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When can hospitals be held responsible for medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice incidents seem to make the news in Illinois more and more frequently these days, and with good reason. Negligence on the part of health care professionals is inexcusable - when a person is sick or injured and is seeking aid to ease their suffering and regain their health, they expect to be treated competently. Unfortunately, acts of medical malpractice do occur, so it is important to know who could be held responsible.

While the harmful acts may have been done by a nurse, physician, surgeon or other health care worker, it is possible that not only they, but also the hospital could face a medical malpractice lawsuit. This is due to a legal concept known as respondeat superior, through which an employer may be held responsible for the negligent actions of its workers if the incident took place within the scope of the worker's employment.

That being said, some health care professionals are not considered employees of the hospital, but instead are independent contractors. In these situations, respondeat superior will not apply. However, it still may be possible for the hospital to face liability for its own negligent actions, such as allowing an unlicensed or incompetent health care professional to work in its facility. After all, it is not just health care workers that can act negligently. Hospital error is also an issue that could lead to malpractice.

The laws regarding respondeat superior may seem straightforward, however, applying these laws to an individual's case can be complex, and this post cannot guarantee any specific outcome should an individual pursue a lawsuit based on respondeat superior. Therefore, it is important that those who have suffered from medical malpractice seek the help they need to hold the right parties accountable.

Source: FindLaw, "Medical Malpractice In-Depth," accessed May 2, 2016

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