The human foot and ankle together form a complex system that enables balance and absorbs the daily stress of walking, climbing stairs, running, and jumping. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the foot contains 26 bones, over 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and 30 joints. Almost 25 percent of a human’s bones are in the feet!
People who suffer injuries or damage to their feet and ankles often turn to orthopedic or podiatric surgeons for care. Most foot and ankle surgeries go well, but not all do. In some cases, patients leave the hospital or surgical center in worse shape than when they went in, the result of the surgeon or a member of the medical team making a mistake or otherwise failing to do an adequate job of providing care.
Victims of medical malpractice in connection with foot and ankle orthopedic and podiatric surgery have legal rights to compensation from the medical providers who caused them harm. To secure that compensation, those victims need the services of a medical malpractice attorney with years of experience, a deep base of medical and legal knowledge, and a reputation as a top-notch trial attorney.
Below we discuss some of the considerations involved in seeking compensation for injuries caused by medical malpractice in connection with orthopedic and podiatric surgery. To learn more about your rights after suffering such injuries, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney today for a free consultation.
Foot and Ankle Surgery Medical Malpractice Statistics
A study that looked at foot surgery malpractice statistics from over a recent 13-year period found that of the 72 cases it analyzed, 76.4 percent of the lawsuits were against podiatrists, and 15.3 percent were against orthopedic surgeons. Of those filed against podiatrists, 94.5 percent were for elective surgery. Podiatrists were sued in 41.8 percent of the cases for persistent pain and 27.3 percent for deformation. Additionally, 45.5 percent of the lawsuits alleged failure to treat and 27.3 percent for an inappropriate surgical procedure.
What these statistics tell us is that foot and ankle surgery, even elective surgeries that doctors advertise as low risk, can result in serious injuries that disrupt a patient’s life. Never assume that just because you chose to have surgery, you should suffer because the doctor did a bad job. You have legal rights to compensation if your doctor committed malpractice, plain and simple.
Medical Malpractice Overview
Medical malpractice is a legal term that refers to a doctor or other healthcare professional’s failure to treat a patient under the minimum recognized medical standard of care. All doctors and their teams have a legal and ethical obligation to meet the standard of care in treating patients.
The standard of care is what a qualified doctor should reasonably deliver to a patient in a given healthcare setting. The standard of care can vary somewhat from doctor-to-doctor and setting-to-setting. For example, the standard of care a general practice doctor in a rural health clinic can be expected to deliver to a patient with a rare tropical disease is different from the standard of care that same patient can expect to receive from an infectious disease specialist at a major metro research hospital.
When it comes to foot and ankle surgeries performed by orthopedic and podiatric surgeons, however, the standard of care does not have nearly so much flexibility. Only qualified and highly-trained surgeons with experienced surgical teams should perform those surgeries, and the means and methods of caring for patients in those settings should only vary minimally, if at all.
That does not mean, however, that proving medical malpractice in orthopedic or podiatric surgery on a patient’s foot or ankle comes easily. It takes the talents of an experienced attorney who understands the law, the science, and the required medical protocols in foot and ankle surgeries to give an injured patient the best shot at securing the compensation the patient needs and deserves.
Examples of Medical Malpractice in Orthopedic/Podiatric Foot and Ankle Surgery
Orthopedic and podiatric surgeons and their teams can fall short of the medical standard of care in many ways. Some of those happen during surgery itself. Others occur before or after surgery.
Here are some of the more common scenarios that can lead to a medical malpractice claim in connection with orthopedic or podiatric surgery:
- Misdiagnosis of a patient’s condition can lead to a surgeon performing unnecessary or problematic surgery on a patient’s foot or ankle;
- A patient’s lack of informed consent to a surgery, which happens when the foot-and-ankle doctor or medical team fails to explain the surgery, its benefits and drawbacks, its potential risks, and alternatives available to the patient, so that the patient can make an informed decision about whether to proceed;
- Anesthesia errors that result in emergency health complications (such as strokes or allergic reactions) or long-lasting injuries (such as nerve damage);
- Surgical mistakes in the course of performing the procedure, which can include operating on the wrong ankle/foot, accidentally severing nerves, ligaments, or tendons, and lack of sterilization resulting in infection or tissue damage; and
- Inadequate post-surgical care, including failures to immobilize patients adequately to prevent injury during rehabilitation, poor supervision of physical therapy, and giving patients inadequate information about their post-operative care.
These are just some of the many ways that orthopedists, podiatrists, and their teams can inflict harm on a patient. Sometimes, a patient may emerge from surgery sensing something went wrong, but not knowing exactly what happened. By turning to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer for help, that patient can uncover the truth and hold doctors and other medical providers accountable for their preventable and costly errors.
Taking Legal Action for Orthopedic/Podiatric Surgery Medical Malpractice
Victims of orthopedic/podiatric surgeons and providers who commit acts of malpractice have legal rights to compensation under the laws of every state. Obtaining that compensation, however, is no walk in the park.
For years, the medical industry has lobbied aggressively against medical malpractice lawsuits, complaining that they increase medical malpractice insurance premiums. As a result of those efforts, states have passed laws that try to limit medical malpractice claims by making patients and their lawyers jump through hoops to bring a claim forward.
Some of those hoops include:
- Requiring lawyers to certify that they have conducted a pre-lawsuit investigation and that a claim has support in existing law;
- Requiring certifications from medical experts about the validity of claims;
- Requiring patients to give their medical providers advance notice of a potential medical malpractice claim, and to participate in any investigation the provider conducts;
- Requiring the patient and provider to have settlement negotiations before a lawsuit has been filed; and
- Requiring lawyers for injured patients to present a claim to a medical malpractice review board to get permission to move forward with a lawsuit.
The requirements above are examples of the types of challenges a medical malpractice lawsuit can face. They vary from state-to-state, but virtually all states have at least some of them.
For that reason, patients injured by a botched orthopedic/podiatric foot-and-ankle surgery should only seek legal help from a lawyer with years of experience in medical malpractice cases. It will not do to hire just any personal injury lawyer. Only a skilled medical malpractice lawyer can give an injured patient the best shot at securing the compensation the patient deserves.
Categories of Compensation
Injured patients who, with the help of a medical malpractice lawyer, navigate through the challenges of pre-lawsuit procedure, can often file a lawsuit seeking a wide variety of damages from the orthopedist or podiatrist whose errors injured them.
Every case is different of course, and lawyers can never guarantee results for a client.
However, in general, victims of medical malpractice in connection with foot-and-ankle orthopedic or podiatric surgery can seek to recover compensation for:
- Medical expenses related to treating the injury and any complications from it, including costs associated with corrective surgeries and physical therapy;
- Other expenses the victim incurs as a result of the injury, such as the cost of medical assistive equipment;
- Income lost because the victim misses work or suffers a disabling injury that prevents the victim from returning to work for the long-term;
- The victim’s physical pain, emotional suffering, and reduced quality of life caused by the injury; and
- In some cases, punitive damages that punish and deter conduct on the part of the surgeon or medical team that was especially reckless or harmful.
The amount of money that a patient may recover under each of these categories varies from case to case, and may depend in part on the extent of the surgeon’s medical malpractice insurance coverage. Experienced medical malpractice lawyers, however, know how to calculate the many ways an injury harms a victim’s life, to make sure that any legal claim seeks the maximum damages available under the law.
Directions an Orthopedic/Podiatric Malpractice Case Can Take
After a medical malpractice lawyer jumps through the procedural hoops described above, and (perhaps) files a lawsuit for damages on an injured patient’s behalf, a case will tend to head toward one of two outcomes.
Many medical malpractice cases end in a negotiated settlement, which is an agreement between the injured patient and the medical provider who committed malpractice. Most settlements provide for two things to happen: the medical provider (or provider’s insurance carrier) pays money to the patient as compensation for malpractice-related injuries and losses, and the patient agrees to release the provider from future liability for those injuries and losses. In other words, the patient receives a payment and the case ends.
To get the most out of a negotiated settlement, victims of orthopedic/podiatric surgical malpractice need the guidance of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Unlike other personal injury cases, settlement talks in medical malpractice cases often happen at times fixed by the law, rather than when the patient’s lawyer believes the moment is right.
If you suffer from injuries after podiatric surgery or orthopedic surgery because of the actions or inactions of your medical provider, look for an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who offers free consultations and works on a contingency fee basis.