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Nerve Damage After Surgery

Updated April 1, 2024 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

The nerves in your body play a crucial role in your body’s function. In fact, the nervous system is how your brain communicates with the rest of your body, allowing it to control other areas. Nerves carry signals to the brain about everything from pain and temperature to texture and balance. When a nerve is damaged, that communication pathway is interrupted with serious consequences. In some cases, severe nerve damage might result in lifelong pain or paralysis.

The nerves in your body play a crucial role in communication between the brain and other areas. Unfortunately, nerve damage can occur after surgery, which can lead to lifelong pain or paralysis. If this damage resulted from the doctor’s negligence, such as surgical or anesthesia error, you may be able to receive compensation in a malpractice case.

How Nerve Damage Occurs

A surgical procedure can cause nerve damage directly or indirectly.  Depending on the cause, proving medical negligence may be easier or more difficult.

Directly: Surgical Errors

Surgical errors such as an incision in the wrong place or contact between a surgical instrument and nerve tissue can lead to significant nerve damage. If a nerve’s accidental severing or slicing occurs, it may not be possible to repair it. This is often called a slip and can have serious consequences. Surgical errors are usually defined relative to the actions of another surgeon in a similar situation. If another doctor would have done something differently or not made the same mistake, your doctor may be liable for compensation.

Indirectly: Anesthesia Errors

An anesthesia mistake can cause severe nerve damage. For example, if a needle used to administer regional anesthesia damages a cluster of nerves in the spine, those nerves can be damaged. Nerve damage can occur if a patient under general anesthesia is positioned in a posture that pinches a nerve or restricts blood flow to the nerves. Additionally, your body may simply not react well to the anesthesia causing the surgery site to shut down or malfunction. If the medical provider had prior knowledge that this anesthesia is dangerous to you, they might be liable to pay for your injuries.

Symptoms of Surgical Nerve Damage

Nerve damage can manifest in many ways. Depending on the type and severity of the nerve damage, you can experience a variety of symptoms, including the following:

  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Pain
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Paralysis
  • Pins-and-needles feeling
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Incontinence and digestive issues
  • Loss of motor function
  • Loss of balance and coordination

Most of these symptoms can have long-term and debilitating impacts on your quality of life; some may be incurable.

Abnormal Nerve Damage

Surgery involves cutting into the human body. As a natural side effect of any medical procedure, you may experience nerve damage symptoms at the site of the surgery. Determining whether this is normal or abnormal damage is important in pursuing further compensation.

The question to be asked is whether or not you could expect the same degree of nerve damage from a similarly competent surgeon. You may need to speak with another doctor or medical professional to confirm if your surgeon made uncharacteristic mistakes.

If your surgeon damaged a healthy nerve because they were rushing or not paying attention, you could recover compensation. If there was a hand slip during the procedure, you might also be able to retrieve benefits for your abnormal nerve damage.

Recoverable Damages in a Nerve Damage Case

The primary benefit awarded in nerve damage cases is pain and suffering and the loss of function of your body. In personal injury cases, pain and suffering include both physical and mental aspects. If someone’s overall quality of life suffers as a result of long-term nerve injury, they will experience long-term physical pain and distress. These factors can cause somebody to develop mental issues such as depression. Combined with diminished functional capacity from damage to nerves, this can result in significant compensation.

Other types of damages that can be recovered are far more concrete. Expenses like medical costs and lost wages have dollar amounts associated with them and are easily paid. Pain and suffering is more abstract and difficult to quantify. It will be up to the involved parties to determine the value of the victim’s suffering. If a case makes it to trial, the jury will be responsible for assigning a value based on their assessment of courtroom testimonies.

Many times, settlement negotiations will be held up due to disagreements on verdicts. Predicting settlement values for malpractice often comes down to guesses. A good attorney will help you in obtaining fair compensation value for your nerve damage.

Proving Nerve Damage

The pain and suffering caused by nerve damage are difficult to communicate. However, the plaintiff can objectively show that the nerve damage occurred. Nerve conduction tests can prove that certain nerves are impaired. The plaintiff’s injuries can also be shown to typically correspond with nerve damage.

After it is established that nerve damage is present, the plaintiff will testify about their personal experience. This could include the pain they feel, how their life has changed, and the limitations their pain sets on their daily life. Medical personnel can also testify on injury symptoms and test results.

Nerve Damage FAQ

How long does a medical malpractice case take?

There is no easy way to tell how long a malpractice case will continue. If you sustain nerve damage during surgery, you might get compensation in a few months, or have to wait several years. If you decide to go to trial, it will take longer, but you may receive more compensation than previously expected.

The amount of time a lawsuit will take depends heavily on the parties involved in your accident. Insurance companies and hospitals that do not cooperate may attempt to drag out the process, so you give up. Don’t let these entities take advantage of you, hire an experienced medical negligence attorney to expedite the process.

Will my case automatically go to trial?

No law states that your claim will need to go to trial. Many cases with insurance companies and hospitals are settled before they enter the courtroom.

If the liable party does not agree to a sufficient settlement amount, you may have to take them to court to get adequate compensation. This might happen if they acknowledge your medical expenses but refuse to pay additional benefits for future losses of income or enjoyment.

They want you to accept the settlement and walk away, but if you choose to fight,  you might be able to recover significantly more financial compensation. A Wilson Kehoe Winingham medical malpractice attorney will represent you in a court of law if necessary and ensure you get the benefits to which you are entitled. We will fight to make sure that your suffering is acknowledged beyond the payment of medical bills.

Who do I sue for my nerve damage?

The party responsible for your damages will depend on what happens and the policies of a specific medical institution. If you experience indirect nerve damage from a reaction to anesthesia, you may be able to recover damages from the hospital or provider where you received care. If you are getting surgery at a specific practice, you may be able to hold the doctor liable for any surgical errors.

Medical malpractice lawsuits do not result in doctors losing their licenses unless there is gross negligence, or a court determines they should no longer be allowed to practice.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of medical malpractice, contact the Indianapolis medical malpractice attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you and your family get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.218.9643 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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