Can You Sue for Colonoscopy Malpractice?

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 What Is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a type of medical procedure that is used to detect potential issues occurring in a patient’s large intestine and rectum. The exam is conducted by inserting a flexible tube into the rectum, which contains a fiber-optic device or camera that will take internal images of the area.

The procedure is typically recommended to explore potential causes of symptoms (e.g., bleeding, constipation, intestinal issues, etc.), and to ensure that no serious medical conditions exist, such as inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, ulcers, or polyps.

Colonoscopy procedures are most commonly prescribed for older patients and for persons who are experiencing abnormalities or changes to their normal bowel habits.

Are There Any Injuries or Side Effects Associated with Colonoscopies?

Generally speaking, colonoscopy procedures are a preferable method of detection and removal of specific objects (e.g., polyps), as opposed to invasive surgeries. They have also become the standard exam used for identifying certain medical conditions.

However, these procedures can sometimes produce a variety of unwanted side effects and injuries, including:

  • Cramping and/or abdominal swelling (note this is typically caused by some of the actions required in order to perform the procedure, e.g., pumping air to inflate the colon);
  • Injuries to the intestinal wall, including perforations or bleeding;
  • Various types of infections;
  • Difficulties with the preparation process (e.g., usually involves fasting and consuming a liquid form of laxatives); and/or
  • Injuries or side effects resulting from sedation or the administration of a local anesthesia.

The side effects or injuries stemming from colonoscopies are often similar to those experienced by patients who undergo similar types of scope-related procedures, such as duodenoscope and sigmoidoscopy examinations.

Can I Recover Damages for a Colonoscopy Injury?

A patient who has suffered injuries as a result of a colonoscopy exam will sometimes be able to recover damages to remedy the harm done to them. For instance, the majority of successful lawsuits will lead to an injured party receiving some sort of compensatory or monetary damages award. The amount of damages awarded can then be used to cover certain costs, such as medical bills, lost wages, and other injury-related expenses.

In addition, it should be noted that the amount of recovery available for a colonoscopy lawsuit can vary from state to state. The reason for this is because some state statutes will enforce caps or limits on the amount of damages a victim can receive (e.g., state law restrictions for medical malpractice awards).

The facts pertaining to an individual case and the type of lawsuit that was filed can also have an impact on the amount of damages received as well. For example, lawsuits for colonoscopy related injuries may be based on a number of different legal theories, including:

  • Medical malpractice;
  • Products liability claims (e.g., if the laxative, tube, or fiber-optic device used during a procedure was defective);
  • Simple negligence; and/or
  • Diagnostic errors (e.g., there was a clerical mistake made when inputting the results like if a patient had a medical condition, but an assistant input that there was nothing wrong with them).

The most common type of claim alleged when an injury results from a colonoscopy procedure is that of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice claims can be brought against any medical provider who contributes to a patient’s injury, such as a doctor, hospital, nurse, or other medical personnel.

Medical malpractice can occur when any of the above parties falls below the professional standard of care when treating, diagnosing, or managing a patient, which causes injury to that patient.

The issue with medical malpractice lawsuits is that they can often be very time consuming and expensive. Due to their adversarial nature, they can also lead to damaged reputations and unfair damages awards. Thus, as an alternative, parties to a medical malpractice suit will seek colonoscopy malpractice settlements instead.

This way instead of a judge determining the amount of damages, which can create a rift between the parties, the parties will be permitted to cooperate and settle on an appropriate number themselves outside the walls of a court. This can help to preserve the parties’ professional relationship (if desired) and may lead to more accurate awards.

What are the Steps to Take to File a Colonoscopy Malpractice Lawsuit?

Depending on state laws, associated legal requirements, and local court rules, the first step the victim will have to take to initiate a colonoscopy malpractice lawsuit is to file a complaint alleging a medical malpractice claim. The parties will then go through the traditional stages of a lawsuit (e.g., requesting discovery, gathering evidence, attending pretrial conferences, etc.).

In order for a medical malpractice lawsuit to be successful, the claimant generally must satisfy the following elements:

  • That the patient suffered an injury and that injury was caused by the doctor or healthcare provider being sued;
  • That the doctor or other healthcare provider fell below the standard of care required of medical professionals (usually through the testimony of expert witnesses); and
  • That the statute of limitations for filing such a lawsuit has not yet expired (note these time restrictions will vary by jurisdiction, but typically fall between one to seven years).

The injured party will also have to show that they can be reimbursed for their harm by requesting damages. There are three different types of damages that they may be able to request, which include general damages, special damages, and punitive damages.

As previously mentioned, the requirements for filing a malpractice lawsuit and the amount of damages available will vary based on the facts of a case, the laws of a state, and the state limit or cap placed on medical malpractice awards. Additionally, if the parties to the lawsuit decide to settle the claim, this will also alter the necessary legal requirements and the amount of damages received.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with a Colonoscopy Lawsuit?

Injuries resulting from a colonoscopy procedure can often be severe and may lead to complications with other bodily systems. Thus, if you believe you have suffered harm due to undergoing a colonoscopy exam, then you should consider contacting a local personal injury lawyer for further assistance.

An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to tell you whether or not you have a supportable claim, can discuss the potential damages you may be able to recover if your case is successful, and can help you prepare and file a case with the proper court.

In addition, depending on the circumstances of your case, your lawyer will be able to provide representation on your behalf in court if necessary or during settlement negotiations. Retaining a lawyer can also be useful in answering any questions that you may have about your matter and the corresponding legal process.


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