Issue: March 2013
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When Cataract Treatment Creates More Harm Than Cure: Malpractice Liability Issues

Introduction

Cataract and Vision Impairment Liability

Cataract surgery accounts for more than 1,000,000 operations in the United States annually. Although the National Eye Institute calls cataract surgery "one of the safest and most effective types of surgery," complications can arise, mistakes can occur, and injuries or even death can result.

 
When complications or problems occur, malpractice and negligence claims may follow. Cataract surgery accounts for more malpractice claims against ophthalmologists than any other type of surgery they perform.
 
Attorneys, physicians, hospitals, insurers, and others who may be affected should be aware of the types of lawsuits that may arise after an injury occurs in connection with the treatment of cataracts, what strategies and techniques to employ, and what concerns and issues are critical to know.

The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy

Attorneys:

What proof is needed to demonstrate medical malpractice in litigation involving the treatment of cataracts? And, what is a potential strategy for the attorney to employ?

Physicians:

How can liability for medical malpractice be avoided for an injury involving the treatment of cataracts? And, what is a potential strategy for an ophthalmologist or other physician to employ?

Insurers:

Can a payout under a medical malpractice liability policy be avoided by proof that the health provider was not negligent or there was no coverage for malpractice involving cataract treatment? And, what is a potential strategy for the insurer to employ?

Employers:

Can an employer be subject to liability for an employee’s cataract? And, what is a potential strategy for the employer to use?


Practice the Technique: Checklists

Attorneys:

Counsel must develop a checklist of facts and circumstances, specific to the client’s fact situation, which demonstrates proof of injury in connection with cataract treatment or surgery.

Physicians:

The other parties to the litigation will scrutinize the ophthalmologist, optometrist, other health care providers, medical experts, assessment, communication, and treatment provided. The health provider must consider this checklist when presenting a defense to liability.

Insurers:

When investigating a claim of negligence involving the treatment of cataracts, the insurer should carefully evaluate the actions of the ophthalmologist and others. The insurer should look for the following “red flags” and consider how they impact the insurance coverage and the liability for payouts.

Employers:

Employers and their risk managers are concerned with preventing absenteeism and the ability of their employees to work effectively. The following checklist should be considered when determining if the employee’s cataract is “work related” and occurred “in the course of the employment,” and therefore is compensable.

Expert Analysis

What Practices Can Help Ensure Physicians Obtain “Informed” Consent to Cataract Surgery from Patients?

Sarah Kelman J.D.

How Can Surgical Errors Be Minimized in Cataract Surgery?

American Academy of Ophthalmology

Litigation

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Arbitration or mediation may be required by contract or statute, mandated by the court or, in some circumstances, may be the appropriate method for a negotiated resolution.


Reasons to Reach Settlement

The following are reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to reach settlement, and not take the action to trial.


Reasons to Go to Trial

The following are reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to take the action to trial.


Jury Awards and Settlements

How much have juries awarded and what settlements have been reached recently in cases involving cataract or vision impairment?



Medical Examples

Cataracts and Vision Impairment

This section provides detailed medical information on eye structure and cataracts, terminology, causes of cataracts, symptoms, blindness, prevention, surgical treatment, drugs associated with cataract treatment, and complications. It also discusses the patient’s prognosis and ability to work.



Law and Medicine Resources

References

Provided below is a listing of law and medical references for further information on vision impairment or cataract liability.


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When Cataract Treatment Creates More Harm Than Cure: Malpractice Liability Issues

Table of Contents
Introduction

Expert Analysis
   Sarah Kelman J.D.
   American Academy of Ophthalmology

The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy
   Attorneys
   Physicians and Health Providers
   Insurers
   Employers and Risk Managers

Practice the Technique: Checklists
   Attorney Checklist
   Physician Checklist
   Insurer Checklist
   Employer Checklist

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Reasons to Reach Settlement

Reasons to Go to Trial

Jury Awards and Settlements

Cataracts and Vision Impairment

References