Medical Malpractice Lawyer: Anesthesia Errors

Medical Malpractice Resulting from Anesthesia Errors in Washington, DC

Were you or a loved one injured because an anesthesiologist made an error during surgery? Here is how we can help with anesthesia errors in Washington, DC.

Anesthesia is an umbrella term for the various medications that a doctor administers prior to surgery or a medical procedure. There are different types of anesthesia that range from rendering a patient unconscious to providing localized pain relief. Mistakes can be made with all types of anesthesia. Patients suffer physically, emotionally, and psychologically when they are the victim of anesthesia errors.

You can meet with one of our skilled attorneys at Regan Zambri Long to find out if you qualify for compensation after anesthesia medical malpractice.

Are You Ready to Speak with a Washington, DC Anesthesia Error Lawyer?

Schedule your free consultation today. Calling (202) 960-4534 or complete our online form to start.

Types of Anesthesia 

There are four types of anesthesia that may be administered to a patient during an operation or certain medical tests.

  • General anesthesia

This is often referred to as going under and administered through an IV or a mask. A person who undergoes general anesthesia is not simply asleep; they are actually unconscious. Patients will receive general anesthesia for major surgeries like a heart operation or a hip replacement.

  • IV sedation

Here is when a patient may become drowsy and fall asleep, but they remain conscious. This type of anesthesia may be minimal, moderate, or deep. A patient who receives minimal IV sedation will remain awake and be able to answer the surgeon’s questions. Deep IV sedation will cause the patient to fall asleep and they likely won’t remember the procedure. Moderate IV sedation falls somewhere in between. 

  • Regional anesthesia 

Numbs a large portion of the patient’s body while allowing them to remain awake and alert. This type of medication is given through a catheter or an injection and mostly given to control pain during childbirth.

  • Local anesthesia 

An injection that numbs a small area, used for minor procedures like stitches. The patient remains awake. 

Anesthesia errors can occur with any type. But mistakes that are made when administering general anesthesia often have the most serious consequences. 

What are Common Anesthesia Errors?

anesthesia errors medical malpractice lawsuit attorney washington dcMany things can go wrong when an anesthesiologist does not do their job correctly. Some of the more common anesthesia errors happen when:

  • An anesthesiologist administers too much or too little medication.
  • A patient’s vitals are not adequately monitored throughout the procedure.
  • Overlooking or ignoring a patient’s drug allergies. 
  • Careless intubation during general anesthesia.
  • An anesthesiologist fails to identify that equipment is not working properly.
  • The patient receives the wrong type of anesthesia medication.

Some of these mistakes will lead to serious or lifelong complications for the patient.

The Devastating Consequences of Anesthesia Errors

The consequences of anesthesia errors are wide-ranging.

  • Tooth Damage During Intubation

During general anesthesia, a patient cannot breathe on their own. As a result, they are intubated and remain on a ventilator during their operation. Carelessness during the intubation process can result in tooth damage. This can lead to pain associated with tooth damage, difficulty eating or drinking, as well as dental surgery to repair the damage. 

  • Waking Up During Surgery (Anesthesia Awareness)

Another consequence of a general anesthesia mistake is that the patient remains conscious or they become conscious during the surgery. 

As a result, these patients remember their surgery or parts of their surgery. Some will also feel pressure or pain at the surgical site. For every 1,000 procedures that happen under general anesthesia, one to two patients will wake up during surgery. These patients often report lasting psychological trauma due to their experience.

  • Brain and Cardiac Damage

When a patient is under general anesthesia, they must be continuously monitored. Any changes in body temperature, oxygen level, heart rate, as well as blood pressure must be noted and addressed. If a patient is not adequately monitored or does not receive the proper care during general anesthesia, they may experience a lack of oxygen, a stroke, or cardiac arrest. As a result, the patient can sustain brain damage or heart damage. 

  • Injuries After an Epidural

If the needle accidentally hits a nerve, the patient can experience a seizure. A patient may also have lasting nerve damage after an epidural, resulting in a tingling sensation or loss of feeling. In some cases, the needle will puncture the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord. As a result, the patient experiences a cerebrospinal fluid leak (CFL). Conservative treatments for these leaks are not always successful. Some patients must undergo surgery to repair a CFL after an epidural.

How Often Do Medical Malpractice Anesthesia Errors Occur? 

The short answer is, too often. One study published in the Journal of Healthcare Risk Management analyzed 607 closed anesthesia claims that were made to a large national malpractice insurer between 2007 and 2012. This study found that the most frequent injuries were:

  • tooth damage (20.8%) 
  • death (18.3%)
  • nerve damage (13.5%) 
  • organ damage (12.7%)
  • pain (10.9%)
  • and cardiac arrest (10.7%)

These types of injuries are avoidable. Understanding how and why anesthesia errors occur is important to prevent them in the first place.

Why Do Anesthesia Errors Happen?

The bottom line is, mistakes happen when an anesthesiologist is careless, inattentive, and doesn’t do their job correctly. Unfortunately, patients pay the price when the anesthesiologist:

  • does not communicate effectively with the surgeon or other operating room staff.
  • distracted either by a staff member or an electronic device. 
  • did not consult the patient’s prior medical history or drug allergy information.
  • failed to monitor the patient’s vitals. 
  • either did not recognize when the patient aspirated or failed to respond quickly. One medical study found that one in 2,000 to 3,000 patients will aspirate while under general anesthesia. Half of those patients will develop a related lung injury.
  • approves a patient for discharge from the post-surgical unit too soon

If you or a family member has experienced an anesthesia error, you should speak with a medical malpractice attorney.

Why You Need a Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Washington, DC

It is extremely difficult for a patient to bring forth an anesthesia error lawsuit on their own. Some doctors won’t willingly speak out against another doctor. These are complex cases and you need the experience and expertise of an attorney.  

To successfully win an anesthesia mistake lawsuit, you must be able to prove two things. First, that an anesthesia error actually occurred. And secondly, that the anesthesia error caused damages. In the eyes of the law, “damages” are things like bodily injury and emotional distress. 

How Much is the Average Anesthesia Error Settlement?

A medical malpractice settlement of this type typically covers:

  • Current and future medical bills. You should not have to pay for the surgery that injured you. Nor should you be burdened with the costs of ongoing medical care related to your anesthesia mistake.
  • Noneconomic damages. These damages are commonly called “pain and suffering.” This is the physical pain and the emotional distress you experience because of your anesthesia error.
  • Lost wages. You and your family shouldn’t have to worry about paying bills and putting food on the table. Whether you are out of work while you recover or if your injuries prevent you from ever working again, you deserve to be paid for any lost wages.  

The most serious anesthesia mistakes result in death or in an individual needing around-the-clock care. If your family experienced this, you may also be entitled to:

  • Wrongful death compensation, which can make life a little easier for surviving family members. Nothing can bring your loved one back, but you shouldn’t have to worry about losing your home or not being able to afford college tuition.
  • Loss of consortium. This type of reimbursement accounts for the intangible losses that a family may experience: spousal companionship, assistance with maintaining a home, and guidance for minor children.

How Much Time Do I Have to File an Anesthesia Malpractice Lawsuit? 

The Washington, DC statute of limitations sets forth the amount of time you have to pursue such a legal case. Typically, the clock starts ticking the day that the anesthesia mistake occurred or when the patient was made aware of the error. However, there are many factors at play in anesthesia mistakes, including if death resulted. 

How Long Will it Take to Win My Anesthesia Error Case?

It is difficult to predict how long an anesthesia error case will take to complete. Oftentimes, the more serious your or your loved one’s injuries are, the longer the case may last.

Some of the factors that impact how long a medical malpractice case can take are: 

  • What legal actions, if any, have to take place to gather all of the evidence needed to support your case
  • How long it takes to adequately assess the full scope of your or your loved one’s injuries 

It is not unusual for an anesthesia error case to take a year or more to conclude. We know that it’s difficult to have to wait, but our attorneys are in it for the long haul. We want the best possible outcome for you, which may not be the quickest. 

Keep in mind that when you hire us, you won’t pay us until after you receive your settlement. That allows you to receive legal representation without incurring more bills.

How Can I Prevent Myself or a Loved One from Being the Victim of an Anesthesia Error?

When patients undergo an operation or medical test, they put their trust in the doctors as well as hospital staff. During most medical procedures, particularly if the patient is under general anesthesia, they are unable to speak up if something is wrong. Fortunately, there are steps that a patient can take prior to surgery to reduce their odds of an anesthesia error.

  • Find out who your anesthesiologist will be and research their license. You can verify a doctor’s license and any disciplinary actions on the District Of Columbia Department of Health License Search.
  • Give honest answers when asked about lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol, and illicit drug use. These factors may impact what type or dosage of anesthesia is safe for you. 
  • Make sure you fully understand the risks associated with both your surgery and the type of anesthesia you will receive.

Patients can be vigilant, but anesthesia mistakes can and do still happen. If you or a loved one want to learn more about your legal rights, we’re here to help.

Are You Ready to Pursue an Anesthesia Malpractice Case? Call Regan Zambri Long Today, (202) 960-4534. 

At Regan Zambri Long, our entire practice is dedicated to representing clients who were injured due to someone else’s negligence. And that includes medical malpractice cases like anesthesia errors.

The attorneys at our firm have over 100 years of combined legal experience. In fact, we are the law firm that other lawyers turn to. Regan Zambri Long often receives referrals from other firms. Some anesthesia mistake cases are expensive to pursue, both in terms of finances and resources. 

Our firm works on a contingency fee basis. That means you pay nothing upfront. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation case review.