Surgical errors may be more common than you think. About one per 100,000 surgeries involve a doctor operating on the wrong body part. A whopping one per 7,600 surgeries ends with a doctor leaving behind a foreign object inside the patient’s body.
If you are the victim of a surgical error, it’s important to act fast in filing your claim.
The question is, what steps do you need to take to do so? What will you need to prove in order to build a winning case?
Let’s take a look at the seven steps you should take from the moment you leave the ER after a doctor commits a surgical error.
1. Request Copies of Your Medical Records
After the surgery is complete, request a copy of all relevant medical records. To be on the safe side, it’s recommended that you ask for any records of your interactions with the doctor in question or any records from the past two to three years.
Your medical records should include documentation of any consultations or appointments you received before the surgery as well as all records made of the surgery. You want to establish what your condition was before the surgery, what the doctor was supposed to treat, and what the results of the surgery were.
2. Hire a Surgical Error Lawyer
Time is of the essence when you’re filing a claim for surgical error. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the statute of limitations on a medical malpractice case is two years. That means that you have two years from the point of surgery or from the point you should reasonably have known about the resulting injuries.
To get the ball rolling as quickly as possible, you’re going to want to hire a surgical error lawyer right away. Medical malpractice cases are tricky and without a lawyer by your side, your chances of winning the suit are much lower.
3. Follow Up with Another Doctor
It is important that you follow up with another doctor, both to ensure your personal health and safety and to establish the extent of the damage. Following up with the doctor you are bringing a claim against is not an option as it creates an unavoidable conflict within your case. A new doctor, however, can establish physical evidence of the surgical error.
4. Ask for Witness Statements
Were there other doctors in the operating room when this surgical error occurred? What about nurses or students in training?
The odds that your doctor was the only person in the room during surgery is quite low. If you were under any anesthesia, there would have been an anesthesiologist nearby, if not several nurses assisting with any medical equipment.
To strengthen your case, you’re going to need to talk to these individuals and ask them to submit witness statements. In addition to these witness statements, you may also be able to submit statements from family and friends. These apply only if the surgical error led to an alteration in behavior or clear signs of physical discomfort that friends and family noticed.
5. Establish the Doctor’s Negligence
Negligence is key to your claim and it is also one of the most difficult things to prove. Causes of negligence in surgery are often things like exhaustion, distraction, miscommunication, and technical malfunctions.
Along these same lines, you have to prove that your doctor failed to meet the reasonable standard of care. What this means is that the surgical error in question would not have been committed had another doctor handled your case.
This is often where an expert witness comes into play, someone that your lawyer will bring into the case for you. An expert witness is usually someone who works in the same field as your doctor, which in this case relates to surgical procedures. It is the expert witness’s job to review the facts of your case and explain why your doctor acted negligently and failed to meet the standard of care.
6. Establish That All Injuries Were Not Foreseeable
There are instances where a patient comes out of surgery with a new or worse injury or illness and don’t qualify to file for damages. Why is that?
There are what are considered foreseeable damages in the medical field. Chances are, the patient was made reasonably aware of them before agreeing to undergo the operation. Many procedures do come with possible side effects and these are considered foreseeable risks the patient was willing to take.
However, surgical errors such as leaving behind equipment, operating on the wrong body part, or performing the wrong operation, altogether, are not foreseeable risks. If you have experienced any of these, this step should not be difficult to manage.
7. Quantify the Damage
There are two reasons why quantifying the damage resulting from your doctor’s surgical error is important.
The first is that you want to show that there is enough damage to justify your claim. Something minor that involves a quick and easy recovery will oftentimes not hold in court.
The second is that the more you can quantify the damage, the easier it is to set a number for compensation. In other words, quantifying the damage will allow your lawyer to fight for the money you deserve.
Find a Surgical Error Lawyer Near You
If you are the victim of a surgical error, don’t let this list overwhelm you. It may seem like a big mountain to climb, but that’s what your surgical error lawyer is for. They will know how to gather the proper information and put together a winning case.
If you’re looking for a surgical error lawyer in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, consider the Barkett Law Firm. We have years of experience and a proven track record when it comes to winning medical malpractice cases.
Contact us to begin a consultation on your case.