Medical malpractice claims filed in Georgia and elsewhere often involve surgical errors. In fact, the medical liability insurer Coverys analyzed all the closed malpractice claims it dealt with between 2014 and 2018 and found that one-fourth of the claims had something to do with surgery. This made it the second leading cause of claims behind diagnostic errors at 32%.
Of these surgery-related claims, 78% involved some aspect of practitioner performance during the surgery itself. Failures in clinical judgment or communication were alleged in 27% of claims. This stands to reason because many operating rooms are full of distractions, including music, conversations, the noise of cellphones ringing and visitors coming in and out.
In 29% of claims, the patient had suffered “permanent significant” injuries or worse. In 9%, the patient died. The most impacted fields were general surgery, accounting for 22% of claims, and orthopedic surgery, accounting for 17%.
Several grievous mistakes were represented among the claims in that five-year period. In 7%, surgeons left a foreign object inside the patient. Unnecessary procedures were alleged in 4% and harmful delays in 3%. Another 3% involved the wrong side, site or patient being operated on. Experts say that in addition to striving for a distraction-free OR, hospitals should involve patients more in the pre-surgical decision-making process to reduce errors.
Not all errors can be avoided, unfortunately, but those who believe they have good grounds for a medical malpractice case may be compensated for their losses. It takes work to achieve a fair settlement, and victims might still be physically recovering from their injuries, so it may be smart to hire a lawyer. Gathering evidence and negotiating for a settlement, hopefully out of court, might all be made easier with legal representation.