Can You Sue a Surgeon for Nerve Damage?

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 What Causes Nerve Damage?

Nerve damage refers to an injury occurring to a person’s nerves — usually resulting from cutting the nerve, too much pressure on the nerve, or stretching the nerve. The three types of nerves in your body are autonomic nerves that control involuntary and partially voluntary functions, sensory nerves that control pain and sensation, and motor nerves that control movements and actions. There are also over 100 different types of nerve damage that you can suffer.

Since nerves control your bodily functions and activities, nerve damage can be highly detrimental to a person’s life. Nerve damage can result from many different things, like a sports injury, a traumatic event, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune and infectious diseases, ingestion of toxic substances, and nutritional deficiencies. Other common causes of nerve damage are a botched surgery or other medical procedure gone wrong.

Surgery is one of the biggest catalysts of nerve damage. While this could result from all different types of surgeries some examples include brain surgery, hip replacement, pelvic surgery, open heart surgery, and c-sections. Nerve damage after surgery can be a devastating thing to a patient who puts their trust in medical professionals to carry out the procedure without complications that could have been avoided.

Symptoms of nerve damage are widespread, but commonly include decreased function to a specific area of your body, pain, weakness, paralysis, numbness or tingling. This will depend on which nerves are damaged and the severity of your injury.

Can I Sue If My Nerve Damage was Caused by a Botched Surgery?

If your nerve damage was caused by a botched or failed surgery, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Oftentimes nerve problems after surgery resolve on their own, but sometimes the damage is more severe and will cause lifelong issues. This is when you may want to explore filing a lawsuit.

In order to be successful, you will need to be able to show a connection between the nerve damage and the surgery. For example, your claim could hinge on the fact that your surgeon mishandled a scalpel and cut a nerve. Or your anesthesiologist could have accidentally hit nerve tissue when inserting the needle. These are just a few examples of claims that could give rise to a medical malpractice case.

Medical malpractice cases involving nerve damage will generally be against the hospital, medical facility, surgeon, anesthesiologist, and/or other medical professionals involved in your care. If there is evidence that can support the fact that they did not provide the appropriate standard of care during your surgery then you may have a winning case.

Keep in mind that medical professionals are held to a higher standard of care than an average individual would be in a different type of case. This will also be respective to their occupation and training in a certain field. For example, surgeons are held to different and higher standards of care than surgical nurses.

What Long Term Damage Can Nerve Damage Cause?

Nerve damage and nerve pain injuries can sometimes cause long-term damage or medical conditions the person did not previously have. This will depend on the severity of the nerve damage and if it keeps progressing over time. Some examples include:

  • Inability to sense a heart attack because of damage to the autonomic nervous system;
  • Paralysis resulting from damage to nerves in the motor system; and
  • Severe pain that affects your daily quality of life.

Remember that nerve damage is progressive so what starts as a little numbness or mild pain can develop into more severe symptoms over time. There are different treatments and interventions that can help manage this, so it is important to seek treatment as soon as you recognize symptoms that indicate nerve damage. In a lawsuit, you can claim future damages reflecting estimated costs of future treatments for your nerve damage — like physical therapy, medication, or electric nerve stimulation.

What Do I Have to Prove for a Negligence Claim?

After filing a lawsuit, you will need to prove medical negligence for nerve damage. This generally consists of four elements of proof. These are as follows:

  • The first element is that the medical professional owed a duty to the patient to act reasonably and follow the appropriate medical standard of care. In this case, it would be to carry out the surgery appropriately and do everything possible to avoid a nerve injury from occurring.
  • The second element is that the medical professional breached this duty by acting negligently and thus not meeting the standard of care. An example would be a surgeon using a risky surgical technique that raises the possibility of injuring a nerve.
  • The third element is that an injury resulted proximately from the negligence. This would be the nerve damage resulting from the surgeon’s actions.
  • The last element is that there are measurable damages stemming from the injury. This can be reflected monetarily through medical bills, time off work, affected activities, and other measurable losses.

You will need evidence for each element in order to successfully prove medical negligence for nerve damage. Types of evidence that can help prove these elements consist of the damages evidence discussed above, along with medical charts, doctor notes, surgery reports, videos, and any other instances of communications or documents that can support your claims.

Is it Possible to File a Class Action Lawsuit for Nerve Pain?

It is in fact possible to file a class action lawsuit for nerve pain. One situation where this is possible is if your nerve damage resulted from a specific antibiotic or other drug. People across the nation injured this way can band together and file a class action against the drug manufacturers for things like failure to warn about the defects or false advertising.

Keep in mind that the process for filing a class action is much different than filing an individual medical malpractice lawsuit. An attorney will evaluate the facts and determine if a class action is appropriate. Next comes filing the action and getting the court to certify the class. The class action will then be resolved via settlement or trial, and if it is favorable for the plaintiffs then all potential class members will be notified with instructions on how to participate in the settlement or jury award.

What Defenses Can Be Raised in a Nerve Pain Injury Lawsuit?

It is important to anticipate any potential defenses that the other side could raise during your nerve pain injury lawsuit. Common defenses raised in nerve pain and botched surgery claims in general include the following:

  • The defendant followed the standard of care when performing the surgery;
  • No measurable damages resulted from the injury;
  • The patient assumed the risk of nerve damage before going forward with the surgery;
  • The statute of limitations to file the lawsuit ran out; and/or
  • The patient was contributorily negligent, like not following pre-surgical instructions.

Should I Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Because of My Nerve Damage?

If you believe that you sustained nerve damage due to a botched surgery or for any other reason related to medical malpractice, you should consult a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer can evaluate your claim and determine your chance of success when bringing a lawsuit.

A lawyer can also represent you in court, try to negotiate a settlement for your injury, and provide extensive knowledge about defenses the hospital and provider can raise during trial.

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