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Who Can Be Held Liable for Injuries Caused by Emergency Room Accidents/Errors?

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on August 8, 2016

When you visit an emergency room because you are injured or sick, the last thing you want to worry about is getting injured or sick even further while you are there. Unfortunately, sometimes it does happen and patients are left wondering who can be held liable for injuries caused by emergency room accidents or errors. The answer is not always an easy one. Although it’s easy to assume that the person who made the error is responsible, that’s not always the case.

When trying to determine who is responsible for your injury or sickness, a Seattle emergency room malpractice lawyer will first find out whether the responsible party is an employee of the hospital or not. Hospital employees typically include nurses, technicians, and administrators and so if any of these people caused your injury, the hospital may be to blame. So for instance, if a nurse gave the wrong medication through an IV, or a lab technician mixed up your bloodwork, the hospital may be to blame. If that’s the case, the attorney will begin working on the case to sue the hospital.On the other hand, if a doctor made the mistake, the doctor will most likely be responsible, not the hospital. This is because doctors aren’t usually considered employees of the hospital, but rather an independent contractor that has been given rights to practice medicine at that hospital. When a doctor is at fault, the doctor typically has to be sued directly, even if the injury occurred at the hospital and even if the doctor regularly practices medicine at that hospital.

There are some exceptions to these rules, however, and those exceptions are why it can be so difficult to determine fault in malpractice cases. For instance, if the hospital is in charge of the hours the doctor works or the fees that can be charged by the doctor, that doctor will most likely be considered an employee of the hospital, and not a contractor. In those cases, the hospital can be sued even if it was the doctor that made the mistake. Also, if the doctor is considered an independent contractor, but has also proven to be incompetent or irresponsible in the past, the hospital can still be held at fault for allowing that doctor the right to practice in the facility.

And just like hospitals can be sued for mistakes a doctor makes, doctors can also sometimes be sued for mistakes hospital staff make. This is true if the doctor was in the presence of the staff member when the mistake was made, and if they could have stopped the mistake from happening. So for instance, if a surgeon leaves a tool inside of a patient during surgery because the attending nurse miscounted them, the surgeon could be held liable for that wrongdoing.

If you’ve been hurt by a visit to the emergency room, or had a sickness worsen due to incompetent care, contact us at Hardwick & Pendergast. We’re personal injury lawyers with the experience you need at handling complicated emergency room cases. This is one area of the law that can be very tricky, but we’re here to help. We’ll find out who’s responsible for your sickness or injury, and we won’t stop until you get the compensation you deserve!

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