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Anesthesia Malpractice: Potential Hazards

Doctor Using AnesthesiaNowadays, when you need surgery, your care is handled not by one or two people, but by a team of seasoned professionals. Your physician will ensure the services of people like nurses and anesthesiologists, which is designed to help more eyes be available to spot potential problems in your care. However, this also means that there are more opportunities for mistakes to be made. The most common occur related to the work of the anesthesiologist.

The Role of the Anesthesiologist

Anesthesiologists are, of course, human, but their errors in judgment can be costly. A subtle mistake can lead to such grave complications as heart attacks, collapsed lungs and strokes, and it is one of the reasons that anesthesiologists historically have had one of the highest rates of malpractice claims brought against them, with approximately 3,500 incidences of anesthesia-related malpractice from 2002-2011, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank’s most recent available data. The primary occasion for anesthesia-related malpractice to occur is in the hours and days following a surgical procedure, where countless factors must be monitored and the chance to neglect one is higher.

While most people do research surgeons diligently, they almost never have the chance to do so with an anesthesiologist. At most, they meet him or her for a few minutes right before surgery, and have very little understanding of just how complex his or her role is. Given that most surgeons defer to the anesthesiologist in questions of post-surgery care, it is important that your anesthesiologist be competent.

Possible Causes and Effects

While in theory, an error may happen at any point in the surgical process, there are some situations where they appear more common. The most common situations include:

  • Administering the wrong dosage (too much or too little medication);
  • Not properly monitoring a patient immediately after surgery;
  • Failing to advise a patient about foods or drinks to avoid; and
  • Failing to ascertain that equipment used in diagnosis or monitoring was defective.

Because memories for this sort of occurrence tend to fade quickly, as well as the simple fact that many injuries disappear or heal completely over time, the statute of limitations on a medical malpractice claim is very short. Your claim must be filed either within one year of the time plaintiff discovered (or should have discovered) the injury, or within three years of the injury itself, whichever is earlier.

While California does place a cap on non-economic damages (damages given for intangible harms like pain and suffering), you may be entitled to receive all applicable damages for your actual harm - your tangible losses. Some of the categories California law allows recovery for include:

  • Initial medical bills;
  • Long-term care - hospice, hiring aides or other medical professionals;
  • Wage losses, both now and in terms of future earning capacity;
  • Permanent disability; and
  • Long-term medical expenses, such as house modifications and the purchase of transport devices.

All of these categories of damages would fall under ‘actual’ damages, meaning that whatever numbers you are able to prove will be taken into consideration by a jury. Non-economic damages, for things like emotional distress and loss of consortium, are capped at $250,000, though there has been a growing movement to relax that cap since it has never been adjusted for inflation.

Our Experience Can Help You

Medical malpractice cases are difficult and frightening, especially when they involve anesthesia errors, because the field is so complex. Having a knowledgeable legal professional on your side can help ease some of your fears and shoulder some of the burden. The skilled San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. have years of experience with anesthesiologist malpractice, and we know the ropes of what can be a time-consuming process. Contact our office today to discuss your options. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Monterey and San Benito.

Client Reviews
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My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.