Most surgeries and medical procedures go off without a hitch. However, some surgeries are more complex than others, and sometimes surgeons make mistakes that can affect the rest of a patient’s life. Given this reality, if you have an upcoming surgery scheduled, there is likely a lot on your mind. When deciding whether to undergo surgery, it’s common to wonder what will happen if the surgery goes wrong.
Patients who suffer adverse results following surgery can face tremendous costs associated with their recovery. For example, medical bills and lost income alone can have a major impact on a family’s financial situation. Add in the uncertainty and the pain and suffering, and the road to recovery suddenly seems even longer. However, patients injured as a result of a surgeon’s negligence can pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against the provider responsible for their injuries.
How Common Are Medical Errors?
While it may come as a surprise, medical errors are among the leading causes of death in the United States. According to a 2017 study, there are as many as 251,000 deaths caused by medical errors each year. This makes medical errors the third-leading cause of death. However, what is perhaps more shocking is that only an estimated 10% of all medical errors are reported.
What Is a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Medical malpractice is an area of personal injury law dealing with the duty that healthcare providers owe to their patients. Generally, all healthcare providers, including doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and surgeons, must provide care that meets the generally accepted standard of care in that particular practice area.
Thus, to successfully bring a medical error lawsuit, a patient must establish four things:
- A doctor-patient relationship that establishes a duty of care;
- The doctor’s violation or breach of the applicable standard of care;
- A causal connection between the patient’s injuries and the doctor’s breach of the standard of care; and
- Legally recognizable damages resulting from the breach.
While these elements seem straightforward in theory, it is important to remember doctors almost always deny being negligent. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can assist victims in understanding their rights and effectively preparing a claim against a negligent surgeon.
Patients who successfully bring a medical malpractice claim following a surgical error can recover compensation for their economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Medical bills;
- Future medical expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Decrease in the ability to earn income;
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of enjoyment of life; and
- Disability or disfigurement.
While nothing can remove the pain that surgical errors can cause, a medical malpractice claim offers patient’s a way to recover much-needed financial compensation following an injury. Of course, medical error settlement value figures vary significantly, but an experienced attorney can give you an idea of what to expect.
Types of Surgical Errors
The surgery risks that come along with a particular procedure vary widely. However, some of the most common surgical errors include the following:
- Nerve damage;
- Anesthesia error;
- Wrong-site surgeries;
- Leaving a foreign object inside a patient’s body;
- Operating on the wrong patient; and
- Poor suturing.
Of course, there are many other types of surgery errors. Any time a surgeon’s mistake causes harm to a patient, the patient may be eligible for a medical malpractice settlement.
Why Surgical Mistakes Happen
Surgeons are some of the most highly specialized and well-compensated medical professionals. So in most cases—assuming a surgeon follows the correct procedure and exercises good judgment—the chance of a surgical error is very low. However, anyone can make a mistake. Doctors are human, and humans are fallible. Therefore, not every surgical error means that the surgeon was negligent. But an adverse patient outcome is a good indication that something went wrong. Some of the reasons why surgical errors occur include the following.
Many healthcare providers work long hours, but ER surgeons often work shifts of 12 hours or longer. However, surgeons are human, and like everyone else, they are more likely to commit an error if they are tired.
On average, surgeons are among the most highly-skilled physicians. However, if a surgeon is new or inexperienced, they may not have the knowledge necessary to competently perform an operation. Clearly, this increases the likelihood of an error.
Surgeons must be extremely careful and deliberate in their actions. From sterilizing their instruments to choosing the correct tool, surgeons have almost no room for error. If a surgeon isn’t as careful as they should be, it can lead to a wide range of poor patient outcomes, including infection and other life-threatening conditions.
Inadequate communication between medical providers or between a surgeon and their patients can increase the chances of a surgical error. Errors such as performing the wrong surgery or the correct surgery on the wrong part of the body happen due to miscommunication. Other common communication errors involve the proper dose of medication or a nurse’s failure to ensure that equipment is available and sterilized before a scheduled procedure.
Poor Preoperative Planning
Surgeons spend a significant amount of time working behind the scene to familiarize themselves with the patient, their medical history, and the procedure they will be performing. This ensures that the surgeon is prepared for the surgery and the unique risks involved. If a surgeon is not well prepared, it is more likely they will make a mistake.
Importantly, there doesn’t always need to be a clear “reason” for a surgeon’s error. Sometimes, mistakes happen for no apparent reason. A dedicated medical malpractice lawyer can help injured patients understand their rights and how to pursue them effectively.
Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
If you or a loved one recently suffered from a medical error, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a settlement or a medical malpractice lawsuit. At the law firm of Batson Nolan PLC, our lawyers have more than a century of experience helping accident victims and their families recover meaningful compensation after an accident. We understand what you are going through. And we know how to make the process as straightforward as possible while maximizing your chance of success.
To learn more and to schedule, a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney, contact Batson Nolan, PLC. You can also connect with us through our online contact form. Calling is free, and we accept medical malpractice cases on a contingency basis. That means we will not bill you for our legal representation unless we can recover money on your behalf.