Are On-Call Doctors Liable for Medical Malpractice?

On-call doctors may bear liability for medical mistakes or negligence resulting in patient illness, injury, or death. Hospitals in Chicago sometimes staff using contract physicians. Some work specific shifts and others come for in-person patient evaluations when called. Although these on-call doctors treat patients at these facilities, the ownership groups do not employ contract physicians.

The Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act

The Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act includes provisions that impact when patients may hold on-call physicians financially liable for illnesses, injuries, or death resulting from medical negligence or mistakes. Under the EMTALA, doctors who fail or refuse to appear to evaluate patients within reasonable periods of time may face fines. Additionally, on-call doctors who determine after initial evaluations to transfer patients to alternative treatment facilities because they deem the risks of transfer not as heavy as continuing without the services of a specialist who refused or failed to appear for an in-person evaluation may also face penalties. Patients or their families may point to these types of violations as evidence the providers failed to exercise the appropriate level of care, which resulted in serious injuries, illnesses, or death.

Types of Medical Malpractice Claims Involving On-Call Doctors

Beyond the types of negligence that may result in EMTALA violations, on-call physicians’ actions or lack of actions may result in various other types of medical malpractice claims. Some of the most common claims of negligence or malpractice involving on-call doctors include:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Unauthorized treatment
  • Breaches of doctor-patient confidentiality
  • Performing unnecessary treatments or procedures

Whether working on an on-call basis or not, physicians have a duty to maintain a certain standard of care. Therefore, patients who suffer injuries, illnesses, or death due to negligence or errors on the part of on-call doctors may take legal action against the physicians and hospitals.

Shifting Responsibility for Medical Mistakes

Hospitals may seek to separate themselves from contract physicians when it comes to liability for medical malpractice claims. Health care facilities may ask patients or their legal guardians to sign consent forms that acknowledge they understand the treating providers have no legal affiliation with the facilities. Signing such consent forms may waive patients’ or their families’ rights to take legal action against the hospitals. However, such consent forms may not have any effect on their ability to recover compensation from the on-call doctors at the time the medical negligence or mistakes occurred.