Issue: December 2018
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Burns Related to Surgery or Other Medical Treatment: Hot Liability Issues

Introduction

Burn Injury Risks

Over a million burn injuries require medical attention annually and up to 10,000 people in the United States die every year of burn-related infections. It is estimated that 550 to 650 surgical fires occur annually with the potential to cause severe damage and injury within seconds.

 

Surgical burns are a persistent and potentially devastating problem for acute-care hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. Other treatment-related burns also present problems, including radiation burns and burns from solutions or chemicals.  

 

Litigation involving surgical fires can be medically complex, dramatic, and result in significant jury awards.

 

Attorneys, physicians, insurers, employers, risk managers, and other potential parties to litigation need to understand the types of litigation issues that may arise in connection with a surgical or other treatment-related burn injury.


The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy

Attorneys:

What proof is needed for a malpractice claim involving a surgical or treatment-related burn injury? And, what is a potential strategy for the attorney to employ?

Physicians:

How can liability for medical malpractice be avoided for a surgical or treatment-related burn injury? And, what is a potential strategy for the physician to employ?

Insurers:

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

Employers:

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

Risk Managers:

Can a risk manager prevent liability or mitigate damages for a surgical or treatment-related burn injury? And, what is a potential strategy for the risk manager to use?


Practice the Technique: Checklists

Attorneys:

Check this list of facts and circumstances tending to show a provider’s liability for malpractice involving surgical burns.

Physicians:

Presented is a checklist of items a physician must consider when defending against a claim of malpractice or negligence involving surgical burns.

Insurers:

The insurer should check these “red flags” and inconsistencies when investigating a claim malpractice or negligence involving a surgical burn.

Employers:

Presented is a checklist of items an employer must consider when determining if the employee’s injury related to a surgical burn is compensable.  

Risk Managers:

Use this checklist to determine if the risk manager has identified and implemented all appropriate policies, practices, and procedures to prevent liability or mitigate damages for malpractice or negligence involving surgical burns and whether all affected parties complied with these policies, practices, and procedures.

Expert Analysis

How Are Surgical and Other Burns Treated and Prevented?

Steven E. Wolf, MD, FACS

What Is Needed for Successful Settlement of a Surgical Burn Action?

Steven M. Levin, JD

Litigation

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Arbitration or mediation may be required by contract or statute, may be 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, risk manager, 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, risk manager 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 injuries related to surgical burns?



Medical Examples

Surgical Burns

This section provides detailed medical information on surgical burns, the surgical “fire triangle,” the tissue effects of a burn, burn classifications, burn severity, types of surgical burns, medical devices and solutions causing burns, treatment of burns, complications, reconstruction, and scar revision. Also discussed is the surgical burn patient’s prognosis and ability to work.



Law and Medicine Resources

Law and Medicine Resources

Provided is a listing of law and medical resources for further information on surgical burns.


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Burns Related to Surgery or Other Medical Treatment: Hot Liability Issues

Table of Contents
Introduction

Expert Analysis
   Steven E. Wolf, MD, FACS
   Steven M. Levin, JD

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

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

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Reasons to Reach Settlement

Reasons to Go to Trial

Jury Awards and Settlements

Surgical Burns

Law and Medicine Resources