Surgical Errors

Whilst many errors in healthcare are inevitable, surgical errors can often be the most debilitating. These events are termed “never events,” as they are errors which should never have occurred, and are indicative of alarming underlying safety issues.

What Are Surgical Errors?

In short, surgical errors are preventable mistakes made during surgery which can lead to injury, disability, or even death.

Types of Surgical Errors

  1. Wrong-site surgery: Involves surgeons operating on the wrong area of your body – such as operating on your left leg instead of your right leg, or even operating at the wrong level of your spine.
  2. Wrong-procedure surgery: Involves surgeons performing the incorrect procedure on you – such as a full hysterectomy when only a tubal ligation was indicated.
  3. Wrong-patient surgery: Involves surgeons operating on a completely different person to you – such as performing an appendectomy on someone else when it was intended for you.

Other kinds of surgical errors include accidental incisions, leaving foreign objects inside of you, using the wrong surgical instruments, and improper monitoring of your state during surgery.

Causes of Surgical Errors

Whilst unforeseen, unique circumstances might be the cause of a particular surgical error, most errors are usually caused by one or more of the following reasons:

  • Incompetence
  • Insufficient preoperative planning
  • Human error
  • Improper work process
  • Poor communication
  • Fatigue
  • Drugs/Alcohol
  • Neglect

Complications From Surgical Errors

Complications refer to the resulting damage that the surgical error causes. Common complications include:

  • Scarring
  • Nerve damage
  • Disfigurement
  • Disability
  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • Death

Surgical Errors and Medical Malpractice

With any surgery that you undergo, your doctor should warn you of any known risks associated with the surgery. Once these have been explained, you sign an informed consent form. Surgical errors are set apart from this in that they go beyond the known risks of surgery and are both preventable and unexpected, thus making them components of medical malpractice.

Legal Matters

To legally address a case of surgical error, you will need to follow the medical malpractice legal protocol. This is because any surgical error that occurs during a surgical procedure falls below the accepted standard of care of the profession, which is considered medical malpractice.

If you want to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit, then you need to hire a medical malpractice lawyer who can guide you through the process whilst adhering to the state laws of NYC.

Basic Steps for a Medical Malpractice Case

  1. Contact the medical professional involved: Before filing your claim, try and find out what went wrong and if your doctor can remedy it. Most doctors are generally willing to perform this service for free in order to rectify the problem.
  2. Contact the appropriate medical licensing board: If you do not get help from your doctor, then contact the most appropriate medical licensing board. They won’t be able to provide compensation, but they can issue warnings and disciplinary hearings to the doctor involved, as well as guide you about the next steps you can take.
  3. Find out the statute of limitations: It’s crucial that you find out how long you have to file a medical malpractice claim, as every civil claim has a time limit. This limit requires you to file your claim within a certain time period after you experienced the surgical error. Your medical malpractice lawyer is crucial to this step, as they will be familiar with the individual state laws regarding the statute of limitations.
  4. Get a certificate of merit: In most states, you are required to file a certificate of merit determining that your injuries were caused by the negligence of the doctor. In order to file this certificate, you need to contact another doctor to review your medical records and certify that your doctor did not meet the profession’s standard of care, which resulted in your injuries.
  5. Consider settling out of court: Unfortunately, medical malpractice lawsuits are complex. They take a lot of time and money and can often go unresolved for years. Additionally, many medical malpractice claims are rejected by insurance companies, so settling out of court may be your best option. However, if you believe that you have a strong enough case, then you can go ahead and seek a larger settlement.


If you believe that you or a family member may have experienced some form of surgical error, please contact the medical malpractice lawyers of Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP in NYC today and speak to one of our medical malpractice attorneys.

When you are ready to talk, we are ready to listen. Call (800) 660-2264 for a free, confidential consultation.