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Chicago Surgical Error Lawyer

Surgical errors occur when the surgical team fails in their legal duty to provide a reasonable standard of medical care to a patient. This could include operating on the wrong part of the body, leaving instruments inside the patient’s body, making errors in giving medications, or causing an infection by failing to properly maintain cleanliness. If you have been harmed by a surgical error, you may be eligible for compensation.

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When you undergo a surgical procedure, you expect that your health care providers will take care of you. You’re placing yourself in a vulnerable position — relying on your surgical team to keep you safe.

Unfortunately, some people wake up from surgery to find that their medical provider has made a mistake. Others don’t realize it until much later, when they begin to connect their symptoms to a surgical error.

Surgical malpractice can have a significant, and sometimes permanent or fatal, impact on your life. Victims of surgical errors and their families deserve justice in the wake of this type of medical malpractice.

The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti have recovered compensation for victims of surgical errors, allowing them to reclaim parts of their lives that were stolen by the negligence of the people they trusted.

What is a surgical error?

Any surgical procedure carries some degree of risk, however, medical professionals, including surgeons, have a legal duty to provide a reasonable standard of care to their patients. This means that they must be reasonably careful, according to current medical standards, to protect their patients from unnecessary harm.

A surgical error occurs when the surgical team fails to provide reasonable care to its patients. In some cases, this is a result of a careless, harmful action taken. In other cases, a surgical error may be due to inaction — the medical team’s failure to take reasonable actions to keep the patient safe.

In either case, a surgical error is a form of medical malpractice, and surgeons, along with other medical professionals, can be held legally liable for the harm they cause if they fail in their duty of care.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality classifies certain events, such as wrong-site surgery, as “never events,” meaning they should never happen. Health care facilities should ensure they take precautions to avoid these events.

A 2022 study published in StatPearls indicated that “[a]pproximately 400,000 hospitalized patients experience some type of preventable harm each year.” The study authors also noted that roughly 100,000 people die as a result of medical errors in health care facilities each year and that “most malpractice claims in hospitals are related to surgical errors.”

While these errors should never occur, they do, and they have serious consequences for patients.

Types of Surgical Errors

There are a few types of surgical errors, any of which could lead to a patient being seriously injured. Some patients suffer lifelong disabilities as a result of surgical errors, and these events can even be fatal. In fact, 71 percent of errors reported in 2019 to the Joint Commission, which oversees safety in medical facilities, resulted in the patient’s death.

Common Surgical Errors:

  • Wrong-patient errors
  • Wrong-side errors
  • Wrong-part errors
  • Medication errors
  • Retained foreign objects
  • Hospital-acquired infection

Wrong-Site Surgery

Many people have heard of cases where a surgeon operates on the wrong side of the body. Unfortunately, this does happen.

Because the potential for these errors is obvious, surgical teams generally have procedures in place to prevent them. This often involves a “surgical pause,” where the team stops before making any incisions and ensures they know which patient is in front of them, along with which specific procedure is planned and on which part of the body. This pause is a standard operating room procedure.

Wrong-site surgery is not as rare as you might think. In fact, researchers have estimated that it occurs 40 times every week in hospitals and clinics in the United States.

Objects Left in the Body

Another type of surgical error occurs when objects are left inside the patient’s body after surgery. The object left behind could be a surgical instrument such as a clamp or a retractor, or a surgical sponge.

Leaving an object in the patient’s body can lead to a severe infection or damage to organs resulting from the instrument. Sometimes patients realize that the object is there immediately because they can feel it. In other cases, it takes a long time to figure out what happened.

Surgical teams are supposed to use proper procedures to ensure nothing is left inside the patient. This includes making meticulous counts of everything used during the surgery and counting again before closing the incisions at the end of the procedure.

If surgical teams are not careful, they may miscount, resulting in an object being left in the body. Research published in the peer-reviewed journal Patient Safety in Surgery estimates that a retained foreign object occurs about once per 5,500 surgeries and can result in death or permanent harm.

Medication Errors

Surgery involves the administration of many medications. Medications may be needed before, during, and after the procedure. A medication error can occur when health care professionals give the wrong medication or the wrong dose of a medication. Medication errors can be fatal, particularly with medications used for anesthesia.

Similarly, when a line intended to provide the patient with oxygen or another gas administers the wrong type of gas or a toxic substance — or fails to provide gas at all — the person responsible for checking the canister has made a medication error.

A recent study in the British Journal of Anesthesia found that medication errors during surgery occurred in 5.3 percent of cases. An astounding 70.3 percent of these errors were considered preventable.

Preventable Infections

All surgical procedures carry some risk of infection. However, because this is one of the primary known risks of surgery, surgical teams should do all they can to minimize the risk. In an operating room, it’s crucial for every person to be meticulous about maintaining a sterile environment at all times.

If members of the medical team fail to follow the appropriate procedure, a serious infection could result. This could occur if surgical instruments are not cleaned properly or if a member of the team fails to follow the proper procedures for cleaning their hands and donning protective equipment.

Infections can lead to prolonged hospital stays, may require additional medical or surgical procedures, and can lead to permanent health problems or even death.

Preventable Falls

Many patients assume that an operating table is a flat surface, so they’d never imagine falling from it. However, operating tables are actually much more dynamic. They can be raised, lowered, folded, and tilted, and parts of the table can be folded down. If the operating team is not careful during movements of the operating table, the patient could fall off, which could cause serious injury. These cases are extremely unfortunate because they’re so easily prevented.

Surgical teams should take precautions to ensure patient safety, such as using posts to support the operating table and using straps to secure the patient to the table to prevent them from falling.

What should I do if I’ve experienced surgical malpractice?

A surgical error can be very costly. Medical bills can add up quickly, and a patient’s ability to work can be affected, sometimes permanently. Family members may need to take time off work to care for the patient. In addition, patients may experience a reduced quality of life.

Call a reputable medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your legal options. You may choose to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against the surgeon who harmed you or, in the case of a wrongful death, your loved one.

If your surgical error attorney wins your case or negotiates a just settlement, your compensation will provide you with the financial resources to pay your current and future medical bills, as well as other related expenses.

Some states place a cap on non-economic damages, such as compensation for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Although Illinois formerly had such a cap, it was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 2010 on the grounds that such a law interfered with the court’s ability to determine fair compensation in each individual case.

Here in Illinois, your legal team is able to seek compensation for the full extent of your injuries, including the non-economic losses that you have suffered.

$14 million


against a doctor and hospital for not following and ignoring abnormal chest X-ray results, which caused a substantial delay in the diagnosis of lung cancer.

$4.75 million


for the surviving family of a 45-year-old man who died from a heart condition after physicians delayed reading an MRI for nine days

$1 million


against a pediatrician for failure to diagnose meningitis in an 18-month-old boy. The physician’s error led the boy to suffer hearing loss and brain damage.

Our Chicago Surgical Error Lawyers Will Protect You

The accomplished and compassionate attorneys at Levin & Perconti have years of experience and success in handling medical malpractice cases. We’ve won more than $1 billion in compensation for clients who were injured by a preventable surgical error.

If you have been the victim of a surgical error, you may be dealing with lifelong health effects caused by the error. If you’ve lost a loved one because a careless medical provider made a surgical error, you deserve full restitution for your losses, and we at Levin & Perconti will accept nothing less.

If you’ve been injured as a result of a surgical error, please contact our office for a free consultation. We know the financial implications of a serious medical event, so we don’t take payment in advance. We get paid only if you win your case.

If you’re looking for a Chicago surgical error lawyer, our attorneys are ready to fight for you.