All medical procedures, including surgeries, have risks associated with them. Although surgeons and other healthcare providers take measures to avoid surgical mishaps, mistakes still sometimes happen. And when they do, serious injuries and damages can result. Some of the most likely causes of surgical errors include neglect, poor communication between doctors and nurses, misdiagnoses, surgeon incompetence, and botched procedures.

Surgical error cases fall under the umbrella of medical malpractice. When a surgeon makes a preventable error during a procedure, the injured patient may be able to file a claim against the negligent surgeon, as well as the hospital or medical facility where the error occurred.

If you or someone you love was harmed as a result of a surgical error, you may be able to pursue monetary compensation for your injuries and damages. Insurance companies often vigorously defend surgical error cases. An Albany attorney may assist you by gathering the necessary medical evidence, negotiating with insurance companies, and litigating your case through the court system if necessary.

Common Operation Error Causes

Surgical errors can occur under a variety of circumstances, some of which are more dangerous than others. Some cases stem from simple mistakes made in earnest. Hospital staff may forget to properly sterilize surgical equipment, or the surgeon or treating doctor may misdiagnose or fail to recognize symptoms, leading to an unnecessary or incorrect surgical procedure. These kinds of errors may also lead to premature discharge of a patient who still requires medical observation, producing avoidable complications in otherwise normal procedures.

In the same vein, lack of communication can be a major contributing factor to surgical errors. It may seem unlikely, but surgeons have operated on the wrong body part or performed an unwanted medical procedure without the patient’s consent. This can happen if a surgeon is misinformed, or perhaps acts independently from the rest of their team.

Fatigue can also play a significant role in causing errors in the operating room, especially if the surgeon has been working hours on end without a break. In these circumstances, some fault may lie with the hospital administration for failing to properly manage the schedules and personal health of doctors on staff.

Finally, and in very rare cases, an operating error occurs when a surgeon lacks the necessary medical knowledge, training, or experience for a successful operation. An unaware or negligent doctor may even leave a sponge, towel, or another surgical instrument inside a patient’s body after a procedure is completed.

Claims Based on Surgical Errors

In order to prove a surgeon committed a serious medical error, the patient must show that the surgeon breached their applicable duty of care. All surgeons are held to the standard of care of a reasonable surgeon acting under the same or similar circumstances. Specialists are typically held to a national standard of care.

In order to prove a surgical error occurred, the injured patient must establish that the surgeon breached – or violated – this standard of care, directly resulting in certain injuries and damages.

Difference Between Complications and Malpractice

It is useful to understand the difference between complications and medical malpractice. The outcome of both complications or malpractice both have the potential to be deadly. However, complications on their own might not lead to a viable civil lawsuit.

A complication is a term for a negative event that happens during the course of a procedure. These complications are generally related to factors that were present within the patient prior to the beginning of the surgery and is outside the control of the doctor. Some complications result from the nature of the underlying condition while others are tied to the health of the patient. Certain medical procedures carry some degree of unavoidable risk and these negative events can occur despite the best efforts of the doctor.

Malpractice differs from a complication in that it is an avoidable error caused directly by the carelessness of the surgeon or medical staff. Unlike a complication, malpractice is something that only happens when mistakes are made. Surgical errors are some of the most severe and egregious forms of medical malpractice.

The Certificate of Merit

Surgical error lawsuits—and medical malpractice cases in general—have a unique requirement that does not apply to other types of injury lawsuits. This requirement is known as the certificate of merit.

The certificate of merit is a legal document prepared by an Albany surgeon negligence lawyer and filed along with a lawsuit. This document must set out that the lawyer consulted with an expert in the relevant field of medicine and that expert agrees that the lawsuit has merit.

These medical experts must be physicians and they must have a comparable level of experience to the doctor facing the lawsuit. The expert must review the documents of the case and confirm that there are grounds to believe the defendant failed to comply with accepted medical practices, and failed to meet the minimum standard of care. Only one certificate of merit is necessary in a given case, even if there are multiple defendants in the lawsuit.

Courts and the Certificate of Merit

New York law requires that the plaintiff file the certificate of merit along with the lawsuit and the courts can prevent a case from proceeding if they fail to do so. While the certificate of merit is mandatory in all surgical error cases, there are some situations where the courts will be flexible.

Specifically, the courts have the power to grant extensions for filing the certificate of merit in cases where the statute of limitations is approaching. If the statute of limitations is close to expiring and a local surgical error attorney has not yet been able to secure a certificate of merit, the law allows a plaintiff to file the lawsuit without the certificate attached. In these cases, the court can give up to 90 additional days for the plaintiff’s attorney to attach a certificate of merit to the lawsuit after it was filed.

Contact an Albany Surgical Error Lawyer Today

When a surgeon commits an error, injured patients may be entitled to damages based on medical bills and lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and more. An Albany surgical error attorney can review your case and symptoms with you to determine whether or not you may be entitled to monetary damages under the law. Call today to discuss your case and learn more.