An estimated 80,000 surgical "never events" occurred in U.S. hospitals during a recent 20-year period, averaging 4,000 per year. These estimates have been described as probably on the low side. The estimates indicate that surgeons perform the wrong procedure on a patient 20 times a week and operate on the wrong body site 20 times a week.
Surgical misidentifications are not the type of injury that triggers frivolous lawsuits or settlements made to avoid jury trials as they are fairly unambiguous injuries. Judgments and settlements over the 20-year time period indicate amounts paid out for surgical never events totaled $1.3 billion.
Attorneys, physicians, insurers, employers, and others who are involved in litigation concerning surgical misidentifications must be aware of the types of lawsuits that arise from these types of injuries, which strategies and techniques to employ, and which issues are critical to understand.