Before delving into the main discussion of cosmetic surgery malpractice, it may be helpful for you to understand exactly what cosmetic surgery entails first. In general, cosmetic surgery, also known as plastic surgery, refers to a type of medical procedure that a patient typically elects to undergo in order to improve their physical appearance.
For example, getting a nose job, breast implants, or liposuction would all be considered medical procedures that qualify as cosmetic or plastic surgery.
Thus, cosmetic surgery malpractice or cosmetic surgery negligence may occur when a patient is undergoing a cosmetic surgery procedure and the surgeon or medical facility performing the surgery commits a careless act that causes injury to the patient. For instance, if you decided to get lip injections and the facility used expired collagen or dirty needles to administer the injections.
What Are the Common Cosmetic Surgery Injuries?
As previously mentioned, there are numerous things that can go wrong when a patient is undergoing cosmetic surgery. Some common types of cosmetic surgery injuries may include the following:
- Severe nerve damage;
- Deformed facial features (e.g., a nose) or body parts;
- Complications from anesthesia and other sleep-inducing or numbing medications;
- Infections contracted either during the operation or after the surgery is complete and a person is in the healing stage of the process;
- Malpractice-related issues (e.g., performing cosmetic surgery to reduce wrinkles on the left eye instead of the right eye);
- Permanent scars or markings from the medical instruments used; and/or
- Severe surgical complications that result in permanent disfigurement or death.
How to Prevent Cosmetic Surgery Injuries
Some general steps that a prospective patient can take to help prevent themselves from getting an injury during a cosmetic surgery may involve the following:
- Performing extensive research on state or local cosmetic surgery facilities and doctors in their area;
- Learning about all of the complications associated with a particular type of cosmetic surgery and making sure that one understands the risks involved with getting that procedure;
- Being able to articulate why the patient would want to receive the cosmetic surgery they are seeking to undergo;
- Getting information on what to expect before, during, and after their cosmetic surgery procedure, as well as knowing how to tell when the process is performed successfully;
- Ensuring that the doctor is licensed, experienced, and possesses all of the necessary qualifications to perform the cosmetic surgery being scheduled;
- Ensuring that the cosmetic surgery facility wherein the patient is getting the operation done is certified by a medical board and has all of the other requisite credentials;
- Staying healthy before and on the day of the surgery, and if not, then the patient may want to reschedule; and/or
- Checking that the doctor believes a patient’s vitals are currently healthy before they perform the cosmetic surgery in question.
Who Is Liable for a Cosmetic Surgery Injury?
In the majority of cosmetic surgery malpractice cases, it is usually the surgeon or doctor who can be held liable for any injuries that a patient sustains as a result of an act of malpractice that was committed during their surgery. As will be discussed in further detail in the next section below, a surgeon or doctor must exercise a high degree of care and medical competency when performing surgery or administering treatment to a patient.
If a surgeon or other medical professional fails to exercise the degree of care and competency that is required of all reasonable surgeons and medical professionals under the same or in similar circumstances, then an injured patient may be able to hold them liable by bringing a medical malpractice action against them in court. In some situations, the medical facility where a patient received a cosmetic procedure may also be held responsible for their injuries.
What Duty Does a Cosmetic Surgeon Owe a Patient?
Similar to the standard that must be upheld by other doctors, the law imposes a higher duty of care on surgeons who perform cosmetic or plastic surgery on a patient. In general, a surgeon must exercise the level of care that the average reasonable surgeon would use to operate on and/or treat a patient under the same or similar circumstances.
Once a surgeon’s standard duty, degree of care, and doctor-patient relationship is established, the surgeon will also need to make sure that they comply with two other important duties. The first is that they possess the degree of medical knowledge, skills, and training that is required of all reasonably competent surgeons who perform medical procedures within the field or medical specialty.
The second duty is that they exercise the same ordinary and reasonable level of skill, care, and diligence that is required of all other surgeons or doctors who practice in the same or a similar medical field.
Some ways that a cosmetic surgeon can breach the duties that they owe to a patient may include:
- Failing to obtain the necessary schooling for their particular specialty or a valid medical license;
- Lacking the knowledge or education that is required to perform a certain type of cosmetic surgery successfully;
- Failing to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable surgeon would use under the same or similar circumstances;
- Not possessing the skills or diligence as is required of all doctors or surgeons within a particular cosmetic medical field; and/or
- Treating a patient with a lesser degree of care than what the law imposes on surgeons and medical professionals.
Possible Defenses to Cosmetic Surgery Malpractice
In general, there are several potential legal defenses that may be available to a defendant surgeon or medical facility who is being sued for cosmetic surgery malpractice. Some examples of legal defenses that a defendant in a cosmetic surgery malpractice lawsuit may be able to raise include that:
- The statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice lawsuit has expired;
- The doctor or surgeon who performed the surgery was able to prove that they did not breach, but in fact upheld, the relevant duty of care that they owed to the plaintiff patient;
- The plaintiff patient lacked sufficient evidence or was unable to prove that the actions of the surgeon or staff at the medical facility caused their injuries; and/or
- The plaintiff contributed to causing or worsening their own injuries by failing to properly take care of themselves (e.g., getting medical treatment for an infection).
What Are the Remedies for Cosmetic Surgery Malpractice?
There are a number of different remedies that a plaintiff who prevails in a lawsuit for cosmetic surgery malpractice may be able to recover for their injuries. Some common examples of legal remedies that may be available to an individual who was injured during an incident involving cosmetic surgery malpractice may include:
- Damages for injuries that cause a patient to suffer pain through mental anguish or emotional distress;
- Punitive damages if a plaintiff can prove that a doctor or medical facility committed cosmetic surgery malpractice with malice or criminal intent;
- Monetary damages awards to reimburse the plaintiff for medical costs, such as hospital bills, medical devices, homecare workers, or treatments like prescription medications;
- Damages to cover loss of past wages, future wages, or the ability to earn a living income;
- Expenses to pay for future medical costs like physical therapy, rehab, therapist appointments, and various other ongoing treatments or prescriptions; and
- In some instances, the cost of attorneys’ fees and/or administrative court fees that the plaintiff initially had to pay to bring their medical malpractice lawsuit.
In addition, it should be noted that the amount of money that a court may order a defendant medical facility or surgeon to pay to an injured party who prevails in a cosmetic surgery malpractice lawsuit will be significantly higher if the plaintiff has sustained long-term injuries as a result of improper medical procedures.
For instance, long-term injuries, such as permanent scarring, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life due to their deformed appearance from the surgery, and so forth, will most likely increase the cost of damages that a defendant will have to pay since the plaintiff will have to suffer their injuries over a longer period of time.
In other words, the longer that it takes for a plaintiff to heal all of the emotional and physical injuries they were subjected to during their plastic surgery, the more it will cost them to keep up with ongoing medical treatments. Therefore, the defendant will be responsible for paying the projected amount that a judge or jury think it will cost until the plaintiff is fully healed (if ever).
Finally, in cases where a malpractice-related injury was so severe that it led to the death of a patient, the deceased patient’s close relatives may be able to sue and recover damages from a defendant medical facility or surgeon as well.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Bring a Cosmetic Surgery Malpractice Lawsuit?
Lawsuits involving a claim for cosmetic surgery malpractice can be very difficult to win without the help of a personal injury lawyer who has experience in handling such cases. Not only do the laws that apply to these lawsuits vary by jurisdiction, but surgeons also tend to make matters more complicated in order to preserve their reputations and thus may be willing to challenge even the most obvious of medical malpractice claims.
Therefore, it may be in your best interest to hire a personal injury lawyer who practices law in your area if you wish to bring a cosmetic surgery malpractice lawsuit against a medical facility or surgeon to recover damages for your injuries. Your lawyer will be able to help you assess your legal options and can assist you in gathering evidence to build a case that supports your cosmetic surgery malpractice claim.
They can also provide guidance on the relevant laws and legal procedures for such lawsuits in your state, as well as your rights and protections under those laws. In addition, your lawyer will be able to represent you in court and at any meetings related to your claim. Lastly, your lawyer will be able to help you to file an appeal in the event that you lose the initial case, so long as the circumstances surrounding the loss would permit you to appeal the case.