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Most Common Causes of Surgery-Related Medical Malpractice Claims

Nichol & Associates, Attorneys at Law May 26, 2020

No one looks forward to undergoing surgery. But here in Knoxville, those of us who do face surgery are fortunate to have available to us the University of Tennessee Medical Center, a top-ranked hospital with its Level I Trauma Center.

Unfortunately, surgery is the second most common source of medical malpractice claims in the nation, according to a report by a medical malpractice liability insurance company. Coverys analyzed more than 10,000 claims that were filed between 2014 and 2018, finding that 25 percent of the claims involved surgeries.

According to their research, these are the most common issues in surgery-related malpractice claims:

  • 39 percent: technical skill

  • 17 percent: clinical judgment

  • 10 percent: communication

  • 9 percent: behavior related

  • 7 percent: documentation

  • 6 percent: administrative

  • 5 percent: clinical systems

As you can see, patients who were harmed in surgery and then filed a medical malpractice claim said that the surgeon or surgical team lacked needed technical skills by a more than two-to-one margin over those who said a lack of clinical judgment resulted in damage in their operation.

Nearly half (47 percent) of surgery-related claims came from three specialties:

  • 22 percent: general surgery

  • 17 percent: orthopedic surgery

  • 8 percent: neurosurgery

The most common allegation related to the surgeries included the following:

  • 78 percent: practitioner performance problems

  • 7 percent: foreign object left in patient’s body

  • 4 percent: unnecessary surgical procedure

  • 3 percent: wrong side/wrong site/wrong patient

  • 3 percent: harmful delay in operation

Here are the most common types of damage to patients:

  • 31 percent: temporary major damage

  • 19 percent: permanent minor damage

  • 16 percent: permanent significant damage

  • 9 percent: death

  • 3 percent: permanent major damage

  • 1 percent: permanent grave damage

As you can see, nearly a third of all surgery-related malpractice claims involve significant permanent damage, major permanent damage, grave permanent damage or death.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a negligent physician, unskilled surgeon, careless doctor or other healthcare professionals, contact a Knoxville attorney skilled and experienced in obtaining maximum compensation in medical malpractice litigation.