What is knee arthroscopy malpractices and how orthopedic expert witnesses can help?

Knee problems can arise due to various reasons and depending on your condition, the doctor will either recommend you to have surgery or your condition might be treated with simple medications and therapeutic procedures. However, if the non-surgical procedures fail to treat your condition, then you might need knee surgery. Knee arthroscopy is one of the safe and minimally invasive procedures with long-term benefits. This is one of the reasons why people opt for arthroscopy among other surgical options. Before discussing knee arthroscopy malpractices, one needs to understand the procedure and how malpractice can take place.

Medical malpractices are referred to as the condition where the patient is injured due to the negligence of the medical professional. When the doctor deviates from the standard of care and if the same is responsible for causing injury to the patient, then the patient can seek compensation and even file a lawsuit against the doctor for the same. An orthopedic expert witness plays an important role in medical malpractice claims.

Knee arthroscopy:

Arthroscopy is a painless procedure where the surgeon makes use of a tiny camera to insert it inside your knees. It is far better than open surgery because you don’t have to stay back at the hospital. Small incisions are made through which this camera is inserted and a big video screen is used to get a magnified image of the joint problems. This procedure is considered far better than an X-ray as it provides a clear image of the problems. The procedure is safe and most patients recover from it very easily. Because of high technological innovations, people have high expectations. They think once the surgery is done, they’ll recover completely. In reality, it all depends on your medical conditions. The recovery time may vary from one individual to the other. People having high-diabetes will take more time to recover than the ones who aren’t diabetic.

Usually, knee arthroscopy is useful for treating the following conditions as mentioned below:

  • Torn cartilage
  • Torn ligament
  • Damaged joint lining
  • Arthritis
  • Damage to the knee cap

In a nutshell, arthroscopy is a safe procedure but it is the duty of every surgeon to discuss the procedure and all the pros and cons to the patient before performing the surgery. Failure to consider the previous medical history or failure to take consent from the patient before performing the surgery would result in medical malpractice lawsuits against them. This is where an attorney and an orthopedic expert witness play an essential role. The role of orthopedic experts has been discussed below.

Knee arthroscopy malpractices:

Knee arthroscopy malpractices can take place if the surgeon:

  • Fails to consider your previous medical history
  • Fails to diagnose the condition on time or delayed diagnosis;
  • Fails to recommend the patient to other expert surgeons for matters lying outside their scope of expertise.
  • Uses wrong equipment during surgery
  • Cuts wrong body part
  • Fails to ask the patient if they have had anesthesia before and if they are allergic to them.
  • Fails to prescribe antibiotics to prevent swelling and inflammation.
  • Fails to provide post-operative treatment

Because of the aforementioned reasons, the patients might have side-effects causing hamper to their daily lifestyle.  Though arthroscopy is considered a safe procedure, there can be complications because of the negligence of the surgeon. The possible complications have been listed below.

  • Joint infections
  • Clots in a vein or Thrombophlebitis
  • Artery damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Hemorrhage or excessive bleeding
  • Allergic reaction to anesthesia
  • Numbness at the injury site
  • Pain, swelling, and inflammation in the foot and calf.

Role of expert witnesses in knee arthroscopy:

If you believe that there has been malpractice by the surgeon, you should immediately get in touch with an attorney. Though these attorneys are experienced in malpractice claims they don’t have in-depth knowledge of the technical problems. Frankly speaking, medical malpractice cases are technical in nature and this can only be understood with the help of an orthopedic expert witness.

An orthopedic expert witness is a surgeon who has a license and certification to provide testimony in medical malpractice cases. These expert witnesses are called upon by the attorneys to know if there has been a case of malpractice. This is the first thing that has to be established before proceeding further. Certain important things will have to be found out in the preliminary stage to avoid counter attacks and penalties. Some of them include- determining the negligence of the surgeon, how the negligence has caused injuries to the patient, the gravity of the injuries, and finding out contributory negligence. Now the question is what is contributory negligence? It is the plaintiff’s failure to exercise reasonable care for their own well-being. Contributory negligence in a malpractice lawsuit is often used as a defense by the defendant. Therefore, the expert witnesses need to check out if the patient party was responsible for the injury. Once it is ruled out, the orthopedic expert witness will determine how the surgeon was negligent and how it caused injury to the patient.

The role of these expert witnesses is extremely crucial because they can make or break the case. They assist the attorneys in the following manner:

  • By providing comprehensive and detailed reports
  • Neutral and unbiased reviews depending on the case
  • Analyzing simple as well as complex sport-related injuries
  • Responsive communication

An orthopedic expert witness understands the importance of testimony and therefore, their case reviews and detailed reports are some of the crucial documents that play an important role. These reports can be used by the jury to understand the complex elements of the case. Note that malpractice cases consist of complex elements that require simplified explanations. Without understanding these complex matters, it’s difficult for the decision-makers to give a reliable judgment.

4 essential things that expert witnesses have to establish in orthopedic malpractice cases:

In order to prove the negligence of the surgeon, an attorney has to prove 4 essential things. The key here is to prove that the patient has sustained injuries not because of any underlying medical condition. From a legal perspective, the patient-victim has to prove these grounds to receive compensation.

  • Duty of care– The first essential element to prove in a malpractice case is the duty of care. As per medical context, a patient is under the care of their doctor. In other words, the doctor while treating the patient must adhere to established standards of care. They need to act professionally and with responsibility while treating the patient. If the doctor fails to provide care in accordance with the laid down standards, then it will be considered- breach of duty of care.
  • Breach– As mentioned above, the second important element that has to be established is the breach of duty of care. This means that the doctor has deviated from the standards causing injury to the patient. However, small errors or simple mistakes cannot be considered as a breach of duty of care. The error needs to be a serious one. This is one of the areas where an orthopedic expert witness can help. They need to establish that the negligence caused by the surgeon is a serious one. This will also make the case strong.
  • Causation– In this, the attorneys have to prove that the patient has sustained injuries because of the negligence of the doctor. In other words, the patient has suffered injuries as a direct result of the breach of the surgeon.
  • Harm– This is actually the continuation of the third point. It means that harm has been caused to the patient because of the doctor’s actions. If the injury is not a direct result of the doctor’s breach, then it will not be considered medical malpractice.

These four points have to be established in knee arthroscopic surgeries to prove the negligence of the doctor.

What kind of damages can you claim in knee arthroscopic surgeries?

In knee arthroscopic surgeries, the patient can claim compensation for both monetary and non-monetary damages. There are three main types of damages that you can claim:

General damages:

These are the damages that can be calculated or quantified.  The examples include:

  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Physical and mental sufferings
  • Loss of income

The damages can be calculated based on the injuries sustained by the patients or an orthopedic expert witness can provide evidence about the consequences of the injury.

Special damages:

These damages cover the most quantifiable expenses that are caused due to the negligence of the surgeon. It includes past and future medical expenses, loss of income in the past due to missed work, or the income that’ll be lost in the future. Sometimes it is not sufficient to submit a certified copy of the bills and you’ll need the assistance of an expert.

Punitive damages:

Though it is rare, patients can recover punitive damages as well. The judge decides the total compensation amount, but it cannot be more than the amount of general and special damages.

These are the damages that you can recover if you sustained injuries in knee arthroscopy surgeries. However, it all depends on the experience of the attorney as well as the expert witness. The attorneys should be very particular while choosing an expert witness. In this context, let’s take a look at some of the factors that need to be considered before choosing an orthopedic expert witness.

Factors to consider before choosing an expert witness:

Besides considering the educational qualifications and degrees, there are various other things that need to be taken into account.

  • Communication skills– This is an important thing that has to be considered. An expert may be highly experienced but he needs to be persuasive at the same time. The facts they communicate should persuade the jury to believe. Unless they’re able to convince the jury about their findings and facts, it’s difficult to win the case. So one has to go through the past records of the expert witnesses before hiring them. An expert witness can make or break a case and this is the very reason why their selection has to be done carefully.
  • Should critically examine the case– Though an expert will vigorously assert your opinion and position, the experts need to critically examine the case so that there are no surprises at the court proceedings. Besides this, they should also prepare you to put forth strong arguments against weak points in the case, if any.
  • Access capability– Another essential and most important thing to check is the capability of the experts. They should be confident enough to withstand the rigors of the cross-examiners. They should be able to give satisfying answers to the counter-attacks and at the same time should also come up with tough questions for the defendant.

Last but not the least; you also need to check their experience and certifications. Remember that all orthopedic witnesses are surgeons but all surgeons are not expert witnesses. They need to have proper licenses and certifications for testifying in malpractice cases. Therefore, one has to keep in mind the factors mentioned above before calling upon an expert witness. Their experience, qualifications, capability, and communication skills will have a huge impact on the final outcome of the case.

Final Words:

If you think that you or your loved ones have sustained injuries because of the negligence of the doctor, you should immediately seek legal help. Without a proper legal representation, it’s impossible to settle your claims. Also, you need to keep in mind the statute of limitations. In California, the statute of limitation is two years from the date when such injury was discovered. If you miss out on this deadline, you cannot file a lawsuit. The more you delay; the greater will be the chances of losing your compensation. You can also get orthopedic expert witness services that are extremely crucial for your case. This is possible only when you seek legal representation from a reputed lawyer.