Surgery is an inherently risky surgery that puts the patient in a vulnerable position. Medical advances have drastically lessened the likelihood of adverse outcomes; however, they can still happen. There is no guarantee that the patient will retain a higher quality of life once wheeled out of the operating room.
It is important to remember that surgeons are not perfect and can make mistakes. However, the errors they make can then cause devastating consequences for their patients, the worst of which is death. While death is the worst-case scenario, other patients harmed under the knife may need multiple corrective surgeries to try and undo the damage caused by the first surgeon.
How does an injury during surgery occur?
When an individual undergoes surgery, whether it is a simple and routine procedure or one that requires months of rehabilitation, they trust their team of medical professionals to provide them with the best possible care. Unfortunately, there are many ways in which a surgeon can betray the trust of their patient. Surgical errors commonly occur when:
- The surgeon is acting carelessly.
- The surgeon has been working excessive hours and is exhausted.
- They are not appropriately trained for the surgery they are performing.
- They are unprepared and disorganized.
If the surgeon is experiencing any of the above, many injuries could come about from their surgeries.
Common types of surgical injuries
From routine procedures to major operations, all surgeries come with some degree of risk. If you combine this risk with negligence, the list of potential surgical errors can be pretty lengthy. A few errors that we tend to see from negligent surgeons include:
- Anesthesia errors- This can include giving the patient too much or too little anesthesia.
- Operating on the wrong body part- An example may be operating on the right elbow instead of the left elbow.
- Leaving surgical equipment inside the patient- The most common forgotten equipment includes cotton balls, towels, and sponges.
- Operating on the wrong patient- This could happen if a doctor isn’t paying attention or if two patients have similar names.
- Administering a medication that the patient is allergic to – Doctors can end up prescribing medication to a patient without glancing at their medical records or asking the patient if they have any drug allergies.
- Causing nerve damage during the surgery- One of the more common damaged nerves is the ulnar nerve. It can become damaged if the anesthesiologist is aggressive or imprecise when inserting the needle with the sedative into the patient’s hand.
- Puncturing an organ during surgery- This can happen in a variety of ways. It typically occurs if the surgeon has an accidental slip of the hand when operating on the patient.
Identifying an injury from surgery
Even if you feel your surgeon’s performance didn’t meet your expectations for the surgery, if you did not suffer any harm because of the surgery, you are not eligible to sue for malpractice. Harm to patients ranges from temporary to life-changing and can include:
- An extended period of illness and recovery
- Extreme pain and suffering
- Permanent disability
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Damage or loss of organs or limbs
If you have experienced any form of unexpected harm after surgery, you may want to consider hiring a personal injury lawyer.
Should I hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Surgical errors are some of the most common types of medical malpractice lawsuits in the U.S. If the surgical injury or death could have been avoided or was a result of negligence or inattention, the injured party has the legal right to sue for monetary damages.
There are two options that you can take should you choose to move forward with your lawsuit. You can either choose to file a complaint with the state medical board or file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
To file a complaint with the state medical board, you can go onto their website and download a form to fill out about your incident. You can also call them and report the misconduct in that way. If this doesn’t seem like the avenue you want to take, you can also find a reputable medical malpractice lawyer and file a claim. Medical malpractice cases should not be attempted without an attorney as these surgeons are heavily insured and rarely if ever, admit that they made a mistake.
Once you find an attorney for your case, they will look for all parties that may be liable or legally responsible for your injury. You may have a case against more than just the surgeon. There may also be a case against the hospital, the pathology lab, and possibly a medical device manufacturer.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
If you proceed in filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against your surgeon, there are a few time-sensitive actions that you will need to keep in mind.
- How Long You Have to File a Claim
Before you file a medical malpractice claim, you have to know if your case is still within the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the time frame in which legal proceedings must happen. This time can vary per state. In some states, the statute of limitations begins after the operation, while in others, it begins once the injury is discovered. It is essential to familiarize yourself with your state’s statute of limitations if you are not already.
If you don’t know about or disregard the statute of limitations, you will wave your rights to receive any money for your sustained injuries.
- Hire a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
After reviewing your state’s statute of limitations and deciding to move forward with your case, you will need to find a reputable medical malpractice lawyer. Your lawyer will move swiftly in compliance with your state’s statute of limitations. Depending on your state, you may have pre-lawsuit requirements. These requirements could include affidavits from medical experts, review boards, and notices of intent to file suit. An attorney who routinely handles medical malpractice cases will have the experience, contacts, and procedural know-how to ensure that your case is situated for success. Make sure that you find the right medical malpractice lawyer for you and your case.
- Obtain Copies of Your Medical Records
Medical records are usually the best evidence in a medical malpractice case. Due to privacy laws, you will have to sign a release allowing your attorneys and the defendant’s attorneys access to copies of your medical records. You can get a head start on this process by requesting a copy of your records as soon as you believe you may have a case.
To win a medical malpractice case, your attorney will have to prove that each of these four elements occurred:
- Duty of Care- There are, of course, certain risks associated with surgery. While keeping in mind these risks, the surgeon has a legal obligation to the patient to perform the surgery reasonably and responsibly. If the surgeon fails to approach the surgery with care and caution and disregards the risks associated with it, they may be in breach of duty of care.
- Negligence- Negligence occurs when a doctor does not perform the standard of care and does something that no reasonable physician would do in the circumstances. This could include a variety of accidents; one would be failing to verify the patient’s blood type before a blood transfusion.
- Liability- Liability is responsibility. Physicians who act negligently are usually found responsible for whatever damages the patient sustains because of their actions.
- Damages- Damages can refer to a variety of costs that are needed after the initial incident. If a surgeon acts negligently, the patient could have damages such as additional corrective medical treatments or procedures, out-of-pocket medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.