Victims of cataract surgery negligence may experience loss of vision, blindness, or other serious complications. Those with valid cataract surgery malpractice claims may be able to obtain compensation for their losses. Compensation may include money award for economic and noneconomic damages. In rare cases, punitive damages may be appropriate.
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Cataract Surgery Negligence Can Cause Blindness
In the United States, eye doctors perform more than three million cataract surgeries each year. Although many are performed without incident, patients frequently file cataract surgery malpractice claims against ophthalmologists for mistakes that occur during surgery. Medical mistakes and physician errors during cataract surgery often result in partial vision loss or permanent blindness for patients.
One complication that involves the movement of lens fragments typically leads to temporary vision loss or blindness. Increasing medical malpractice claims resulting from cataract surgery and related ophthalmic care raise concerns about the risks for patients who undergo this procedure. In 1989, the number of ophthalmologists insured by Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC) was 1,027. By 2009, that number had grown to 4,107. Between 1989 and 2009, OMIC had over 2,800 medical malpractice claims. Of those, 937 claims related to cataract surgery and 117 claims related to cataract surgery complications due to retained lens fragments. During this period, claims for injuries from cataract surgery accounted for one-third of total claims.
Numerous Factors Contributed to Cataract Surgery Malpractice
A review panel that studied eye surgery errors concluded that many mistakes result from communication breakdowns, failure to perform pre-op procedures, ordering the wrong lenses, and marking the wrong eye for surgery. The panel recommended that doctors and hospitals implement stronger safety measures during the ordering, storing, and identification process to prevent errors and injury risks to patients.
While 98 percent of cataract surgeries are successful, approximately 15,000 people still lose their vision following surgery each year. It’s important to select a well-qualified surgeon through a trusted optometrist. Studies show that patients who undergo cataract surgery in a cataract surgery center owned and operated by the surgeon doing the procedure have fewer risks and complications from surgery. Patients who have other eye conditions or diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or eye injuries should see a physician who specializes in that condition before undergoing cataract surgery.
How a Cataract Surgery Lawyer Can Help
Eye surgery malpractice cases involve special areas of medicine and the law. A cataract surgery lawyer may be able to help you uncover and sift through key medical evidence. He or she may also help you understand the signs of medical malpractice and your right to file a medical malpractice claim against those responsible.
A medical malpractice lawyer can also
Calculating Cataract Malpractice Settlements
Types of personal injury damages that a victim of cataract surgery negligence may receive encompasses three broad types: economic, noneconomic, and punitive damages.
Victims of cataract surgery negligence may receive economic damages that seek to compensate them for the financial losses of the injury. These include reimbursement for the following types of current and future costs:
- Medical bills
- Injury-related transportation costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning potential
- Medical equipment
- In-home care
- Prescription costs
In addition to the financial cost of a cataract surgery malpractice, victims may suffer emotionally, mentally, and socially. Noneconomic damages function to ease the psychosocial toll that a cataract surgical error may have on victims. Noneconomic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of society
- Loss of relationship
- Permanent disfigurement
Noneconomic damages are more difficult to place a dollar figure on. After all, how can you quantify a parent’s inability to look into his or her child’s eyes because of cataract surgery malpractice? Parties, their insurance company, or attorneys may use the victim’s economic damages as a baseline to calculate his or her noneconomic damages.
In rare cases, it may be appropriate to impose harsh penalties on the doctor or hospital responsible for the cataract surgery negligence. Punitive damages serve to penalize the wrongdoer(s) by forcing them to pay hefty fines or serve jail time. These damages also operate to deter future wrongdoers from committing the same or similar wrong.
Most fair cataract malpractice settlements take all three of these categories of damages into consideration. A cataract surgery lawyer may be able to help you maximize your settlement. Illinois has a two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice, meaning that you may need to file your claim within two years of discovering the error. Exceptions may apply, however. Talking to a medical malpractice lawyer is your best protection against missing these crucial deadlines.