Medical professionals have a legal duty to their patients to provide a standard of care during surgeries and medical treatments. When this duty of care is violated through negligent acts or omissions, common types of surgical errors can occur that may cause harm or death to the patient.

If you are injured by surgical errors in Illinois, Ankin Law medical malpractice lawyers in Chicago can help you recover compensation for your injuries. Call us today at 312-600-0000.

Types of Surgical Errors in Illinois

Surgical errors in Illinois can occur anywhere within the health care system, but are most commonly seen in hospitals, surgery centers, outpatient clinics, and doctors’ offices. According to the World Health Organization, more than 3 million patient deaths occur each year due to unsafe healthcare practices, and 50% of patient deaths are preventable.

Studies show that surgical errors in the United States occur at a high rate, with 10% of injuries in hospital and surgical settings and most adverse events occurring in pre-surgery and post-surgery patients. In the United States, surgical errors are the third leading cause of patient deaths.

The most common types of surgical errors in Illinois include:

Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia errors are one of the most common types of surgical errors that occur in hospitals and surgery centers, and they can have profound effects on patients. During surgery, anesthesia helps to regulate numerous bodily functions including a patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels. When patients are given incorrect doses of anesthesia, they can suffer numerous complications including aspiration and pneumonia, blood clots, bladder problems, intestinal problems, mental confusion, and permanent brain damage.

Leaving Foreign Objects in a Patient

Unfortunately, leaving foreign objects in a surgical patient is a common medical error that occurs frequently. According to the National Institute of Health reports, more than 70% of injury claims following surgery are due to retained surgical sponges. Surgical procedures commonly include sponges, absorbent and gauzy materials used to soak up blood and fluids collected in surgical sites. When sponges are left behind, patients suffer severe abdominal pain, swelling of the stomach, damage to internal organs, and severe infections.

Operating on the Wrong Patient

Operations performed on the wrong patient are common types of surgical errors. In most cases, this happens because the patient’s medical records are not read or checked manually by the operating staff, or the patient’s medical records are mistakenly switched with another patient scheduled for a surgical procedure with the same doctor or on the same day.

Operating on the Wrong Site

Operating on the wrong patient and operating on the wrong injury site are often referred to as surgical “never events”, those medical mistakes that should never occur. Although these types of medical errors are completely preventable, medical data from Johns Hopkins University shows that the prevalence of “never event” surgical errors in the United States is high, occurring at least 4,000 times each year. Operations on the wrong injury site include removing or replacing the wrong organ, or the amputation of a wrong limb or body part.

Negligent Post-Operative Care

A surgical procedure requires post-operative follow-up care immediately after the procedure and during the healing process. This care is crucial to a patient’s recovery and good health. When a surgeon, doctor, or other medical professional fails to monitor a patient after surgery in an operating room or practice ways to prevent medical errors, it can result in prolonged healing, as well as serious internal infections which can be fatal for the patient.

What Are the Legal Implications of Surgical Errors in Illinois?

When surgical errors are caused by a surgeon or a medical professional involved in a surgical procedure, it may be considered medical malpractice under Illinois laws. If so, patients who sustain injuries from a surgical procedure can pursue a claim for compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit.

In Illinois, medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, surgeon, or other medical professional acts in a way that is negligent or reckless, causing an injury, illness, disability, or wrongful death to a patient. Negligence can include not giving a patient proper care or failing to pay attention to a patient. Reckless behavior includes acts by a medical professional that disregard the safety and risks to a patient, such as showing up to work and performing surgery while intoxicated.

Common types of surgical errors can occur throughout the surgical process, such as before the operation, during the surgery, or after surgery during the post-op and recovery periods. Common surgical errors that may have major consequences include:

  • Causing injury to blood vessels, internal organs, or nerves
  • Failure to monitor a patient during surgery or recovery
  • Failure to properly treat wounds
  • Following improper operating techniques
  • Neglecting to explain surgical risks to a patient
  • Operating on a patient while under the influence of alcohol or drugs

In some cases, elective surgical procedures may involve common types of surgical errors that warrant an injury claim. You can sue for an illness from breast implants if legal grounds for medical malpractice are based on injuries caused by surgical errors. You can’t file a lawsuit based on the aesthetic results of your surgery.

Elements of a Medical Malpractice Case

To establish a credible case of medical malpractice, you need to prove the following elements:

1.      The existence of a doctor-patient relationship

2.      The surgeon or medical professional breached the standard of care

3.      The breach of care caused the patient’s injury or death

4. The patient suffered damages because of the surgical error

When to Hire a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

The complexity of medical malpractice cases makes it essential to have an experienced medical malpractice lawyer on your side who handles these types of cases. Many states have created procedural loopholes and roadblocks for medical malpractice injury victims to discourage the practice of filing frivolous injury claims in court. Proving that a healthcare professional provided substandard care by negligent actions or omissions takes a lawyer who understands state laws and has the knowledge and legal experience necessary to win your case.

According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Justice, only about 8% of medical malpractice cases proceed to court trials, while 92% are resolved through settlement agreements. Although settlements are a less costly and less lengthy means of resolving malpractice cases, successful court trials can have a big payoff for victims when medical negligence is proven in court.

Currently, in Illinois, there are no limits on medical malpractice damages that can be awarded to victims. Before 2010, non-economic damages for medical negligence were limited to a maximum of $500,000 against healthcare workers, and damages against hospitals were limited to $1 million. This Illinois law has since been ruled unconstitutional, so Illinois no longer places caps on non-economic damages caused by medically negligent actions of hospitals, doctors, and medical staff. Changes make it possible for lawyers to recover large monetary awards for victims.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Illinois

In Illinois, a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the injury, when you reasonably should have known about your injury, or when you received notice of your injury. However, Illinois sets a “statute of repose” (an outer limit) of four years on medical malpractice lawsuits filed within the state. This means you have four years to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, but after those four years pass, you are not permitted to file a medical malpractice lawsuit for your injuries, no matter when you discovered or should have known that you were injured.

If you suffer injuries from a surgical procedure, talk to your lawyer about a court trial vs. a settlement agreement. Court trials follow a legal process that includes screening and selecting jurors, collecting witness statements, calling expert witnesses, presenting evidence, and opening and closing arguments. From beginning to end, a court case may last up to two years before a verdict is reached. A settlement agreement may be a better option with faster results. In most cases, victims of medical malpractice or negligence can receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, lost future wages or earning capacity, rehabilitation and therapy expenses, emotional distress, and pain and suffering. Your lawyer can explain each process and the one that will get you the best results.

If surgical errors are responsible for your injuries, contact us today. Our team of Chicago lawyers can help you get the compensation you need.