When Surgical Errors Become Malpractice

All surgical procedures have some amount of risk due to their invasive nature. A reputable surgeon makes sure that patients understand the potential complications or effects. Sometimes, surgeries do not have a positive outcome despite the best efforts of medical professionals.

Surgical mistakes rise to the level of medical malpractice when a practitioner’s conduct deviates from acceptable professional standards, harming a patient.

When a surgeon injures you by failing to uphold the same standard of care as a similarly-trained peer, you could bring legal action against them for medical malpractice.

Common Surgical Errors in Lancaster, PA

Surgical injuries occur in hospitals, outpatient facilities, and private practices throughout Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and the country. Surgical mistakes lead to injury, worsened medical conditions, and death.

Our surgical error attorneys handle all kinds of cases related to negligent care before, during, and after surgery.

Wrong-Site Surgery

In wrong-site surgery, the surgical process itself might be correct but performed on the wrong side of the body or the incorrect body part. For example, a surgeon could mistakenly amputate a healthy limb while leaving a gangrenous limb intact.

Contributing Factors in Wrong-Site Surgery

  • Incorrectly marking the correct side or body part
  • Failure to communicate among the surgeon and team
  • Lack of pre-operative verification procedures

Wrong Surgery or Procedure

A wrong surgery error means that a practitioner performed an incorrect and unwanted procedure on a patient. For example, a surgeon removes a patient’s tonsils instead of performing the required appendectomy.

Reasons for Wrong Procedure Errors

  • Failure to double-check with the patient and surgical team
  • Lack of communication between surgeon and team
  • Rushing surgical check-in due to overscheduling

Wrong Patient

This occurs when a surgeon operates on the wrong patient, depriving the correct patient of a required medical procedure. For example, a heart surgeon performs a bypass on a non-cardiac patient.

Contributing Factors for Wrong Patient Errors

  • Failure to confirm patient’s identity, surgeon, procedure, and attending physician
  • Intake error by admitting or pre-operative staff
  • Switching charts for patients with the same or similar last names

Surgical Infections

Surgical infections occur when proper precautions are ignored, causing an infection at the surgical site. For example, a nurse or doctor fails to clean the patient’s skin before making an incision.

Primary Causes of Surgical Site Infections

  • Improperly sanitizing surgical tools
  • Lack of proper handwashing and protective gear
  • Failure to properly clean and dress the surgical wound during recovery

Items Left Inside

This happens more than you may realize. Any surgical items left inside the patient can lead to internal bleeding, infection, and death. For example, forgetting to remove a surgical clamp used to stop the bleeding during the operation.

Reasons for Leaving Surgical Instruments

  • Lack of communication between surgeons and nurses
  • Rushing to complete the surgery due to time pressure
  • Fatigue, alcohol, or drug use

Liability for Surgical Errors

It can be challenging to know the difference between an unintentional error by a competent surgeon or medical malpractice caused by gross negligence.

A surgical errors attorney with Atlee Hall will evaluate the facts against the four required elements of medical malpractice.

Four Elements in a Malpractice Case

The National Institutes of Health consider an act to be medical malpractice if an injured individual can show that the surgeon:

  1. Owed the patient of duty of care to follow accepted professional medical standards
  2. Was derelict of this duty of care
  3. Directly caused injury to a patient through breach of duty
  4. Created economic and emotional damages as a result

Surgeons, doctors, and other medical professionals are only human. They make mistakes. However, they should be accountable when they cause harm by a careless act or failure to act.

Evidence & Certificate of Merit

Under Pennsylvania Code 1042.3, a licensed medical practitioner must determine that your provider’s conduct deviated from accepted professional standards. The official record of their findings is called the certificate of merit, and it shows that a failure to uphold accepted professional levels of care caused injury and loss.

In addition to the certificate of merit, a surgical errors lawyer may also obtain such supporting evidence as:

  • Medical records
  • Test results
  • Examination notes
  • Witness statements

Compensation for Surgical Injuries

Depending on the type and extent of your surgical injuries, you might need additional surgery, rehabilitation, medication, and other treatment. Our attorneys help you obtain compensation for the many ways you have suffered due to negligence.

Atlee Hall has helped clients recover millions of dollars in damages for such losses as:

  • Current and future medical care
  • Prescriptions
  • Medical equipment
  • Adaptive devices and residential accommodations (such as a ramp for wheelchairs)
  • Lost income
  • Reduced earning ability due to disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of consortium or companionship
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish

If you lost a loved one because of a surgical error, you could be entitled to file a wrongful death claim. Our attorneys can guide you through this process.

Surgical Errors: Insurance Claims & Lawsuits

Under Pennsylvania state law, you have two years to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. But in our experience as surgical errors attorneys, most malpractice cases resolve with an insurance settlement. Most surgeons, doctors, and hospitals prefer to keep their errors from reaching a courtroom.

We take care of compiling information, gathering evidence, and filing a claim against the practitioner’s medical malpractice insurance. Our attorneys can often negotiate a substantial settlement for you or a loved one.

In some cases, your best route for recovering fair and full compensation is taking your surgery error case to trial. As experienced trial lawyers, we can also take your case before a judge or jury if negotiations fall through.

Our Surgical Error Attorneys Can Help

If surgical error caused harm to you or a loved one, contact our attorneys right away. Our experienced legal team has the necessary resources and determination to help you recover compensation and justice.

Call Atlee Hall today at  (717) 393-9596 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.