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Seeking Compensation for a Surgeon’s Mistakes

A surgery patient places tremendous trust in the doctors and other medical professionals who complete the operation. Most patients lack the necessary training to understand what’s happening during a surgery. If the patient is sedated or put under general anesthesia, he or she may not know what happened during the surgery. When something goes wrong with a surgery, the patient may feel powerless to recover compensation from the physician, the hospital, or other responsible parties. But there are legal tools available to help patients recover compensation when mistakes lead to serious complications.

In Nevada, surgical mistakes typically fall under the professional negligence cause of action. Nevada’s law of professional negligence specifically contemplates errors made by health care professionals. It therefore can apply not only to the lead surgeon, but also to other professionals who caused, or may have caused, errors during a surgery. This may include assistants, nurses, anesthesiologists, or other licensed medical professionals. If the individual or individuals who bear fault isn’t clear to the patient, for example because the error was made while the patient was unconscious, it may be appropriate to bring everyone involved in the surgery into the case to determine who bears responsibility.

The basic rule of a professional negligence case is that the plaintiff must prove that the plaintiff’s injury was caused by the defendant’s failure to use reasonable care, skill, or knowledge ordinarily used under similar circumstances by similarly trained and experienced professionals. Proving the elements of professional negligence can be a challenge. Among other things, a plaintiff must submit a sworn affidavit of a qualified professional who can confirm that, in the opinion of that professional, the defendant acted negligently.

To get an expert’s opinion in support of a plaintiff’s case, and to make the case more generally, the plaintiff’s attorneys typically need to first gather extensive information about the plaintiff’s injury, the surgery, and surrounding facts. Sometimes this requires difficult work of forcing a hospital or clinic to disclose records that may be adverse to their own position. Getting records like surgery videos is an important step in developing a case. Depositions of the people involved likely will also be required.

In dealing with a professional negligence case, a plaintiff can gain significant benefits from working with a law firm that treats the client with respect and compassion. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in professional negligence cases. Contact us today for a free attorney consultation about your case. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our site.

Common Medical Errors and the Law

Anyone who has been in a hospital for any length of time knows that there are a lot of opportunities for mistakes. The medical services industry puts tremendous pressures on the professionals who work within it. Long hours, chaotic environments, a constant stream of new patients, and a challenging regulatory regime together present a constant challenge for doctors, nurses, and other caregivers. The fact that problems are common is little comfort for patients who are injured as a consequence of mistakes.

Efforts to quantify and mitigate medical errors have been ongoing for many decades. There are numerous challenges to coming to grips with them, beginning with constant change in the medical industry. Simply defining what an “error” is has been challenging for the industry as a whole. Some of the most common sources of errors include:

  • Problems with diagnosis: Interpreting a patient’s symptoms incorrectly can lead to improper administration of unnecessary treatments, while leaving the real problem unresolved. Or a patient’s condition may be correctly diagnosed but its severity underestimated.
  • Drug mistakes. Medications are linked to a wide variety of healthcare mistakes. Over- or underdosages, severe reactions, incorrect administration, and unmanaged drug interactivity are just a few examples of drug-related mistakes that happen regularly.
  • Infections. Hospitals work hard to keep their environments clean, but in a context where many people are ill an infection can be difficult to avoid.
  • Inadequate clinical care. Bed sores, blood clots, and other forms of preventable illness associated with long bed stays are examples of errors caused by an inadequate patient-care process.

Applicable legal standards sometimes leave considerable room for interpretation about what an error is. Many types of error will fall within the scope of professional negligence. Professional negligence applies to licensed medical professionals, like doctors, nurses, and dentists. To be liable for professional negligence the defendant must have failed to use reasonable care, skill, or knowledge in treating the patient.

The challenge is that “reasonable care” can be a moving target. The patient’s age and health, the specific facts of the patient’s condition, and the defendant’s subjective qualifications (years of experience, training, and so forth) are all factors that define what reasonable care is in the circumstances. Importantly, the plaintiff must provide a sworn affidavit signed by a qualified professional that confirms the signatory’s opinion that the defendant failed to provide reasonable care.

The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented Nevada clients in medical malpractice cases for over 45 years. If you have been injured by a medical error contact us today to learn about our legal options. For a free attorney consultation call 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.

Alternative Medicine and Professional Negligence

“Alternative medicine” is a term encompassing a loosely defined collection of medical and pseudo-medical approaches to solving health problems. It includes familiar treatments like chiropractic and acupuncture, as well as more obscure approaches using healing crystals and herbs. Therapies are labeled as “alternative” if they are not used by mainstream medical professionals. One reason a treatment can be labeled alternative is because its clinical effectiveness isn’t settled. Someone who is injured by an alternative medicine professional’s negligence may have legal recourse to recover compensation.

Nevada’s professional negligence statute covers some kinds of alternative medicine

Nevada law allows lawsuits against providers of health care for damages arising from an injury or death caused by the provider’s professional negligence (what used to be called “medical malpractice”). The definition of “provider of health care” captures some kinds of alternative medicine practitioners, but not all. It includes:

  • licensed physicians, optometrists, dentists, and other conventional health care providers
  • licensed psychologists
  • chiropractors
  • doctors of Oriental medicine licensed pursuant to NRS Chapter 634A to practice acupuncture, herbal medicine, and other practices regulated by the State Board of Oriental Medicine.

Provided that a health care provider falls within these categories, a professional negligence suit is the appropriate remedy for injuries they cause. Professional negligence claims are subject to special rules, such as a requirement that the plaintiff obtain an affidavit signed by another professional in the same or similar profession as the defendant who attests to the defendant’s negligence. Professional negligence lawsuits are subject to a cap on noneconomic damages.

Alternative medicine outside the scope of professional negligence

Some practitioners of alternative medicine practices are not recognized as “providers of health care” within the scope of Nevada’s professional negligence statute. In practice this may mean that injuries caused by such practitioners fall within conventional negligence. Because professional negligence statutes are designed to protect health care professionals from some kinds of liability, it’s to a plaintiff’s advantage if the defendant isn’t covered. The professional negligence statute’s damages cap and other technical requirements won’t apply.

Patients who are considering using the services of an alternative medicine practitioners should use caution. The practitioner’s insurance should be scrutinized with care. Patients should not sign contracts with liability waiver language without first understanding the risks involved in a procedure. A treatment involving healing crystals may involve little inherent risk, but a treatment using herbs or chemicals that fall outside recognized norms may cause serious injury. Some practitioners may be committing fraud, violating licensing laws, or exposing their patients to dangerous situations.

GGRM is a Las Vegas medical malpractice law firm

The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez provide personal, attentive service to clients in the Las Vegas area. If you have been injured by an alternative medicine treatment and you would like to speak to an attorney about your legal options, please contact us for a free attorney consultation. Call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Cognitive Bias in Medical Diagnoses

Cognitive bias is a common characteristic of human psychology. The idea is that people like to be right, and will sometimes perceive information in a way that confirms their existing ideas about the state of things, when the objective truth may be something different. Cognitive bias can influence behavior in all sorts of circumstances, many of which pose little risk of harm. But when a medical diagnosis is made in reliance on perceptions that are clouded by cognitive bias the outcome for patients can be life threatening.

Cognitive bias in the medical profession is a known problem. The bias itself can come from many sources. A doctor may have a disposition against diagnosing serious illnesses and will prefer to diagnose milder alternatives: interpreting heart failure as indigestion. Or a doctor may concentrate on a specialty that unwittingly blocks out alternatives: a heart surgeon who recommends a pace maker for a patient with an endocrine imbalance.

People who tend to think in biased ways can learn to overcome them. Members of the medical profession have a high ethical obligation to recognize their own biases and adapt their diagnostic approaches to account for them. But to actively address a bias it’s first necessary to know about it and understand how it works. That can be difficult even for people who have a profound need to do it.

As a consequence, cognitive bias can introduce significant inaccuracies into medical diagnoses. At the point of treatment a patient should be on guard against signs that a particular approach is being taken not because it is the right one but because it is the one that the doctor prefers out of what may be an unconscious motive. Patients also need to be careful about avoiding cognitive biases of their own: it may be tempting to prefer the heartburn diagnosis, but if it means ignoring a blocked artery the risk of death quickly increases.

If a medical diagnosis leads to a patient’s serious injury or death the patient or the patient’s next of kin may have the option of suing for professional negligence. To prevail a professional negligence lawsuit must prove that the treating doctor failed to use reasonable care ordinarily used under similar circumstances by similarly trained and experienced providers of health care. NRS 41A.015. In the course of litigation it may be revealed that the misdiagnosis arose from bad judgement that might be traced back to an instance of cognitive bias. Expert testimony can be used to establish the extent to which the misdiagnosis was far enough out of the norm to constitute negligence.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented injured clients in professional negligence cases. If you or a loved one has suffered harm as a consequence of medical misdiagnosis, please call us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our contact page.

Patient Advocates as Witnesses in Professional Negligence Lawsuits

People who are hospitalized with serious illnesses and injuries often can benefit from having an advocate—a family member, friend, or even a paid professional—who looks out for the patient’s interests. Advocate can help to improve patient care in a number of ways. They serve as intermediaries between hospital staff and the patient, helping to resolve confusion and answer questions that the patient may not be able to answer. They help the patient evaluate treatment options. And they keep an eye on how well the patient is being treated.

If a patient is injured during a hospital stay the advocate may also become an important witness in any ensuing litigation against the hospital or its doctors for professional negligence (a.k.a. medical malpractice). An advocate need not have medical training to offer essential insights into events leading to the patient’s injury. This is especially true if the patient is not capable of testifying to the facts of the case, for example because the patient has severe dementia.

For a patient advocate the focus of time in the hospital should naturally be on ensuring that the patient is getting the best care possible. Anticipating litigation isn’t the advocate’s job. But there are things advocates routinely do that can help attorneys should the need arise. Keeping good notes is a valuable step. Notes can record the treatment options that have been offered, diagnoses, medications, and so on. They can also include the names of the people involved in the patient’s care. Some of these details will be reflected in the hospital’s formal logs, but other details may slip through and only be available in the advocate’s notes.

If litigation becomes necessary the advocate’s role as a witness likely will focus on the facts surrounding the patient’s care. The advocate who has served as the patient’s eyes, ears, and voice during the treatment process now serves, in a sense, as the patient’s memory.  Who made decisions, and when? How did staff respond to emergencies? What questions were asked? Having access to answers like these from a witness who is not tied to the hospital or other defendants can be extremely valuable in developing a case.

An advocate isn’t going to be asked to give opinions about medical matters. A professional negligence claim often rests on failures by defendants to follow established protocols. The claims need to be backed up with affidavits and testimony from experts who are qualified to speak about the defendant’s specific field of practice. The advocate may be asked to help an expert witness analyze the case to determine if negligence has happened.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. We are happy to answer your questions about potential professional negligence in a hospital setting. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Pharmacy Mistakes Can Threaten Patient Health

Like other people in the medical services field, pharmacists are highly trained, licensed, and regulated professionals. Their work requires a constant attention to detail. Providing the wrong dosage or the wrong medication can lead to serious consequences for the patient. In some cases pharmacy errors have even caused patients to die.

Pharmacies face a lot of challenges when it comes to getting things right. The list of potential sources of errors is long:

  • The names of different medications can be confusingly similar.
  • Pills of two very different drugs may look the same.
  • Hand-written prescriptions can be notoriously hard to decipher, with abbreviations and other shorthand increasing the risk of errors.
  • In the fast-paced environment of a pharmacy, it can be easy to get disorganized, make storage mistakes, or accidentally skip necessary safety steps.

Strict policies and procedures can reduce the risk of mistakes, but pharmacists are human and errors still happen. When they do, and the patient suffers a serious injury as a consequence, a lawsuit may be necessary to recover compensation for the costs associated with the injury or, in the worst case scenario, the costs of the patient’s wrongful death.

Pharmacists and their employers may be held civilly liable for malpractice. As specially trained professionals, pharmacists owe patients a high duty of care. This duty extends to all aspects of filling a prescription, including:

  • Verifying that the prescription is valid, lawful, and complete. As the last line of defense, pharmacists also need to be ready to catch mistakes in a prescription, such as accidentally high doses.
  • Accurately filling the prescription.
  • Providing the patient with complete, accurate information about the medication and its use, including information about side effects and potential interaction with other medications the patient is taking.

If a pharmacist fails to fulfill these duties and the patient suffers an injury as a result, a lawsuit may be appropriate. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury and professional negligence cases for over 45 years. If you or a loved one has been injured as a consequence of mistakes by a pharmacy, please give us a call today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.

Suing for Dialysis Treatment Mistakes in Nevada

People who suffer from kidney problems often need to resort to dialysis treatment to preserve their health. Dialysis involves running the patient’s blood through a machine that replaces the filtering function ordinarily performed by the kidneys. Depending on the type of dialysis a patient receives, the process may be repeated anywhere from once or more per day to two or three times a week. In the course of treatment complications can arise that can lead to serious health problems or even death. In some cases the mistakes that lead to such complications can form the basis of a lawsuit for professional negligence.

What are the risks of dialysis?

There are three types of dialysis. The most common, hemodialysis, uses a machine outside the patient’s body. Peritoneal dialysis involves an implanted catheter that allows waste materials to be filtered through a membrane in the abdomen. A third type, continuous renal replacement therapy, is an in-patient procedure for patients with acute kidney failure. Each type of dialysis involves some form of surgery, to implant a catheter or other medical equipment that will allow blood or waste to be removed from the body.

There are a range of common complications from dialysis treatment. Many complications are an unavoidable side effect of the treatment itself. For patients undergoing hemodialysis, problems like low blood pressure, anemia, and cramping are common. As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection at the entry site.

Potential mistakes during dialysis

Some complications from a procedure like dialysis may be unavoidable, but others are caused by mistakes by the medical professionals administering the treatment. For a mistake to serve as the basis of a lawsuit in Nevada the plaintiff must prove a number of things, including that the defendant failed to use the reasonable care, skill, or knowledge ordinarily used under similar circumstances by similarly trained and experienced providers of health care. NRs 41A.015. In the case of dialysis, such mistakes might include:

  • Failure to operate the dialysis machine in accordance with manufacturer specifications or in accordance with physician instructions.
  • Improper sanitation procedures that result in infections.
  • Failure to adequately maintain equipment in safe operating condition.
  • Improper administration of medications.
  • Failure to adequately monitor the patient during the course of treatment.

Someone who is injured by a mistake like this may require immediate emergency medical attention. In addition to the costs of emergency care, the patient is likely to suffer both physically and emotionally. It is often a good idea to consult with an attorney as soon as possible following discovery of a significant medical error to determine if there is a case for seeking compensation for such injuries.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For over 45 years the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury cases. If you or a loved one has been injured due to mistakes during dialysis treatment we are happy to discuss your case with you. Call today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.

Negligence in the Delivery Room

Mistakes made during the delivery of a newborn can be especially devastating for the long-term health of the child and the emotional wellbeing of the parents. The delivery process involves many steps during which mistakes may be made by doctors and other hospital staff:

  • Anesthesia administered to the mother during labor or in connection with a cesarean birth can lead to numerous complications that require immediate response.
  • Hospital staff handle the baby at various stages, including at the delivery itself and for post-delivery baths, weigh-ins, and so on.
  • Newborns may require special care after delivery to address common problems like fluid in the lungs (common after C-section births) or misshapen skulls. Children born early may require significantly more intervention.

In Nevada professional negligence is the most common cause of action for serious mistakes made in the delivery room. Professional negligence, defined and governed by NRS Chapter 41A, covers the kind of mistakes that one might ordinarily think of as “medical malpractice.” It can be brought against a licensed provider of health care, such as a doctor, for his or her failure “to use reasonable care, skill, or knowledge ordinarily used under similar circumstances by similarly trained and experienced providers of health care.” NRS 41A.015.

Among other things, a plaintiff in a professional negligence case needs to provide the court with an affidavit of an expert in the defendant’s field attesting to the negligence of the defendant. For example, if the defendant is an anesthesiologist who improperly administered pain medication to the mother and caused complications with the birth as a result, the plaintiff will need to find another anesthesiologist willing to analyze the facts of the case and provide sworn written testimony affirming that the defendant’s actions didn’t meet professional standards. Professionals throughout the medical field supplement their income by serving as expert witnesses in this capacity.

Damages in professional negligence lawsuits can include reimbursement for costs associated with remedial medical care, which in some cases may go on for many years. Plaintiffs may also be able to recover compensation for other costs related to the injury, such as a parent’s lost earnings as a consequence of taking extended time off work to care for an injured child. Nevada law caps noneconomic damages, such as for a child’s pain and suffering or a parent’s emotional distress, at $350,000. NRS 41A.035. Parents should note that they have three years from the date of the injury, or one year from the injury’s discovery, to file a civil claim in Nevada for professional negligence. NRS 41A.097(2).

In the most tragic circumstances, where a hospital’s negligence leads to the death of the infant, parents may be able to pursue a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim is still based on the negligence of the defendant, but unlike professional negligence a wrongful death claim is not subject to damages caps with respect to noneconomic damages like the plaintiff’s grief or the pain and suffering of the infant.

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez represents clients in personal injury and professional negligence cases. If you have suffered harm during the delivery of a child please feel free to reach out to us today for a no-cost attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.

Failing Knee Replacements Leading to More Lawsuits

A defective joint replacement can cause severe pain and lead to additional surgeries and recovery time. It can also cause or worsen trip-and-fall accidents. In recent years patients who have received certain knee replacements have been pursuing products liability claims against the replacements’ manufacturers.

There are several types of knee replacement, all of which involve the surgical installation of hardware to replace or supplement the knee’s natural structures. In a total knee replacement, the most common type, the surfaces of both the thigh and shin bones are replaced using implants that are attached to the bones themselves. Implants are often attached to the bone using a specialized glue called bone cements.

Patients who have had knee replacement surgery can suffer a range of potential complications after surgery. Some complications are typical of medical procedures in general: infections, challenges with healing, slow restoration of movement, and so on. But some types of complication are specific to way implants are made or designed. Implant problems can also arise from improper installation by the surgeon. Surgical mistakes can include misalignment of the implants, among other things.

An example of lawsuits against implant manufacturer DePuy. Plaintiffs have sued DePuy for problems with its Attune knee replacement hardware. Some patients have experienced loosening of the bone cement intended to keep the hardware in place. As the cement loosens, patients experience pain and instability in the affected knee, and can require additional surgery to correct the problem.

Nevadans who have suffered complications from a defective knee replacement may have a legal claim against the manufacturer of the implant for products liability. In some cases the patient may also have a claim against the surgeon who performed the operation. Quite often plaintiffs can benefit from pooling their resources in a class action. As one might expect, medical cases involve complicated facts that need to be analyzed by an attorney to determine the best course for the client.

If you are suffering with complications from a defective knee replacement consider consulting with an attorney to understand your legal options. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury, products liability, and medical malpractice cases. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Plastic Surgery Malpractice in Nevada

Plastic Surgery Malpractice in Nevada

A plastic surgeon’s mistakes can have terrible consequences for a patient. Whether a surgery was conducted to repair a cosmetic problem introduced by a health crisis (scars from another surgery, an injury from an accident) or purely elective, a botched operation can lead to pain, disfigurement, further surgeries, and unanticipated medical bills. Someone who has been injured due to the negligence of a plastic surgeon may have the option of filing a lawsuit to recover compensation for these and other costs associated with the surgeon’s mistakes.

Building a claim of professional negligence against a plastic surgeon

One of the common causes of action for patients who are injured by doctors is professional negligence. A professional negligence claim is grounded in an assertion that the plaintiff’s injury was caused by a plastic surgeon’s failure to use reasonable care, skill, or knowledge ordinarily used under similar circumstances by similarly trained and experienced surgeons. NRS 41A.015, NRS 41A.100. A failure to use reasonable care might involve a procedural oversight during an operation, a lack of consideration for a specific health condition of the patient, or a failure to use generally accepted methods.

Nevada law provides a few specific situations where the plaintiff enjoys a presumption that the defendant doctor was negligent, largely where the plaintiff’s injury couldn’t have been caused but for the surgeon’s negligence. This exception will apply if the surgeon operates on the wrong limb, leaves objects inside the plaintiff’s body, or injures a part of the body other than the part that was operated upon. NRS 41A.100(1).

A professional negligence claim also must be accompanied by a sworn affidavit of a medical professional who concurs with the plaintiff’s medical assertions regarding the defendant’s negligence. NRS 41A.071. The professional who provides the affidavit must be in a similar line of work as the defendant, and must base his or her opinion on a detailed review of the facts of the plaintiff’s injury. The affidavit requirement fulfills important functions: it reduces the likelihood of frivolous claims while providing courts with an independent verification of the scientific or technical basis of claims. It also makes the initial process of filing a claim more expensive, because the independent expert must be compensated for the time they take to review the case and draft a response.

Defenses to professional negligence

A plastic surgeon who is sued for professional negligence will likely raise a number of defenses that the plaintiff must overcome to recover compensation.

  • The surgeon’s skill was reasonable. The law’s allowance for professionals to use “reasonable” judgment when making health care decisions for their clients leaves them with wiggle room to avoid liability in close cases. It isn’t enough that other plastic surgeons wouldn’t do things the way the defendant does them. Nor is it enough that the surgeon doesn’t follow the latest and greatest practices across the board (unless the new practice is so much better for patients that continuing to use the old method is needlessly dangerous). The defendant’s actions must have had a degree of wrongfulness that takes them beyond the scope of what is “reasonable.” Proving this can require a careful analysis.
  • Intervening cause. Sometimes an injury from an operation isn’t obvious until sometime afterward. Any number of things could intervene to cause an injury or make one worse. A patient who doesn’t follow post-operation instructions may have contributed to an infection.
  • Assumption of risk and waivers. Plastic surgeons may ask their clients to waive certain rights or agree that they are assuming the risk that a surgery will not produce the results that the patients hope for. The enforceability of such waivers will need to be evaluated by the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Talk to a Las Vegas attorney about your plastic surgery complications

The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez help injured clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation for their injuries. If you have been injured by a plastic surgeon’s negligence and you would like to speak to an attorney about your legal options, please contact us for a free attorney consultation. Call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.