When you hear the news that you’ll need to go under the knife for surgery, it’s normal to feel anxious and scared. Even though the United States has some of the highest medical standards in the world, there’s always the possibility that something could go wrong. We all trust that the medical professionals responsible for our care will do their jobs effectively and avoid making mistakes during the procedure. But sadly, surgical errors happen every day in the U.S.
The medical community has a term for surgical errors – “never events”. This means that there is never any valid excuse for making a mistake during surgery. While surgical errors may be more common than most people think, the vast majority of surgical procedures are completed safely, effectively, and with no complications. So when a surgical error does happen, it’s important to demand accountability from the responsible healthcare professional. These negligent healthcare professionals can be held liable for economic and noneconomic losses in medical malpractice lawsuits.
According to WebMD, there are more than 4,000 preventable surgical mistakes every year – accounting for over $1.3 billion in medical malpractice payouts. A study released by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that between 1990 and 2010, there were about 10,000 paid malpractice settlements and judgments for medical errors. The study went on to determine that each week surgeons:
- Leave a foreign object (e.g. a sponge or towel) inside of a patient’s body following the operation 39 times
- Perform the wrong surgical procedure on a patient 20 times
- Operate on the wrong body site 20 times
In all likelihood, surgical errors are probably more common than the 4,000 per year figure, as many surgical errors go unreported unless serious health complications arise. When patients do suffer health problems from surgical errors, the consequences are often serious – 59% of surgical error victims suffer temporary injuries, 33% suffer permanent injuries, and 6.6% die because of complications related to the error.
How Can Surgical Errors Be Prevented?
All hospitals have procedures in place to make sure surgeries go safely and without any mistakes, including:
- Mandatory “timeouts” to double check medical records and surgical plans, making sure they match the patient
- Counting sponges and other equipment before and after the procedure
- Using surgical checklists
- Marking the surgery site with indelible ink
When the protocol is properly followed, these mistakes should never happen. But sometimes, surgeons make serious errors even when following proper safety procedures. This could be due to a lack of attention to detail, sleep deprivation from being overworked, or a failure to communicate with others in the operating room – just to name a few examples.
In many cases, surgical errors are committed by professionals with a history of medical negligence. Nearly two-thirds of surgeons who made surgical errors between 1990-2010 had been cited in more than one other malpractice report in the past. 12.4% of these surgeons had committed more than one surgical never event.
Filing A Malpractice Claim After A Surgery Error
In order to have grounds for a surgical error malpractice lawsuit, you and your medical malpractice lawyer must prove three separate things:
- You had a doctor-patient relationship with the surgeon
- The surgeon violated the medical standard of care by making a surgical error
- This violation directly led to your health problems
This may sound simple, but it’s more complicated in practice. Proving medical negligence requires a careful overview of medical records and other evidence. Additionally, it’s usually necessary to have testimony from a medical expert who can define the medical standard of care, explain how your surgeon violated this standard, and how this violation was the direct cause of your injury, illness, or other health problems.
Do I Need A Lawyer To Sue For Malpractice?
Securing a settlement or court judgment in a medical malpractice lawsuit is more difficult than most other personal injury cases. Healthcare professionals and their employers are represented by powerful malpractice insurance companies, who specialize in finding ways to deny payouts. In order to acquire all of the medical evidence you need and present an effective argument in court or in negotiations with insurance companies, we highly advise seeking legal representation from an experienced New York City medical malpractice lawyer.
Our NYC medical malpractice lawyers have helped thousands of New Yorkers get the financial support they need after being injured by someone else’s negligence. We can help you build a successful case and secure compensation for all damages related to your surgical error, including:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of consortium for spouse
- And other related damages
If you want to find out more about your legal options as the victim of medical malpractice, get in touch with us today for a free consultation.