Can I Sue a Surgeon for Nerve Damage?
Healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, surgeons, and medical specialists have a duty of care to do no harm to their patients. When a healthcare professional fails to meet the standard of care for a patient’s condition and injures the patient, that professional commits medical malpractice. Surgical errors are one of the most common causes of medical malpractice claims in the United States.
A “surgical error” may refer to a clear mistake made during surgery, such as a surgeon injuring healthy tissue during a procedure, using the wrong type of instrument, anesthesia errors, or failure to properly monitor a patient. Surgical errors may also describe cases involving secondary medical conditions resulting from botched surgical procedures. Nerve damage is one of the most common kinds of these conditions, and nerve damage often occurs from medication and anesthesia errors as well as physical mistakes made during surgery. If you or somebody you love has experienced nerve damage after surgery, learn your legal options by speaking with a knowledgeable Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney.
Nerve Damage from Physical Mistakes
Surgeons often need to work very close to nerves in patients’ bodies, and a minor slip can damage nerves tremendously. Accidentally severing a nerve can impair the patient’s sensation or even motor function in the affected area. Rubbing or aggravating a nerve can cause inflammation. While a surgeon may make a mistake and hastily move to correct it, nerve damage can be permanent. Additionally, damage to a nerve in one area of the body may cause pain in connected areas or result in chronic pain.
Nerve Damage from Anesthesia and Medication Errors
Nerve damage from anesthesia errors can have effects ranging from minor nerve damage to impaired brain and nervous system functions. There are three basic types of anesthesia: local, regional, and general. Local anesthetic only works on a small area of the body, and the physician will administer this type of anesthesia with a syringe. Whoever administers a syringe of local anesthetic must be careful not to hit any nearby nerves to prevent nerve damage.
Regional anesthesia affects a larger portion of the body and often requires a spinal injection. The spinal cord is a thick cluster of nerves that extends from the brain down through the spinal column, branching out into the nerve endings throughout the body. If a surgeon damages the spinal cord while administering a regional anesthetic, it can cause permanent damage. Unlike the rest of the body, the spinal cord cannot self-repair. Any damage to the spinal cord is permanent and will likely entail a loss of sensation, loss of function, or both in the affected areas.
General anesthesia will render a patient unconscious. This type of anesthesia is necessary for many major surgeries, but it can also cause nerve damage in many ways. For example, when the body senses discomfort or a pinched nerve, the person will move his or her body to adjust for this. However, a patient under general anesthesia will not be able to do so.
Legal Remedies for Nerve Damage
If a healthcare professional harmed you in any way during the course of treatment you can pursue a medical malpractice claim to hold him or her accountable for the resulting damage. Nerve damage often has the potential to be permanent or cause long-term pain and discomfort. Some patients will require additional corrective surgeries to repair damaged nerves, while others may experience permanent disability such as loss of motor function or brain damage. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is the best way for patients who suffer nerve damage from surgical errors to secure compensation for their losses.
A medical malpractice claim follows a similar framework as a typical personal injury claim with a few notable exceptions. The plaintiff must prove that an official doctor-patient relationship existed between him or her and the defendant. The plaintiff must also prove that the defendant failed to meet the standard of care in the given situation, and this usually requires testimony from an expert witness with a background in a relevant field of medicine. If you have experienced nerve damage after a surgical procedure and want to know your options for legal recourse, reach out to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer in your area.