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Advancements in orthopedic surgery mean that athletes can return to playing after devastating injuries and the rest of us can live without chronic pain from damaged bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. But not all orthopedic surgeries result in miraculous recoveries.
So are orthopedic surgeons legally liable if you can't return to your sport or life at 100 percent? And where do courts draw the line between a bad surgeon and a bad result?
Musculoskeletal Injuries and Malpractice
Doctors and other medical professionals are held to a certain standard of care for medical treatment and surgery and must treat patients with the same level of skill, expertise, and care as physicians in the same or similar community under similar circumstances. If they fail to meet that standard, they can be sued for medical malpractice.
In the context of orthopedic surgery, surgeons and their staff must be competent in their diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries. If an orthopedic surgeon misdiagnoses an injury, is grossly negligent during surgery, operates without your informed consent, or otherwise causes you further injury, you may be able to sue for medical malpractice.
Ligaments and Legal Liability
Just because you can't run as fast or lift as much as you could prior to orthopedic surgery doesn't necessarily mean your surgeon is liable for medical malpractice. Malpractice liability isn't premised on the recovery as much as it is on the surgery itself.
You would need to prove that your orthopedic surgeon breached the standard of care and that you were further injured as a result. For instance, if a surgeon repairs a knee ligament injury and it takes longer to recover than expected, that could be due to a variety of factors and your surgeon may not be at fault. But if your ligament is injured again because the surgeon didn't repair it properly, you may have a case.
Medical malpractice claims can be complicated, especially involving highly technical or specialized surgeries. If you think your orthopedic surgeon has caused you further injury, you may want to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney about your case.