Most people understand that paraplegia is a condition by which those afflicted with it cannot move or feel the portions of their body below the waist. Often times the condition is the result of a birth defect, such as spina bifida or scoliosis. Spinal tumors may also cause paraplegia.
Experienced medical malpractice attorneys, however, also know that paraplegia can be caused by traumatic injury that which took place during care provided by a medical professional.
Neurosurgeons are the medical professionals that will typically perform operations in relation to spinal cord injuries/back injuries. Frequent procedures repair herniated discs, either cervical or lumbar, spinal stenosis, and to repair spine fractures.
When there is a doctor/patient relationship, such as in the case with a surgeon and his/her patient, the doctor owes a duty of care to the patient. This duty requires that the medical professional perform the surgery in accordance with accepted medical standards and to not cause preventable/foreseeable harm. This rule applies to all medical professionals, regardless of the procedure that was performed.
What does matter is how proof of this duty is introduced during a medical malpractice case. You should know that medical standards vary depending upon the geographic region in which the procedure was performed; New York City versus Lake Placid, for example. The specialty in which the doctor was practicing at the time of the negligence also impacts the standard of care.
The experienced medical malpractice attorney knows this and also knows that an expert in the region and discipline must testify as to the accepted standards in the profession. This expert might also be asked if the plaintiff’s doctor deviated from the required standard.
If there indeed has been a deviation in the standard of care, then there needs to be proof that such was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, there needs to be a showing that the negligence of the doctor caused the paraplegia, and not the patient’s underlying condition itself.
Once the duty, breach, and causation are established, the plaintiff must prove damages. Damages are the monetary expression of the plaintiff’s injuries and a plaintiff cannot receive a jury award without proof of damages.
The type of damages in these cases are typically pain, suffering, medical bills, lost income, lost earning potential, cost of physical rehabilitation, and vocational training. More specifically, these damages are called compensatory damages and are designed to help restore the plaintiff to the position he was in had the negligence not occurred.
Although rare, you could also receive punitive damages if your paraplegia was caused by a negligent doctor. Punitive damages are awarded to plaintiffs in cases where the defendant’s actions were willful, wanton, and or reckless.
But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.