In general, if a surgeon makes a mistake during surgery, this surgical error may be considered medical malpractice. A patient may have a legal claim to receive compensation for medical errors and additional medical costs if a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed promptly. Learn more about medical malpractice claims, such as how to build a successful case against a surgeon and who is eligible to file a lawsuit.
What Is Considered Medical Malpractice?
There are many ways surgical errors can become a medical malpractice claim. Common surgical errors can include wrong patient surgery and wrong site surgery. In some cases, a failed surgery that requires the patient to undergo another procedure or results in extreme medical complications may also be considered malpractice.
Injuries from surgical instruments can also fall under the medical malpractice umbrella, particularly if the surgeon makes an extreme medical error with the surgical instrument.
Although surgeries are risky, patients should expect a successful outcome, which is why errors during surgery are so damaging. Other common examples of medical malpractice include:
Failure to Diagnose
Failure to diagnose the patient promptly or correctly can also sometimes be considered an act of medical malpractice. A doctor is obligated to provide a patient with prompt care, so if a patient sees a physician without receiving a proper diagnosis for their condition, this is considered a preventable mistake and may make the doctor liable for any ensuing injuries the patient may have.
Many types of errors can occur in the operating room, including anesthesia errors. When a surgeon operates on a patient, it may be necessary to use general anesthesia or other sedatives, which are known to have risk factors such as suppressing the respiratory system.
Errors with anesthesia when patients undergo surgery can result in severe brain, respiratory, and cardiac damage. Extreme errors can also result in the death of the patient.
Birth injuries can often qualify for medical malpractice claims. In some circumstances, a birth injury can be the result of surgical errors, such as from a cesarean section.
In other cases, a birth injury can be caused by extreme force when using certain surgical implements, such as forceps, to assist with childbirth. A surgical error during childbirth can result in permanent injury to the child or the death of the mother and child.
If a pharmacist makes a mistake when filling a prescription, this can have extreme consequences for the patient. A pharmacist who fills the wrong medication or does not provide the patient with information about the possible risks of taking certain medications is liable for malpractice, particularly because patients may be taking several medications that interact with each other.
Wrong medication errors can also result in a malpractice claim if a physician prescribes the wrong medication to the patient. While many medications can address various physical and psychological ailments, it’s still important that patients are being prescribed the correct medication by their doctor since incorrect medications can produce dangerous side effects to the patient if the medication is not appropriate for the patient’s health condition.
In some cases, improper treatment can also result in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Improper treatment has similar circumstances to a surgical error. However, improper treatment occurs when the patient undergoes unnecessary surgery or receives treatment that is inappropriate for their medical condition. In extreme circumstances, improper treatment can result in ongoing medical issues, such as nerve damage.
If a patient dies on the operating table, this may qualify for a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit. For a wrongful death lawsuit, there may be some overlap with other types of malpractice claims, such as a failed surgery or a wrong procedure.
What If a Patient Isn’t Notified of Known Risks?
There may be serious consequences if a person receives care without being notified of the risks associated with treatment. All treatments come with potential complications, and a medical professional must inform patients of these risks before getting consent to treat.
Who Is Liable for Medical Malpractice?
Doctors, surgeons, nursing staff, pharmacists, physical therapists, dentists, chiropractors, and other doctors or healthcare professionals may be liable for medical malpractice. In some circumstances, psychologists and psychiatrists may also be liable for malpractice claims. Depending on the unique circumstances of your case, the medical facility where you received treatment may also be liable for your injury, such as if a hospital did not follow infectious disease protocol.
When Should You Hire a Medical Malpractice Attorney?
A victim may want to file a medical malpractice claim against a medical professional for a medical error if a person has sustained a serious injury. Patients may have a legal claim against a doctor if negligence caused an injury. It’s important for patients who have experienced harm at the hands of a medical professional to contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to file a claim.
How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice?
To file a successful medical malpractice claim, several elements of proof must be met. The baseline criteria for this type of lawsuit is to establish that the victim had a professional relationship with the doctor who treated them. Without establishing the doctor-patient relationship, it’s impossible to file a lawsuit. Two other important elements include:
Highlight the Standard of Care
The care a patient receives should be performed in a reasonably skilled manner. Typically, this means that surgeons and doctors are following the standard procedure protocol for all treatments. This is also known as the standard of care.
Violating or breaching the standard of care may occur if medical professionals neglect to diagnose, treat, or care for people under their care. Sometimes, a breach in the standard of care can include using experimental or inappropriate treatments.
Prove Negligence Caused Injury
It’s also an essential component of a malpractice claim to prove that negligence was the cause of the injury or damages. For a surgeon, negligence may include performing surgery without the proper training. A medical malpractice lawyer will connect evidence from medical records to show that breaching the standard of care created negligent circumstances under which the victim was injured.
What Kind of Evidence Do You Need?
In addition to medical records and the testimony of the individual who a surgeon or doctor harmed, it may also be necessary to collect additional evidence. Getting a second opinion through an independent medical exam (IME) can prove the severity of an injury or can highlight the harm experienced by the injured individual.
If an individual also needed additional appointments or treatments to recover from an injury, this can also prove the injury timeline. Furthermore, all of these medical records will be used to calculate the amount of compensation owed to the victim for the harm caused by the surgeon or doctor.
Who Can File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
In Missouri, most people who are victims of medical malpractice can file a lawsuit about two years after the date of the injury. Sometimes, this statute of limitations is flexible. For instance, if a patient only notices an injury several months after surgery, then an individual will be able to claim a surgical error for two years after the date the injury was first noticed.
As for who is eligible to file a medical malpractice claim, the patient and the patient’s family are usually able to file a lawsuit against a surgeon, doctor, or medical facility for medical malpractice. If the victim is a minor, their parents can file a claim, or the individual can wait until they are over the age of 18 to file a lawsuit.
What Compensation Can You Receive for a Malpractice Lawsuit?
Generally speaking, individuals who were harmed by medical professionals are entitled to claim economic compensation and non-economic compensation. Economic damages can include lost wages, the cost of medical bills, and other financial burdens the individual experienced while recovering from their injury.
Non-economic damages can include pain and suffering, mental anguish for a permanent injury, and monetary compensation for other trauma associated with the medical malpractice injury. Individuals who experience severe medical complications can typically petition for compensation for non-economic damages.
What About Punitive Damages?
Missouri does make allowances for punitive damages in lawsuits, even for medical malpractice cases. However, adding these additional damages to your claim will involve proving that the doctor or surgeon intentionally caused harm or was grossly negligent in a special way, such as operating while under the influence of drugs. Since this is often a difficult claim to prove, punitive damages are not always factored into a medical malpractice settlement.
Whether your injury was caused by a surgeon making an error during surgery or you were injured by a doctor who did not give you proper care, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. This is because doctors make a vow to cause no harm, so patients who become victims of medical malpractice are entitled to compensation. Reach out to Wendt Law Firm at 816-542-6734 to learn how a doctor can be held accountable for your damages.