Who Is Liable for a Wrong-Site Surgery?

Medical Malpractice | November 28, 2022

Undergoing surgery is daunting in the best of circumstances. If you find out post-operation that your surgeon operated on the wrong site, you may not know where to turn for answers or advice. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Kentucky with help from an experienced attorney can allow you to hold the negligent party or parties accountable. Determining who is liable – legally and financially responsible – for your wrong-site surgery is one of the first steps toward justice.

The Surgeon

Some surgeons are independent contractors while others are employees of a hospital or surgical center. If the surgeon who performed your operation and negligently made an incision on the wrong part of your body was an independent contractor, he or she may be held independently liable. This means that the surgeon’s personal insurance company will be responsible for paying for the harm that you suffered because of the medical error. This may include:

  • Related medical costs
  • Any revision surgeries necessary
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost wages
  • Damages connected to a disability
  • Attorney’s fees

Surgeons are held liable most often for wrong-site surgeries, as they are the individuals who are responsible for adequately preparing for the operation, double-checking a patient’s chart and medical records, communicating properly with his or her medical team, and making the incision on the correct part of the body. Falling short of any of these responsibilities can place liability for operating on the wrong part of the body with the surgeon.

Other Medical Staff

In some cases, a wrong-site surgery is not the fault of the surgeon but another medical staff member. A surgeon’s assistant might have given the surgeon incorrect information, for example, or a nurse may have mixed up two patients’ charts. If an investigation finds that any member of the medical center’s staff was careless, incompetent or negligent, that individual could be held responsible. Most often, however, medical staff are employees of the hospital or surgical center – leading to the legal doctrine of vicarious liability.

The Medical Facility

Vicarious liability is based on the Latin phrase, “respondeat superior,” which means, “let the master speak.” This legal doctrine states that someone else can be held responsible for another person’s wrongful act or tort, including medical negligence or medical malpractice, if the person has a higher rank than the negligent party. Essentially, it holds employers legally responsible for the actions and mistakes that their employees make within the scope and course of employment.

Under this rule, a medical center, hospital, emergency room or surgical center could be held liable for a wrong-site surgery in Kentucky if an investigation places fault on one of its employees or staff members. If the surgeon in charge of the operation was an employee of the facility, the hospital itself may have to pay. Bringing a claim against the facility as a whole could potentially result in greater financial compensation than a case against a surgeon or individual. 

How to File a Wrong-Site Surgery Claim in Kentucky

It is important to contact an attorney to determine all of the liable parties in your wrong-site surgery case. A lawyer can help you fight for the financial compensation that you deserve for this act of medical negligence – one that is referred to as a “never event” by the medical community. This means it should never happen with an ordinary level of patient care. Other examples of never events are operating on the wrong patient and performing the wrong surgery.

An attorney will provide a comprehensive investigation of your wrong-site surgery incident and search for evidence of medical negligence. Once the appropriate defendant(s) has been identified, your lawyer can help you file the paperwork necessary to initiate a claim in Kentucky. For more information about a potential wrong-site surgery lawsuit, call the Law Office of Hendy | Johnson | Vaughn | Emery at (502) 540-5700 to request a free case evaluation from an attorney.

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