Anesthesia Errors: When Can You Sue?

You could take legal action if you were seriously injured due to an anesthesiologist’s negligence. Thanks to innovations in technology and medicine, serious injuries from anesthesia are rare. Even so, errors do occur.

This post will explore how these mistakes could happen and what you should know if you’ve been a victim. In some cases, you will need to contact a personal injury attorney about filing an anesthesia malpractice claim.

Understanding Anesthesia

When you undergo anesthesia, you are likely receiving a combination of medications and gasses. Together, these powerful medications can impact your consciousness, pain sensors, refluxes, and memory. The beneficial result is that you’ll be comfortable during surgery. However, each type of anesthesia comes with risks.

Types of anesthesia include:

  • General anesthesia is when you are completely unconscious. It’s generally reserved for situations where the procedure is complex or would be very painful, such as a knee replacement.
  • Regional anesthesia involves numbing a portion of your body. You may be awake during the procedure, or lightly sedated. An epidural is an example of a regional anesthetic.
  • Local anesthesia is for small surgeries, lacerations, or in dental procedures. It is applied by injection under the skin.

The type and dosage of anesthesia you receive depends on your procedure and your general health. Sometimes, you may be given a choice about the type of anesthesia that would make you feel most comfortable. In any case, your doctor should explain what to expect and any risks ahead of time with you.

Is An Anesthetic Error Medical Malpractice? 

Not every poor medical outcome is malpractice. To have a malpractice claim, you need to prove that the anesthesiologist was negligent and as a result, injured you. Be warned: this is not a simple task.

You will need to retain a lawyer who knows how to build compelling evidence and retain experts willing to testify on your behalf. Also, expect that the anesthesiologist and hospital will fight hard. Even if the hospital admits to wrongdoing, involving a skilled lawyer will improve your chances of collecting a fair settlement.

The best way to know if you have a case is to reach out to a personal injury lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice.

How Anesthesia Errors Can Happen

Here are some hypothetical examples of how an anesthesiologist might be negligent:

  • Too much anesthesia given
  • Too little anesthesia given
  • Improper patient monitoring
  • Fault machinery
  • Failure to assess a patient’s medical history before the operation
  • Failure to warn of potential risks

It’s also important to understand that there may be more than one party responsible for your injury. In addition to the anesthesiologist, you could also sue the hospital, surgeon, or other practitioners.

What Types of Injures can Arise from Anesthesia Errors?

When an anesthesiologist fails to properly monitor or anesthetize a patient, the results can be severe. Potential injuries could include:

  • Dental injuries (believe it or not, this is the most common injury)
  • Nerve damage
  • Brain damage
  • Injuries to organs
  • Death

Complications during childbirth require particular attention. Anesthesia errors can have implications to the child as well as the mother. Unfortunately, babies can suffer catastrophic injuries such as cerebral palsy if anesthesia is improperly administered. These injuries can have permanent consequences, requiring life-long medical care.

Getting Compensation for an Anesthesia Malpractice Claim

In the state of Washington, injured victims can pursue compensation from the at-fault party (RCW 4.56.250). For instance, you may file a claim against the hospital that employed a negligent anesthesiologist. The settlement is usually negotiated with their insurance carrier. However, there may be other sources of funds available, depending on the circumstances.

The value of an anesthesia claim is often high because a victim’s injuries can be severe or even deadly. Speaking of which, let’s explain a bit about the value of a case. Here are some of the factors that influence the value:

  • Hospital and doctor bills to address your injury
  • Missed time from work (and your salary)
  • Disability
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Pain and suffering
  • At-fault party and their insurance policy limits
  • Value awarded to victims with similar cases
  • Quality of your attorney
  • Judge or jury

An experienced lawyer will understand how to determine a fair value range for your case. Sometimes, the value may change as the facts become better known through the investigation process.

Need to Speak with a Lawyer?

The injury attorneys at Ladenburg Law have decades of combined experience helping victims throughout Washington State win fair settlements. We’re always happy to answer your questions and see if can help. Plus, there’s no cost for a case review.

Call us today so we can assist you.

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