PREVENTABLE SURGICAL ERRORS OFTEN RESULT IN SERIOUS DAMAGES CAN THAT CAN SEVERELY AFFECT THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
Surgical mishaps such as birth injury, leaving instruments in the body after surgery, operating on the wrong body part, misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose serious illness, and errors in anesthesia administration are devastating to the patient and can result in violations of Pennsylvania medical malpractice law.
If the damages were caused by negligent care on the part of medical professionals or systemic negligence on the part of the institution, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit to receive compensation for your loss. If you have suffered from malpractice resulting from surgery, you have legal rights to try to get compensation for, among other things, past and future lost wages, medical and hospital bills, alterations to your home and lifestyle, scarring, disfigurement, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of life’s pleasures.
For a claim to be successful, the burden of proof, by a preponderance of the evidence, is typically on the plaintiff for most issues. It is therefore essential to have a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer on your side. Attorney Cliff Rieders literally wrote the book on medical malpractice. Medical Malpractice Law in Pennsylvania is used by most lawyers in the state. He is an experienced and compassionate Pennsylvania surgical medical malpractice attorney who has spent decades honing his skills and successfully representing families who have suffered an injury or loss due to surgical medical negligence.
We offer a free consultation to examine your situation and show you how we can help.
What is Surgical Malpractice?
According to Pennsylvania law, surgical medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional commits medical negligence related to surgery by violating the generally accepted standard of care used by other medical professionals in the same field. The negligence must be a factual cause that resulted in the patient’s injuries, caused by the professional’s actions or omission of actions, and the injury must have led to damages.
Surgical malpractice occurs more commonly than you would think. A Johns Hopkins malpractice study showed that preventable surgery errors – called “never events” because they should never happen – occurred approximately 10,000 times in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010.
The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority receives approximately one-third (1/3) of one million reports a year of incidents and serious events. Patients and their families are supposed to receive notification of “serious events.” We know that “serious events” are actually underreported in Pennsylvania. Yet, in spite of this, there are less than 1,400 lawsuits a year filed in Pennsylvania. Most people do not sue. When they do file a claim, they should be represented by a competent and knowledgeable attorney.
Common Surgical Errors
The following are common surgical errors that may amount to malpractice:
- Wrong-site surgery – operating in the wrong area of the body, the wrong limb or eye.
- Wrong surgical procedure — removing the wrong part of the body, such as limbs, organs, and tissue.
- Wrong patient surgery — surgery was meant for another patient, unrelated to the patient’s diagnosis, or the diagnosis was wrong.
- Surgical instruments such as retractors, sponges, and surgical towels are left in the body. Internal organs are nicked, punctured, or otherwise injured during surgery. That should not be.
- The use of unsanitary instruments during surgery can result in serious infections and sepsis, which may lead to death. The failure to protect against infections or to catch those infections early may be another cause for a claim.
- Nerve damage may be caused by a surgical mistake or an anesthesia error.
- Medication errors, including mistakes in labeling, incorrect dosage and neglecting to treat a problem indicated by the patient’s vital signs.
- There are many other matters in surgical malpractice which we have encountered representing clients over many years.
Factors contributing to Surgical Errors
Surgeons are very busy and sometimes too busy. They work under tremendous pressure to make money. Some hospitals fire doctors who do not bring in enough money through surgeries. In many compensation systems, surgeons actually benefit when there are complications, because they must perform additional surgeries. Errors commonly occur due to:
- Inexperience or lack of technical competence in the surgeon
- Communication breakdown between surgeon and other medical personnel or surgeon and patient
- Distraction of surgeons, anesthesiologists, or other medical staff while performing surgery or caring for patients
- Fatigue from performing too many surgeries in a day or other factors
- Taking on a surgery that the doctor should not be doing
- Performing unnecessary surgery
- Performing surgery to make money or to test a product or benefit financially from a medical device or pharmaceutical manufacturer.
Types of Surgical Malpractice Cases
Our surgical medical malpractice team handle cases involving the following, along with many others:
- Laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery
- Orthopedic surgery and arthroscopic surgery on knees, shoulders and joints
- LASIK surgery that is performed where it is counter-indicated
- Back surgery and spinal surgery
- Brain surgery
- Sinus surgery that causes brain damage
- Obstetric procedures and surgeries related to birth complications
- Hysterectomy and other gynecological procedures
- Tools, sponges and equipment left in surgical sites
- Problematic dental procedures and oral surgery
- Product liability and medical devices
- Anesthesia malpractice.
If you win a medical/hospital malpractice case, or if a settlement is possible, you may receive compensation for the following:
1) Economic or monetary damages, including but not limited to:
- Medical and hospital expenses such as those incurred for the surgery itself, as well as costs concerning rehabilitation, therapy, and future surgeries or hospital, medical, pharmaceutical and prosthetic remedies
- Time spent away from work, lost wages and earnings and potential future earnings
- Funeral costs and costs of administration.
2) Non-economic damages. These are damages such as quality-of-life issues: loss of life’s pleasures, pain and suffering, emotional distress and trauma, disfigurement, or loss of consortium, companionship and enjoyment of life. A spouse or the family may also have their own claim or cause of action, depending upon the circumstances.
3) Punitive damages. In rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded where an enhanced standard is met. In this situation, punishment damages, unrelated to the economic or noneconomic damages, but with a cap in Pennsylvania, may be awarded by the court to discourage similar situations from occurring.
How long will my case take?
Medical malpractice litigation can be relatively quick or can take several years. The course and length of a case can vary, depending upon the attitude of the doctor or the insurance company, the demands of the victim and whether appeals or trials are required. Some judges are much more efficient than others, as are some court systems.
In determining negligence, many factors are involved. If a surgeon cuts the wrong structure and fails to diagnose it, or does not identify that it could cause harm, it may be negligence. However, if the surgeon immediately recognizes the problem and tries to repair it, it would be more difficult to prove negligence. Doing so would involve careful examination of records and testimony of expert witnesses in the field to determine whether there was a deviation from the standard of care that caused injury.
Statute of Limitations
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is two (2) years from the date the cause of the problem accrues. Pennsylvania has a discovery rule, where the statute of limitations begins to run when a person knew or should have known of the relationship between the medical care and the harm. This is a very complex set of rules. No one should assume that there is one simple test for extending the statute of limitations beyond the two (2) years.
Pennsylvania also has a statute of repose, which is seven (7) years. For cases after March 2002, injured patients are allowed up to seven years from the date the medically negligent act occurred. If the injury is discovered more than seven years after the medically negligent act occurred, you will not be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, a minor does not have to start an action prior to the age of 20.
The law in Pennsylvania is not absolutely clear in a death case. When a case involves death, it can bring both a wrongful death and a survival action. The wrongful death action must be brought within two (2) years of the date of death. However, the survival action may have to be brought within two (2) years of when the cause of action accrued, and this could even be before death! This is a very confusing area of the law, and the courts have not absolutely resolved it.
Put Your Trust Our Surgical Malpractice Attorneys
If you or a loved one has suffered from surgical medical malpractice, time is of the essence. The laws are complicated, so it is essential to have a skilled and knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer on your side.
Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a favorable trial verdict, our experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney is familiar with the law and thoroughly prepared and committed to achieving a just outcome and getting you the compensation you deserve. With our sizeable staff, we offer strength in numbers while providing top-notch personal service.
Based in Williamsport, we serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, offering a free consultation on all injury matters. More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.