Answers to typical questions after a surgical error
Written By: Rheingold, Valet, Rheingold, Ruffo & Giuffra LLP
Surgical errors occur when the surgeon commits a mistake during surgery. The mistakes can be obvious, like a forgotten sponge or gauze inside of a patient. The errors can be non-obvious like using the wrong tool or procedure. Regardless, errors occur every day because surgeries are performed by doctors and their support teams. This post will address some common questions you may have after a surgical error.
It isn't always obviously that the doctor or hospital committed a mistake. For example, many people develop complications after a surgery simply because they do. No amount of precautions can eliminate the risk of infection or organ rejection. But when a person suffers an injury that is unusual, the courts permit that person to prove only their damages and will presume that the offender committed an error. For example, if you later discover a sponge in your body, you do not need to prove the surgeon made a mistake because it is evident.
Expert witnesses are not always required; it depends on the nature of the injury. For example, a piece of gauze in your torso probably will not mandate an expert witness to discuss whether or not leaving gauze is an acceptable method of treatment. But if the error regards a particular tool or technique, then you may need an expert.
Finally, your case will turn on the content of your medical records. Apparently, the hospital will not want to release them, but you can obtain your records with subpoenas and through regular discovery. The judge may force you to submit the documents directly to her if it is possible that uninvolved people's sensitive information is included in your files (which is possible).
Surgical errors are not always obvious which is why it is a good idea to call an attorney to review your records. If you believe that you were injured by a careless surgeon, a lawyer can help elucidate the situation. The last thing you need is to ignore your right to recovery and pay future medical bills on your own. You shouldn't have to shell out extra money because the doctor made a mistake. A lawyer can ensure that you receive fair compensation to pay for your future medical expenses.