| Read Time: 4 minutes | Medical Malpractice
surgical errors malpractice cases

Surgeons are some of the most highly-trained and highly-paid doctors. However, they are still human, and humans make mistakes.

Often, a surgical error results in a patient experiencing severe injuries that may have a lasting impact on their life.

At the law firm of Poulos & Coates, LLP, we proudly represent patients who experienced a surgery mistake.

With our help, you can effectively pursue financial compensation through a surgical malpractice case.

What Is a Surgical Error?

A surgical error occurs when a surgeon makes a mistake during a medical procedure that causes injury to a patient. There are several types of surgical errors.

Bad Suture Job

A surgeon must use the proper technique when stitching a patient up after surgery.

If a surgeon uses the wrong material, sews up a wound too tightly, or otherwise fails to perform an adequate suture job, it puts a patient at an increased risk of infection and scarring.

Wrong-Site Surgery

A wrong-site surgery occurs when a surgeon performs a procedure on the wrong part of the body or the wrong organ. Often, these errors are caused when individuals involved in the surgery fail to put the correct information in a patient’s chart.

Organ and Nerve Damage

Surgeons must take special care when operating around vital organs and nerves. If a surgeon negligently nicks an organ or a nerve, it can cause a patient to suffer life-threatening injuries.

Other Errors That Can Occur During Surgery

As noted above, doctors may make mistakes because they rely on incorrect information recorded in the patient’s chart.

Now that most doctors and hospitals have converted from paper files to electronic health record (EHR) systems, a whole new area of medical errors has emerged. Several of these may result in surgical errors.

A few examples are alarming, but all too common. For instance, some medical practices still maintain both paper and electronic records.

If the surgeon reviews only the EHR, they will not have the full picture of the patient’s condition when determining how to proceed with surgery or if surgery is even necessary. 

Similarly, many old electronic records get copied and pasted repeatedly between EHRs, resulting in doctors relying on inaccurate or outdated information. 

Finally, a common feature of EHR systems is drop-down menus that suggest options.

Because of this feature, a physician may start to type the first few letters of the medication they intend to prescribe but click on and prescribe the wrong medication because the EHR system suggests it.

The same goes for dosing. One mistaken click could result in a doctor administering 200 mg of a drug instead of 20 mg, with deadly results. ,

An experienced surgical error lawyer can help you figure out if an EHR-related error caused your surgery to fail.

Can You Sue For Surgery Complications?

Surgery is complex and not all errors amount to malpractice. Some known risks and complications may happen despite a doctor’s best efforts. But if the surgeon made an error, then a surgical suit may be appropriate.

How To Prove the Surgeon Made an Error

When a surgeon makes a mistake during surgery, it can potentially lead to a case of medical malpractice. If such an incident occurs, patients may have the option to pursue legal action to seek compensation for medical errors and any additional medical expenses incurred. Promptly filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is crucial in such situations.

Surgical malpractice cases generally fall under the umbrella of negligence. To successfully bring a medical malpractice claim, a patient must prove each of the following elements:

1.)   The existence of a doctor-patient relationship;

2.)   The care provided by the doctor fell below the generally accepted standard of care; and

3.)   The doctor’s negligence caused or worsened the patient’s injuries.

4.)  Damages: The patient suffered damages (e.g. medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) as a result of the failed surgery.

New Mexico does not limit the amount you may be awarded to cover past and future health care costs resulting from a surgical error, but it does cap the amount you can recover from a doctor, independent health care facility, or hospital.

Your insurance company may help with the lawsuit to recover their costs for your care.

Requirements Before Filing a Lawsuit

Surgical error malpractice cases almost always involve complex medical issues. Thus, there are unique rules that apply to medical malpractice lawsuits.

For example, all patients who plan to file a medical malpractice case against an individual medical provider sometimes must submit their case to the Medical Review Commission (the commission does not review suits against hospitals, outpatient health care facilities, and certain providers who fail to enroll for insurance coverage).

For a surgical suit, the panel reviewing your claim would be three doctors from your surgeon’s profession and three attorneys.

The panel decides whether there is “substantial evidence” that medical malpractice occurred and a “reasonable medical probability” that you were injured by the malpractice. 

If the panel decides that medical malpractice took place and you were harmed by it, this may help you negotiate with the surgeon.

The Commission will also help you find a medical expert witness physician to assist with the trial. New Mexico law generally requires the testimony of an expert witness in medical malpractice cases. 

Those who believe they experienced surgical malpractice should reach out to an experienced surgical error lawyer for assistance.

When Can You Sue a Doctor For Negligence? 

In New Mexico, you generally have three years from the date of the failed surgery to

file a medical malpractice case. For injuries that happened after January 1, 2022, minors have until one year after they turn 18 to file suit and incapacitated individuals have until one year after they regain capacity.

These time limits are put on hold while the Medical Review Commission is reviewing your case though.

Speak with an Experienced Lawyer About Your Surgical Malpractice Case

If you recently were the victim of a bad suture job, wrong-site surgery, or any other type of operation error, reach out to a surgical error attorney at the law firm of Poulos & Coates, LLP.

At Poulos & Coates, LLP, we have more than 70 years of combined legal experience helping patients recover financial compensation for what they’ve been through.

We are also the only New Mexico law firm that focuses only on medical malpractice cases, and we have a doctor and nurse on staff to help evaluate your claims.

To learn more about what to do if a surgeon makes a mistake and to schedule a free consultation, contact Poulos & Coates, LLP, at 575-376-6600 today.

Author Photo

Victor Poulos

Vic Poulos & Greig Coates became law partners in April of 2002, when the two medical malpractice litigators merged their offices, combining what is now over seventy years of litigation experience, to form Poulos & Coates, LLP. Licensed to practice before all State Courts of Texas, New Mexico, Iowa, and Kansas. Licensed to practice before the United States District Courts of Kansas, Iowa, New Mexico, and Texas (Western, Eastern, Southern, and Northern Districts of Texas), as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the U.X. Ax Court.

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