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When Is a Hospital Responsible for an Employee in Chicago Medical Malpractice?

After a medical injury, the injured patient may be looking for someone to answer for what they did. However, the hospital may say it’s not their fault. They may point fingers or claim the negligent doctor was an independent contractor. Everyone is blaming someone else and no one takes responsibility. 

When no one answers for your medical injuries, it is time to get help from an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. As soon as the hospital gets a call from your lawyer, they will begin to change their tune. Your attorney can make sure anyone involved in your negligent treatment will be held accountable for their actions.  

Even if the hospital wasn’t directly responsible for your injuries, they can still be held liable under Illinois personal injury laws. As an employer, the hospital is liable for the negligence of an employee in the course of their duties. In some cases, the hospital may be liable if the worker wasn’t a direct employee. 

Medical negligence lawsuits can be complex. If you are not sure whether you have a malpractice claim or how much you can get for your injuries, talk to a medical malpractice law firm. Contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer for legal advice about your case.

Who Is Responsible When a Hospital Worker Causes an Injury?

Legal responsibility for injuries is based on negligence and liability. When someone negligently causes injuries to someone else, they are legally responsible for paying for damages. For a non-professional hospital worker (including staff workers, cleaning staff, catering workers, etc). They are held to the standards of others in their situation.  

For medical professionals, like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, the standard is slightly different. When a medical professional is negligent and it causes an injury to the patient, the medical professional is responsible for their damages. Medical negligence is known as medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is like negligence but the medical worker is held to a different standard. 

Negligence is the failure to exercise the degree of care, skill, or diligence of a reasonable person under similar circumstances. For medical professionals, negligence is based on what a similarly situated medical professional would do. This is also known as the standard of care. 

For a Chicago medical malpractice lawsuit, the injury victim can show negligence based on:  

  • The doctor owed the patient a duty of care; 
  • The doctor breached their duty by deviating from the standard of care;
  • The deviation caused injuries to the patient;
  • The patient suffered harm as a result. 

If a medical professional was negligent in causing the patient’s injuries, the medical professional can be held responsible for damages. For example, a doctor could be held responsible for a patient’s injuries if they didn’t follow surgical procedures, used the wrong medication, or failed to diagnose a patient. 

This type of liability, or legal responsibility, is for errors caused by that individual. However, in some cases, liability can be shared or extended to others who weren’t directly involved in the patient’s care. Another type of legal responsibility is known as strict liability. 

When Is a Doctor an Employee in Chicago?

Hospitals can have a number of doctors practicing in their facilities. However, that does not necessarily mean the doctor is an employee of the hospital. Hospitals can contract with doctors to provide services but not as employers. Generally, hospitals have employees who work for the hospital and independent contractors who provide their services but work for themselves or other groups. 

For medical injuries, the main difference between an employee and an independent contractor is that a hospital is generally vicariously liable for the negligence of an employee but not necessarily for an independent contractor. Unfortunately, just because a hospital calls someone an independent contractor does not make it legally so. 

Employers may try to misclassify workers to avoid liability and avoid certain labor laws to save money. The contract or title of a worker is not all that determines the classification of the worker. According to the Department of Labor, there are several factors in determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor: 

  1. The extent to which the worker’s services are an integral part of the employer’s business 
  2. The permanency of the relationship 
  3. The amount of the worker’s investment in facilities and equipment 
  4. The nature and degree of control by the principal 
  5. The worker’s opportunities for profit and loss
  6. The level of skill required in performing the job and the amount of initiative, judgment, or foresight in open market competition with others required for the success of the claimed independent enterprise 

Employee Liability for Medical Errors

A medical employee can be held directly liable for injuries caused by their errors. In a personal injury lawsuit, the injury victim can file a lawsuit against the worker to recover damages caused by negligence. 

However, hospitals may also be found responsible for an employee’s negligence. There are a few ways an employee or agent can be liable for an employee’s actions, including: 

  • Vicarious liability
  • Borrowed employee liability
  • Apparent authority
  • Hospital negligence
  • Hospital property injuries

Illinois Hospital Liability for Negligent Employees

A hospital can be liable for the negligence of an employee. Types of hospital employees can include: 

  • Doctors
  • Surgeons
  • Pharmacists
  • Physician assistants (PAs)
  • Nurses
  • Nurses aides
  • Hospital administrators
  • Food service workers
  • Cleaning staff
  • Diagnostic techs
  • Emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
  • ER techs

Vicarious Liability

Under this legal claim, the employer is liable for the negligence of an employee in the course of their duties. This is known as respondeat superior, Latin for “the master must answer.” To win a lawsuit against the hospital for the worker’s negligence, the injury victim has to show the injury occurred in the course of the worker’s employment. 

An employee is acting within the scope of employment when: 

  1. The employee’s conduct is of a kind they are employed to perform or reasonably could be said to have been contemplated as part of their employment; 
  2. The employee’s conduct occurs substantially within the authorized time and space limits of their employment; and 
  3. The employee’s conduct is motivated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the employer.

This is a legal theory that goes back to ancient Rome. There are several reasons why a hospital is held responsible, even if they didn’t directly cause the injury. The employer is in a position to make sure the person they hire is responsible. If the employee is negligent, the employer should be held accountable.

Another justification for the vicarious liability of the employer is because of their deeper pockets. The employee is generally not in as strong of a financial situation and may be left without enough to pay for the damages. Even if the employer thinks it is unfair, it is more unfair to hold the victim responsible. 

If you sue a staff worker at a hospital for causing a slip and fall injury, how will you recover damages? If you suffered $1 million in damages, it may be impossible to get that money from someone who only makes $20 an hour. All their assets, including their car and home, may only be worth a few thousand. If the hospital is also liable, they will have liability insurance to cover the injuries. 

The employer is also benefiting from the labor of the worker. The worker is in their position to provide a service to the employer. If the employee wasn’t working for the hospital, they wouldn’t be there to cause harm to the hospital patient.  

Borrowed Employee Liability

Some hospitals use staffing agencies or temp workers to fill positions. These temp workers are sometimes known as borrowed employees. The borrowed employee is providing services for the hospital. However, the hospital pays the staffing agency, which then pays the worker. If a borrowed employee is negligent, is the staffing agency or hospital liable? It can depend on the situation. 

For example, under Illinois workers’ compensation laws, the loaning and borrowing owners both share liability for worker’s comp payments when the worker is injured while working for the borrowing owner. Both the loaning and borrowing employers are jointly and severally responsible. 

Borrowed liability can also apply to personal injury claims. Generally, an employee in the employment of one employer may be loaned to another employer. While performing work for the borrowing employer, the borrowed employee can be considered the employee of the borrowing employer. The borrowing employer can be liable for negligence caused by the borrowed employee. 

Borrowed employee liability can be complicated. In some cases, liability may require a contract and depends on the control of the borrowed employee. If a hospital claims they are not responsible for a worker’s negligence because they were a temporary worker, talk to your medical malpractice attorney about hospital liability claims. 

Apparent Authority

Under apparent authority, a hospital may be liable for the actions of an agent if a reasonable person would believe the doctor was employed by the hospital. According to Illinois courts, “Under certain circumstances, the liability of a party may arise from an act or omission of that party’s apparent agent.” 

Generally, to find an apparent agency relationship, the injury victim must show that the hospital held itself out to be a provider of the type of medical care received and the patient did not know or should not have known the doctor was an employee of the hospital. Also, the injury victim did not choose the doctor’s name but relied upon the hospital to provide the type of medical care received.

For example, a hospital contracts with an independent contractor to provide anesthesia services to patients. The patient goes to a hospital requesting surgery. The patient comes in for surgery and the contractor anesthesiologist is wearing similar surgical clothing to the other doctors, nurses, and surgeons in the room. The anesthesiologist is wearing a nametag with the logo of the hospital and the doctor’s name. From the perspective of most patients, the anesthesiologist appears to be an employee of the hospital. 

Hospital’s Negligence 

A hospital can also be negligent for actions caused by the employee. As the employer, the hospital plays a certain role in hiring and supervising employees. If an employee applies for a job in a hospital, the hospital should do its due diligence in making sure the patient can be employed. 

Due diligence includes background checks for a job that involves working with vulnerable groups like the elderly, disabled, or young children. If an employee had a criminal history of sexual abuse and theft of prescription drugs from patients, the employee should not be hired for a sensitive medical job. The hospital may be considered liable for negligent hiring. 

Some medical jobs require supervision from higher-level doctors, nurses, or staff. When workers don’t get the required supervision, it can put patients at higher risk of harm. For example, if an employee is supposed to have approval for administering certain medications and the worker never gets approval, the hospital could be liable for negligent supervision.  

What Damages Can I Recover From the Hospital?

Damages in a medical injury case can include both economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages may also be available but they are rare in these types of cases. For punitive damages, the injury would generally have to show that the hospital was fraudulent, malicious, or intentionally caused the victim’s injuries. 

Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the victim, as best as possible. This means returning the victim to the position they were in before the accident. This may not be physically possible, like when a medical patient loses a leg because of medical malpractice. Instead, a financial award will attempt to compensate the victim. 

Economic damages include your out-of-pocket expenses and anticipated expenses. This includes medical bills, lost wages, future medical needs, and loss of economic opportunity. Non-economic damages are for injuries that don’t have a set dollar amount, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life. 

How Do I File a Malpractice Claim Against the Hospital?

If you think you may have been injured because of negligence caused by a hospital employee, get the right legal team on your side. Experienced medical malpractice lawyers, like the trial attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian, have extensive experience in malpractice claims because they focus on just these types of cases. 

With the right legal team on your side, you will have the resources to help you recover damages after suffering a hospital injury. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.

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