Medical malpractice cases are difficult for a number of reasons, and one of them is that it is not often easy to pinpoint who is responsible for the malpractice. In some cases, it may be the doctor, in others, it may be the hospital and in yet others it might be both.
One of the most important concepts to understand in medical malpractice is Respondeat Superior. According to FindLaw, Respondeat Superior means “let the master answer.”
Who is the “master?”
In a case of Respondeat Superior, this means that the employer has liability for the negligence of its employees. However, for Respondeat Superior to apply to a medical malpractice situation, the negligent act must happen within the “scope of employment” for the employee.
In essence, for “scope of employment” to apply, the injury must occur when the employee (in this case, the doctor) is “on the clock” and actively working. The injury also must occur when the employee is doing an activity that the employer hired him or her to perform. Finally, the employer must benefit from the activity that the employee performed.
What does this mean?
In general, performing surgeries and treating patients usually do fall within the “scope of employment” for a doctor. This means that the hospital may hold liability for a doctor’s actions. However, if the doctor is an independent contractor of the hospital and not an employee, it is possible that the hospital holds no liability.
Medical malpractice suits are not straightforward. Figuring out responsibility for your injuries often takes a great deal of time and expertise.