suit that their son's brain injury was preventable had the hospital staff developed the appropriate policies and procedures for the care of a newborn with his medical condition. A U.S. District Court allowed the claim of administrative negligence to proceed, stating the director had a duty to develop and implement hospital policies and procedures. The case was settled for more than $4 million.

This case and others like it show that a number of individuals are responsible for the appropriate care of patients at healthcare facilities. Regardless of whether a doctor directly treats a patient, he or she may be held accountable for substandard care, whether related to policies and procedures, such as the cleaning and sterilization of equipment and facilities or maintaining adequate supplies and medications in emergency rooms and surgery suites. Any time someone is injured through a doctor or medical staff member's negligence, that person as well as the medical facility itself can be held liable for damages that result from that negligence.

Source: American Medical News, ""End-run" lawsuits can blindside physicians," Alicia Gallegos, Oct. 22, 2012

Our law firm helps people in Rhode Island recover damages for injuries caused by medical negligence, administrative negligence and medical malpractice at healthcare facilities, such as a failure to diagnose a medical condition similar to the case discussed in the above post.

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