There are times when things happen – missteps, mistakes, accidents and injuries – that genuinely could not be helped or prevented. In many respects, we knowingly take a risk as soon as we touch our feet to the floor after getting out of bed in the morning. However, there are also incidents that fall into an entirely different category. These are known to the healthcare and legal industry as never events.
Never Events Explained
In the healthcare realm, never events are serious errors that could have been avoided and that the provider should never have made. Their consequences for the patient, including lasting physical or psychological injury, disability and even death, can negatively affect the lives of the victim and their families for the foreseeable future. Because of their gravity, never events often lead to significant compensation for the people who are affected.
What are Some Common Types of Never Events?
A number of events fall into the category of never events. They fall into seven basic subsets:
- Surgical or other invasive procedures. Examples include surgeries performed on the wrong side of the body (amputating someone’s left hand instead of their right), performing a procedure on the wrong patient, doing the wrong type of surgery on a person (splenectomy instead of an appendectomy), leaving a foreign object in a patient’s body, and death.
- Contaminated drugs or malfunctioning devices. These errors generally occur due to the negligence of the doctor or hospital staff.
- Patient protection. Never events can also happen after the surgical procedure or hospital stay is completed. Examples include improperly discharging a patient to an inappropriate or incompetent party, disappearance (the patient is injured or dies after going missing from a clinic or hospital) and suicide or suicide attempt in a hospital or clinic setting.
- Care management. Many things can go terribly wrong while a patient is under the care of a medical professional: medication administration errors, incompatible or unsafe blood products, injuries or death during labor or delivery, falls in a healthcare setting, stage 3 or stage 4 ulcers, inseminating a patient with the wrong egg or sperm, loss of biological specimen such as during an organ transplant, and communication failure that occurs if a patient is not given the results of laboratory or radiology tests, leading to the patient’s death or injury.
- Dangerous environment. It is the institution’s responsibility to protect the patient from harm while they are under its care. Errors that can happen include electric shock, incorrect administration of oxygen or contaminated gas, burns or injuries sustained from physical restraints imposed upon a patient in the healthcare setting.
- Radiological. These occur if a patient is injured during an MRI procedure because of the presence of metal objects that were not preemptively removed from the MRI area before the procedure began.
- Criminal action that occurs while a person is under medical care. This may include being treated by someone posing as a doctor, abduction and sexual or physical assault or abuse occurring during a person’s stay.
All of these scenarios can lead to potentially dangerous or life-threatening consequences that merit significant compensation.
Suspect a Never Event? What You Should Do
If you or someone you love has died or been injured as a result of a suspected never event, it is crucial that you act immediately to gather the necessary evidence that can be used to prove negligence and garner the compensation you deserve. Whether you choose to accumulate the details yourself or prefer to obtain the assistance of a legal professional, you should follow the steps below:
- Collect as much detailed evidence as you can, including writing a journal daily.
- File a medical malpractice lawsuit in a timely fashion.
- Prepare to negotiate with the other party.
- Look into taking the case to court if negotiations fall short.
It is important to note that your biggest task will be to prove that negligence occurred. To achieve this, you must:
- Duty of care. Prove that you had a doctor-patient relationship with the person who made the error.
- Breach. You must show that the doctor breached their duty of care by demonstrating how it fell below medical industry standards.
- Causation. You need to show that the primary cause of your injuries stemmed from the doctor’s breach of care.
- Damages. You must show that the event led to negative consequences like loss of income or earning capacity, high medical bills, etc.
Because of the many nuances in these never event medical malpractice cases, patients often lose in court or settle for lower amounts than they deserve. This underscores the importance of hiring a qualified medical malpractice attorney to fight for justice in your case.
Time is of the Essence
After serious injury, many patients need time to recover from the trauma. As understandable as this may be, it is vital that you seek compensation quickly. That is because the statute of limitations for these types of cases is generally shorter than that for personal injuries. Specific limitations vary according to the state where you live, and certain other exceptions can apply for you even if you have gone beyond your state’s prescribed limit. Consulting with a medical malpractice attorney familiar with your local area is the best way to proceed and get the compensation to which you are entitled.
Are Never Events Preventable?
According to researchers, there are an estimated 4,082 surgical never events annually in the United States. Although they are rare in comparison to the number of procedures and hospital stays that occur in this country, their repercussions are life-altering for their victims. Here are a few things you can do to minimize your chances of experiencing a never event:
- Do your homework. Use care and thoroughness when choosing your doctor and medical facility.
- Provide all details about your medical history to your doctor.
- Don’t leave out anything no matter how insignificant or embarrassing it might be.
Unfortunately, even your best preventive efforts might not be enough to protect you or someone you love from experiencing a never event. The good news is that you don’t need to suffer alone. Enlist the services of a highly competent attorney with expertise in this field, and you will have an ally who will walk with you throughout every step of the process of getting the justice and monetary compensation you deserve.