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What Are Eye Doctor Injuries and Do They Qualify for Malpractice?

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Monday, June 19, 2017

What Are Eye Doctor Injuries and Do They Qualify for Malpractice?

Chicago Eye Doctor Malpractice Attorneys

No one can argue about the value of the eye. The human eye is a remarkable tool designed by nature, but is also a vital one. Humans rely on their eyes to see, function, and experience life. That is why patients visit their eye doctors. They receive routine, annual screenings, receive prescription glasses and ensure complications with their vision are addressed immediately.

Sadly, there are instances where an eye doctor or specialist may miss a condition or cause a serious error that results in the patient losing his or her ability to see the world around them.

How the Eye Works

A healthy eye works like a camera. It provides you with clear, uninterrupted vision using several components.

Just some elements of the eye include the iris, pupil, cornea, and lens. All these elements work together to bring images in and allow your brain to interpret them.

What Does an Ophthalmologist or Eye Doctor Do?

An ophthalmologist is a physician who deals with the treatment, pathology, function, and anatomy of the eye. The casual reference to them is an “eye doctor.” Some eye doctors have medical degrees, which means they receive specialized training to provide everything from eye surgery to prescription glasses.

There are subspecialties in this field of medicine. These subspecialties focus specifically on one area of treatment and include:

  • External Disease and Corneal Disease – This eye doctor handles eye transplants, corneal surgery, and refractive errors. They might also treat infections of the eye.
  • Glaucoma – An eye doctor specializing in glaucoma treatments handles the diagnosis and surgical treatment of this disease for adults and children.
  • Pathologist – An ophthalmic pathologist reviews tissue specimens of the eye and diagnoses conditions, infections, and disease.
  • Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery – This specialty combines plastic surgery with eye surgery and typically includes orbital surgery, lacrimal surgery, facial lifts, and eyelid or brow lift procedures.
  • Pediatric Ophthalmology – This field specializes in the care of children, including disorders and routine vision exams.
  • Vitreoretinal Disease – This specialty involves the medical and surgical treatment of all retinal diseases.

What Are the Most Common Reasons Why Eye Doctors Are Sued?

Not all poor outcomes are the result of negligence or lawsuits. Instead, a lawsuit stems from negligence by the physician or their staff.

Surgical Injuries and Negligence

Surgical injuries might include leaving instruments in the patient’s eye, performing surgery on the wrong eye, performing unnecessary eye surgeries, carelessly using surgical tools, or causing damage to other parts of the eye not being operated on.

Post-Procedural Infections

The eye is delicate and subject to severe infections. Infections can spread to the brain and result in eye loss. When surgical equipment or examination equipment is not properly sanitized, an infection is more likely.

Failure to Follow Up with a Patient

Eye doctors must follow up with their patients after treatments and diagnosis.

Failure to follow up after a surgery, ignoring a patient’s medical history, or discharging a patient too early after vision surgery could result in serious injuries.

Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose and Treat

During routine screenings, eye doctors detect potential conditions. If that eye doctor fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses a patient, it could result in permanent injuries. Sometimes, a patient might be diagnosed with an eye condition they do not have, resulting in thousands of dollars in expensive treatments.

Off-Label Use of Medical Devices in Ophthalmology

Medical devices and medications come in many forms, but when a doctor chooses to use them off-label (a use not intended by the manufacturer), it can result in complications. This is particularly the case during delicate eye surgery when an off-label product is supplemented for a recommended tool.

Common Injuries that Result from Vision Errors or Eye Surgery Errors

Eye treatment errors, surgical mistakes, and other forms of negligence can lead to visual impairment and permanent injury. Some patients will lose their vision for the rest of their life, or suffer life-threatening injuries and complications.

Serious injuries that a patient might endure because of an eye doctor’s negligence include:

  • Permanent or Partial Blindness – A patient could go from excellent or standard vision to partial or permanent complete blindness. Not only does this affect the patient’s ability to function, but they may not be able to work, care for their children, or enjoy life as they did before.
  • Inability to See Depth, Contrast, or Colors – Certain injuries to the eye might result in a patient being unable to perceive depth or contrast. These affect a person’s ability to drive and even work. Furthermore, a person may have issues with color detection.
  • Permanent Blurry Vision – Instead of losing their vision, the patient may have uncorrectable blurred vision. Blurred vision may result in the patient losing his or her job, being unable to drive, and other complications.
  • Chronic Dry Eyes – Dry eyes are a serious condition. Not only does it open a patient up to the risk of eye infections, but can lead to blurred vision and other complications.
  • Serious Infections Leading to Eye Loss – When infections are severe, the patient may lose his or her eye. For example, an infection after a corneal transplant could result in the patient losing the transplanted eye(s) and be unable to receive a transplant in the future.

What Compensation Can You Receive for an Eye Surgery or Vision Injury?

Eye injuries are costly and complicated to correct. A patient may require several, expensive, eye surgical procedures to restore vision, a corneal transplant, or the consequences of permanent vision loss.

Depending on the seriousness of the injury, the patient may be entitled to multiple forms of compensation, including:

  • Current and Future Medical Costs – These are the medical expenses associated with treating the injury and any future procedures or treatments necessary. Also, the costs the patient endured for the surgery or treatment that led to their injury might be compensable.
  • Lost Wages – The patient may receive compensation for their lost wages, including time taken off work to deal with the injury and follow-up appointments.
  • Loss of Future Wages – Vision loss, permanent blindness, and blurred vision are likely to reduce the number of jobs that the patient can perform. Also, if the patient has a high-paying career that he or she must forfeit due to vision loss, they may seek financial compensation for their inability to earn the same living in the future.
  • Pain and Suffering – Eye procedures can result in significant pain and emotional suffering. Not only does the victim have to cope with vision loss or other permanent injuries to their ability to see, but the physical and emotional pain of treatments and surgeries to correct the error.

Informed Consent Cases and the Eye Doctor

Common surgical procedures, such as LASIK and retina surgery, commonly result in malpractice lawsuits. That is because these procedures are dangerous and carry significant risks to the patient if performed incorrectly.

An eye surgeon must inform the patient of all risks and benefits of the surgical procedure or treatment. Then, the patient can only consent to the procedure after understanding these options.

To receive actual informed consent, the eye surgeon or doctor must:

  • Inform the patient of all foreseeable risks and discomforts they may experience.
  • Discuss the benefits of the procedure proposed.
  • Disclose alternative treatment and procedure options, as well as their advantages and risks.
  • Discuss the risks of not completing any treatments.
  • Any research or study information or information pamphlets on the procedure.

What if the Procedure is Experimental?

Eye treatments and procedures are constantly evolving. Therefore, if you are diagnosed with a specific condition, your eye doctor may propose an experimental treatment or ask to involve you in a study.

You must also give informed consent for these studies, but realize that studies and experimental treatments do not carry the same protections as an accepted treatment for eye problems. However, physicians are required to inform you if you are participating in an experimental treatment. They are still required to obtain informed consent, and you must be aware of any approved treatments, along with their risks and benefits. If you accept the experimental treatment, your physician must explain all risks of that experimental treatment.

Consult a Medical Malpractice Attorney at Malman Law Today

Poor outcomes are not always the result of malpractice. However, it is in your best interest to consult with your medical malpractice attorney if you suspect you are the victim of negligence. These types of cases are extremely complex; therefore, you need a lawyer who can assist you with reviewing medical records, consulting experts in similar fields, and ensuring that the eye doctor breached his or her duty of care to you.

The attorneys at Malman Law understand what you are going through. Furthermore, we know the consequences of permanent eye damage or loss. We want to help you cope with that loss as best as possible. Our attorneys will advocate for your right to compensation, and we will ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our attorneys today by calling us or request more information online.

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