“Respondeat superior,” a Latin phrase which means, “let the master or superior answer,” refers to the legal responsibility imputed on employers for the harmful or injurious mistakes committed by their employees while performing their job; it is otherwise called “vicarious liability.”
This legal terminology is often applied in medical malpractice lawsuits (especially one based on hospital negligence), wherein the hospital, instead of the doctor, a nurse, or a medical technician or staff, is named as defendant. This move is resorted to by many legal experts due to the amount of compensation sought by the victim; an amount which the medical personnel may not have, but which the hospital’s insurance carrier can surely afford. But more than just the compensation is the message that needs to be raised to the hospital’s owner/s and managers: ensure the provision of quality care to prevent other patients from suffering from injurious mistakes.
Medical malpractice resulting to hospital negligence is one of the most alarming realities in the US. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published a report titled, “To Err Is Human.” It basically laid down a comprehensive strategy that is hoped to significantly reduce preventable medical errors which, the report claimed, caused the death of as many as 98,000 people every year. Instead of declining, though, the number of deaths only almost doubled as the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services stated in 2010 that as many as 180,000 patients in Medicare alone die every year due to bad hospital care.
The most alarming news, however, came in 2013 after the Journal of Patient Safety published a study, which said that patient death due to medical errors number between 210,000 and 440,000 each year. This number makes totally preventable medical errors as 2013’s third-leading cause of death in the US, behind heart disease and cancer – the same conclusion arrived at by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
A hospital can be accused of negligence through many different ways, including, but not limited to, its failure to:
- Make sure that it hires educated, properly trained and licensed staff
- Ascertain that its independent contractors or non-employees, such as an attending physician, possess proper credentials
- Have enough nurses, technicians and other staff which will ensure provision of proper and timely care to patients
- Keep patient records properly, resulting to mix up or loss of important records
All these negligent acts can very well result to: a nurse giving the patient the wrong medicine or incorrect dose of medicine; overworked and fatigued nurses and other medical staff due to working much longer than they are supposed to; a nurse or a medical personnel failing to follow treatment instructions; a doctor providing medical treatment that results to infection; a medical staff giving medication that causes severe allergic reactions; failure to treat wounds properly; performing surgery on the wrong patient; amputating, or operating on, the wrong body part, and so forth.
Injuries due to hospital negligence do not only cause in patients additional health damages but also additional costly medical treatment, prolonged disability, a longer period away from work which, in turn, results to loss of wages.
Erroneous medical treatments can cause life-changing consequences in the lives of innocent patients and their families. Seeking justice, which includes receiving compensation that should cover all present and future damages resulting from the erroneous treatments, requires the help of a seasoned personal injury lawyer, who is capable of a thorough, objective and intelligent review of patients’ specific cases and the possible consequences of filing a civil lawsuit.