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Surgical Errors

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March 31, 2023

Surgeons train for years for the privilege of operating on another human being. When they or other members of their team fail to appropriately exercise this privilege, patients can be harmed. A surgical error can cause a patient to suffer infections, chronic pain, extended recovery time, additional procedures, disfigurement, and other painful outcomes. In some cases, a surgical error or the complications that arise from it can be fatal.

When a surgical error occurs, the injured patient or their loved ones may be able to recover compensation for their financial losses and their pain and suffering by bringing a medical malpractice claim against the surgeon, hospital, or other healthcare provider. If you think you have been harmed by surgical errors, our medical malpractice attorneys can advise you on your legal rights.

When can you bring a negligence claim for a surgical error?

When a surgeon or the surgical team acts inappropriately, and that causes harm to a patient, the patient can bring a legal claim for medical malpractice. It is not unusual for an error to occur during surgery, but typically it is a minor error that is rectified as part of the surgery and does not cause harm to the patient. However, if the patient does suffer harm, the patient may have a claim for medical malpractice. The fundamental elements of any medical malpractice claim are: a medical professional owed a duty of reasonable care to the patient; they failed in that duty; and their failure caused harm. If each of these elements are present, the injured patient may be able to bring a medical malpractice claim.

Each state has a legal deadline for filing medical malpractice claims, known as the statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania and Delaware, a victim of medical malpractice typically has 2 years to file a claim, while in Maryland, the deadline is 3 years. The statute of limitations period may be affected by unique factors specific to your case, so it is important to talk to a medical malpractice attorney to find out how long you have to file a claim.

Who is legally responsible for surgical errors?

A patient undergoing surgery is cared for by many different healthcare providers, any of whom could make an error that constitutes medical malpractice. There may therefore be multiple defendants in your medical malpractice claim. Typical defendants in a medical malpractice case include the healthcare providers or their employers and the treating facility, such as the surgeon, anesthesiologist, radiologist, nurse practitioners, and the ambulatory care center, hospital, or healthcare system.

As your attorney obtains more information about your case through discovery (the legal process through which the parties exchange documents, information, and witness depositions,) they may add or remove defendants. The discovery process is extremely important to finding out what exactly happened in your care, how strong your case is, and how much compensation you should be able to recover.

What compensation can I get if I am a victim of surgical errors?

If you have been injured by a surgical error, you are entitled to compensation for monetary and non-monetary losses. Your spouse or children could also be eligible for compensation for the loss of your support, companionship, or consortium. It is important to remember that the compensation only covers losses caused by the surgical error, not the costs of the original planned surgery, unless the surgery should not have been offered and performed.

Monetary losses or economic damages from medical negligence cover past and future expenses, including:

  • Hospital bills
  • Physician fees
  • Pharmacy bills
  • Physical therapy or occupational therapy expenses
  • Testing and imaging fees
  • Other medical expenses
  • Lost wages and benefits
  • Home and vehicle modifications
  • At-home nursing care

Non-economic damages refer to harm caused by medical negligence that is non-monetary and therefore cannot be proven with invoices, receipts, or insurance E.O.B.s. Non-economic damages cover the pain and suffering (physical and mental), and loss of enjoyment of life that you have suffered as a result of the surgical errors. In a medical malpractice claim that goes to trial, this amount is determined by a jury. Therefore, it is important to have the advice of a medical malpractice attorney who understands what a jury values and how to get you the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering as a result of surgical errors. 

What types of surgical errors could be medical negligence?

Surgery is a broad medical field which encompasses many subspecialities including orthopedic surgery, pediatric surgery, neurosurgery, robotic surgery, cardiac surgery, plastic surgery, transplant surgery, and numerous other types. Surgical procedures are also used in other medical fields such as obstetrics and gynecology, urology, and critical care medicine.

Surgical errors may include:

  • Operating on the wrong limb or location
  • Cutting or injuring a nerve or blood vessel
  • Injuring adjacent organs
  • Failing to appropriately limit the risk of infection
  • Operating on the wrong patient
  • Leaving an object inside the patient (Retained Foreign Object or R.F.O)
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Deficient informed consent for procedure
  • Operating inappropriately on a high risk patient

Outside the operating room, there are also risks of medical malpractice, such as wound infection from a failure to monitor or hospital negligence. We place our trust in medical professionals, and they owe a duty to provide care of a reasonable standard, or they will be held legally and financially accountable for their failures. 

Why choose Morris James to represent you?

The medical malpractice attorneys at Morris James can help you get answers to the questions you have about your medical care, and hold the negligent medical professional accountable. We have spent years handling medical malpractice cases, including claims involving surgical errors, and we have the experience, skills, and network of medical experts necessary to get you the compensation you deserve.

At Morris James, our attorneys have been protecting our clients’ legal rights since we opened our doors in 1932. If you or a loved one has been injured by surgical errors, contact us online or call 302.888.6857 to talk to our medical malpractice lawyers.


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