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Having a pacemaker put in requires heart surgery, which is a very serious operation. Pacemakers are little devices that keep the heart beating in proper rhythm. Generally, the device is surgically implanted in the shoulder, stomach, or near the heart, and wires are attached from the device to the heart. The device works by constantly measuring the rhythm of the heartbeat and using little electric shocks to keep the heartbeat at the proper rhythm.
The main concern for people with pacemakers is that the device will just stop working or fail. When that happens, a person can lose consciousness, and it can be potentially fatal. When there is a problem with a pacemaker, or it stops working, the patient may be completely in the dark about what is going on because the device is inside their body.
How a Pacemaker Fails Will Determine Who to Sue
When a medical device fails, or causes injury, a patient may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages if the failure was the result of another person's action or inaction. Generally, there are three situations wherein a person may be able to file suit when a pacemaker fails:
In the first two situations, there may not be any apparent problem with the device until years after the procedure. Additionally, a component in the device, such as the leads (or wires) may fail, and if those components were manufactured by a company other than the device manufacturer, they will also be liable and should be sued as well. Additionally, in these first two situations, there is a difference in the type of claim being brought. Claims against the manufacturer are generally product liability claims, while claims against the hospital and doctor will be a medical malpractice or negligence claim.
In the last situation, the problem with the device will generally occur at the time of the action that caused it to fail. In these situations, it may be necessary to sue both the relevant actor, as well as the device manufacturer, doctor and hospital, as it may be a combination of the bad action and a device defect or installation error that caused the problem.
When Can You File a Lawsuit?
Because a defective device or improper installation may not be discover-able until a problem arises, the statute of limitations, or the time within which a lawsuit must be filed, can be extended beyond what is normally allowed for injury actions. Extending the statute of limitations for defects or injuries that are unknown is known as the discovery rule.
When a pacemaker or other medical device fails due to a third party's actions, the lawsuit will have to be filed within the state's statute of limitations for personal injury cases. These vary from state to state, but generally are at least one year, if not two or more.