Is your doctor an independent contractor or an employee of the hospital?

Lets say you go to the hospital for treatment and a doctor messes up your procedure or gives you the wrong medication. What would you do next?

If you brought a lawsuit, you might assume that he doctor is an employee of the hospital and he is the one who committed the medical malpractice so the hospital can be held liable, right? Wrong. It is a little more complicated than that.

Many doctors who work at hospitals are not actually employees of that hospital. They are often independent contractors.

What does that term mean? And what does it mean for the medical negligence case you plan to file? Find the answers below.

How do you recover if the doctor is not an employee of the hospital?

If your doctor is an employee of the hospital then the hospital will be liable for any negligence he committed. In that situation you can sue both the hospital as well as the doctor. But if the doctor is an independent contractor then the rules are different.

Can you still recover if he is an independent contractor?


What is an independent contractor?

Doctors who are independent contractors are not employees of the hospital but have an agreement with the hospital to use the hospital’s facilities and their pay structure is entirely different from employees. But what you need to know is this- if the doctor is an independent contractor, and not an employee, then you probably will not be able to sue the hospital for the doctor’s negligence. In that case only the doctor will be liable for any medical malpractice committed.

Why do you need to know what an independent contractor is and what could it mean for the outcome of your case?

If the doctor is an employee of the hospital then you must also name the hospital in your claim, because hospitals are always responsible for the acts of their employees. 

When the doctor is an independent contractor, the rules are different. Why?

That means the doctor was not actually employed and working for the hospital or that specific medical group. Rather he is an independent contractor. This is different from employee status; the internal revenue service also looks at that doctor differently. For example, he does not get W2 forms at the end of each year. Also the doctor will usually have his own medical malpractice insurance. 

As the patient, do you have any way of knowing at the outset of your hospital visit whether the doctor treating you is an employee of the hospital or an independent contractor? Then answer is 'no'.

Your attorney typically determines the employment status of your physician later on. 

Sometimes even your attorney does not find out until after commencing the suit that the physician is actually an independent contractor, not an employee. Your lawsuit should include not just the doctor but also the hospital or medical group. 

For example, if there was a private physician who was involved in your improper care while at the hospital, it is always important to name (1) the hospital in the case, (2) the physician as well as (3) the doctor's medical group. This way we cover all eventualities including if the private physician is an employee of the hospital, if he is an employee of the medical group or even if he is a separate independent contractor that was employed by either the hospital or the medical group.

How is the concept of doctors being independent contractors applied in real everyday situations?

CNN discusses why doctors are becoming independent contractors and what this means for the healthcare industry.

Physicians today feel that they can profit more from being independent contractors than employees of hospitals. Many doctors say they are tired of dealing with the restrictions of hospital policies.

How does being an independent contractor directly affect consumers? By becoming independent contractors physicians can directly charge patients and set or negotiate their own pricings. But this will probably mean higher costs for you, the consumer.

“Self-employed doctors fall under the heading of independent contractors and are barred from forming unions because of federal antitrust laws. There is increased pressure on self-employed doctors to join HMOs, either as full-time employees or as contractors. Due to the increasing control that HMOs wield over health care, more and more independent doctors want the right to negotiate collectively with the people who are paying for their services. Historically, this meant the patients themselves. For that reason, the American Medical Association (AMA) has traditionally maintained that doctors, who are supposed to have the patient's best interests in mind, had no business joining unions,” according to CNN.

To learn more, watch the video below...


Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer