Inside Vicarious Liability for Home Health Care

Home health care organizations face a number of liability risks, including situations where the organization is held responsible for the actions or omissions of another person. This is known as vicarious liability, a legal doctrine under which parties can be held indirectly liable for an injury, even though they did not cause it. An organization vicariously liable for another person’s actions could end up being legally responsible for a plaintiff’s medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses.

This legal doctrine is limited to situations in which the party has a legal relationship to the person who caused the harm and the right to control at least some of that person’s actions. A good example of a legal relationship is with an organization’s employees who are acting within the scope of their job or professional duties and cause harm or injury. This generally means that the negligence must have occurred when:

  • The employee was “on the clock” or currently working, and
  • The injury was the result of an action that the employee was hired to perform, and
  • The employer had an invested interested in the activity that the employee had performed that caused the injury.

If a health care professional provides negligent or inappropriate care to a patient outside of the scope of the home health care agency, as an independent contractor, provides care during hours the agency is not in operation, or provides care for personal profit, the employer may not be liable for injuries.

It’s important to be aware of potential gray areas, including when a physician or other professionals, for example, is working for a home health care provider. If the organization failed to make a professional’s terms of employment clear, even if the doctor or nurse, for instance, was intended to work only as an independent contractor, the health care agency may be held liable for injuries to a patient.

There are several insurance policies that protect you from the costs of both direct and vicarious liability, typically covering the expense of defending yourself against claims brought by people harmed by mistakes or oversights that you cause or your employees. General Liability insurance covers you from the costs of lawsuits over personal injuries or third-party property damage caused by you or your employees or incidents that happened on your business property. Professional Liability coverage will pay for the costs of mistakes and oversights you or one of your employed caregivers makes while providing specific services. When an employee uses his or her car or one leased or rented for business use and causes an accident, Non-Owned/Hired Auto insurance will protect an organization’s liability exposure.

Manchester Specialty Programs specializes in insuring the home care industry and provides comprehensive portfolio of coverages that includes General LiabilityProfessional LiabilityWorkers’ Compensation, Management Liability, Cyber Liability and Non-Owned & Hired Auto insurance. For more information about our business and insurance lines, you or your local agent/broker may contact us at 855.972.9399.