Plastic surgeons are expected to meet the accepted standard of care for their field, just like any other physician. So, if cosmetic surgery truly goes wrong, the physician, facility, or other healthcare providers involved may be liable for medical malpractice. However, that doesn’t mean every cosmetic procedure that doesn’t work out exactly the way you’d hoped is grounds for a malpractice claim.
Cosmetic Surgery in America
Plastic surgery is loosely divided into two types: cosmetic and reconstructive. Reconstructive surgery includes reconstruction after a traumatic injury such as a car accident or dog bite, scar revision, and tumor removal.
Though “plastic surgery” probably makes most people think of cosmetic procedures, reconstructive surgery is actually more common in the United States. In 2020, there were more than six million reconstructive surgical procedures and just over 1.3 million cosmetic surgeries. There are also millions of minimally invasive cosmetic procedures such as Botox, chemical peels, and soft tissue fillers.
The most common cosmetic surgeries include:
- Nose reshaping, commonly described as a “nose job”;
- Eyelid surgery;
- Breast augmentation.
Patients pursuing medical malpractice claims involving these and other cosmetic procedures may face special challenges. One recent study found that insurers had paid out compensation in just 26% of plastic surgery claims studied. But there are many variables impacting the likelihood of success with a cosmetic surgery malpractice claim.
Medical v. Cosmetic Claims in Plastic Surgery Cases
Common Surgical Claims
Cosmetic surgery is like any other surgery in many important ways and patients face many of the same risks as other types of surgical patients. These include risks such as anesthesia errors, accidental harm such as the nicking of an artery or organ, nerve injury, post-surgical infection, and other complications. Often, these complications require additional treatment, such as a follow-up procedure, extended hospital stay, or readmission to the hospital.
In most ways, these types of claims are largely the same as similar claims that might be raised in connection with heart surgery or a surgical procedure to repair a torn ligament or a badly broken bone.
But there is one difference that some juries see as important: The surgery is elective. A jury may be less sympathetic to a patient who voluntarily decided to go under the knife than one who underwent a life-saving procedure like removal of a ruptured appendix. Some jurors may even take a dislike to a cosmetic surgery plaintiff because they see the patient as vain or the surgery conflicts with their personal beliefs.
Any type of medical malpractice claim involves technical evidence, expert assessment and testimony, and a high bar in demonstrating liability. So you’ll want to seek out an attorney who is experienced with medical malpractice claims, is well-acquainted with your local court system, and has a network of experts to draw on. If you’re filing a medical malpractice claim in connection with a cosmetic procedure, it’s also important to work with an attorney who is experienced in jury selection and will know how to minimize the risk of jurors judging the plaintiff harshly because of their own biases.
The other type of claim relates to the success of the procedure itself in terms of aesthetic improvement. This area is grayer and claims are often more difficult. That’s because “I don’t like the way it turned out” generally isn’t sufficient to support a medical malpractice claim. The plastic surgeon is required to perform up to the accepted standard of care, but it can be difficult for a dissatisfied patient to distinguish between a result that doesn’t meet the standard of care and one that simply doesn’t meet the patient’s hopes or expectations.
Of course, that doesn’t mean a patient whose plastic surgery turned out badly never has a valid claim. A claim against a cosmetic surgeon may succeed if a procedure wasn’t conducted up to the accepted standard of care, for instance, or if the patient wasn’t fully informed before the procedure.
The best source of information specific to your case is an experienced Ohio plastic surgery malpractice attorney. It’s in your best interest to consult an attorney who:
- Has experience with medical malpractice cases, since these cases involve technical and scientific information and require an understanding of the accepted standards in the profession and the use of expert witnesses;
- Is ready and willing to take the case to trial if that offers the best opportunity for fair compensation for your injuries;
- Has extensive experience with jury selection and will know how to navigate the particular biases that often arise in cosmetic surgery cases.
At Plevin & Gallucci, we’ve been fighting for victims of medical malpractice and other injuries for decades. Our attorneys are experienced in working with experts, gathering evidence, preparing cases, working with experts, negotiating with insurance company lawyers, and trying cases before Ohio juries.
We want to ensure that you have the information you need to make good decisions about your next steps. That’s why we offer free consultations to people who have been harmed by medical negligence in Ohio.