What Kind of Medical Errors Constitute Gross Negligence?

When we’re in the hospital, we’re at our most vulnerable, and we expect hospitals and medical personnel to treat us with respect and care. And although most American medical professionals are attentive and dutiful caregivers, we as patients can still be victims of gross negligence while undergoing surgery.

Most people understand the concept of negligence. A person who is negligent has likely been careless without purposely intending to harm someone. Gross negligence is more serious and goes beyond carelessness to include reckless, unreasonable, or willful misconduct by a person. Gross negligence is the total disregard to exercise due care that can lead to property damage or personal injury. It is behavior that “shocks the conscience”—behavior or a situation that seems grossly unjust to the observer.

Examples of Gross Negligence

Gross negligence is often easier to prove than most basic negligence cases because the actions in question may be obviously unreasonable and dangerous.

Some examples of gross negligence include:

  • Wrong site surgery. This happens when a doctor operates on the wrong organ, limb, or body part.
  • Foreign object left inside the patient. In this case, a doctor leaves a medical instrument or foreign body in the patient after surgery—like a piece of gauze or a sponge.
  • Unnecessary surgery. This can sometimes happen after a misdiagnosis of patient symptoms or a medical decision that doesn’t take into account the risks or other options. It can also take place when surgery is chosen over more conventional treatments.
  • Anesthesia errors. Mistakes with anesthesia can happen both prior to and during an operation. The anesthesiologist can fail to accurately review the patient’s medical records before surgery and possibly administer drugs that cause an allergic reaction, injury, or death. Or, due to previous medications given to the patient, a certain anesthetic could pose a risk of complication and shouldn’t be used.  

What Are the Legal Consequences of Gross Negligence?

In an ordinary negligence claim, the victim may receive compensatory damages. This money reimburses a patient for medical expenses, hospital bills, and lost wages. However, in a gross negligence lawsuit, it’s possible to receive additional compensation. Punitive damages may also be awarded as a way to discourage the dangerous behavior or action that led to the victim’s injury. In Virginia, punitive damages are capped at $350,000.

Should I Hire a Lawyer?

If you were injured by gross negligence, a personal injury attorney can help you recover for your injuries. Gross negligence claims often need prompt attention, and you may wish to hire a personal injury lawyer for immediate assistance. If you need help with a gross negligence claim, contact us today at 703-591-0067 to discuss your case.

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