Learn when you may be entitled to compensation after a cosmetic surgery mistake
Cosmetic surgery has seen a surge in popularity in places like Tampa, offering patients the chance to enhance their physical appearance and, often, their self-esteem. From liposuction to facelifts, the options are abundant, and the outcomes can be transformative. The allure of looking younger, fresher or more sculpted has drawn thousands to Tampa’s well-equipped medical facilities and board-certified surgeons.
However, it’s important to remember that, like any medical procedure, cosmetic surgeries carry risks. Although uncommon, complications can occur, sometimes resulting in severe repercussions for the patient, including death.
If you believe you’re the victim of a botched cosmetic surgery, read on to learn about your right to compensation and how to prove negligence in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
What’s the difference between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery?
While the terms “plastic surgery” and “cosmetic surgery” are often used interchangeably, there are some key differences:
- Plastic surgery. Plastic surgery is a broader field that focuses on reconstructive procedures to repair defects and abnormalities, often resulting from trauma, burns, disease or congenital disorders. The aim is to restore normal function and appearance. Plastic surgeons undergo extensive training in reconstructive and cosmetic procedures, enabling them to perform both types of surgeries. They are board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or similar international organizations.
- Cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery is a subset of plastic surgery that concentrates exclusively on enhancing a patient’s appearance (e.g., liposuction, facelifts, butt lifts, breast augmentations, etc.). Cosmetic procedures are elective and are generally not covered by insurance, as they’re not medically necessary. Surgeons performing cosmetic surgery may come from various medical backgrounds, including plastic surgery, and may or may not be board-certified in plastic surgery.
When considering any surgical procedure, it’s essential to check the qualifications and board certification of the surgeon to ensure they are adequately trained for the specific procedure you’re seeking.
How common is plastic surgery?
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ Plastic Surgery Statistics Report, there were 15.6 million cosmetic and reconstructive plastic procedures performed in the U.S. in 2020. Adults between the ages of 40 and 54 underwent the majority of these cosmetic procedures, accounting for about 45%.
Among the most popular cosmetic procedures were:
- Nose Reshaping (352,555)
- Eyelid Surgery (325,112)
- Facelift (234,374)
- Liposuction (211,067)
- Breast Augmentation (193,073)
What percentage of plastic surgery goes wrong?
A recent study published in the National Library of Medicine looked at 108,303 patients who underwent plastic surgery in the U.S. and found that 5.78% experienced at least 1 complication.
The most frequent issues were related to reoperations (3.31%) and surgical site infections (3.11%). Among microsurgical cases, which made up 5.68% of all surgeries, 19.33% had at least one complication, with reoperation and infection again being the most common.
The term “microsurgery” refers to procedures that involve the use of specialized surgical microscopes and precision instruments to perform intricate operations on very small structures, such as blood vessels and nerves. These techniques are often used in complex reconstructive surgeries, such as tissue transfer or flap procedures, rather than in simpler, more common cosmetic surgeries like facelifts or liposuction.
Longer operative time was identified as a common risk factor for complications. The study concluded that although the overall complication rate in plastic surgery is low, it is significantly higher in microsurgery. Suggestions for reducing these risks include exploring 2-team approaches and staged operations, especially for microsurgeries, which are more prone to complications.
Signs of a botched cosmetic surgery
If you’ve opted for cosmetic surgery with the hopes of enhancing your appearance, it’s crucial to know that while most procedures are successful, things can go wrong. When adverse outcomes occur due to the negligence or incompetence of the medical professionals involved, you may have a case for medical malpractice.
Understanding the signs of a botched cosmetic surgery can help you take appropriate action quickly. Here are some key indicators:
- Excessive or persistent pain. While some level of pain is to be expected following any surgical procedure, severe or escalating pain could be a sign that something is wrong.
- Asymmetry. Noticeable unevenness in the surgical outcome, like one breast appearing significantly larger than the other, could be a red flag.
- Poor healing. If your surgical wounds are taking an unusually long time to heal or you’re experiencing increased redness, swelling or other signs of infection, these could be indicators of a botched procedure.
- Unusual scarring. While some scarring is inevitable, extreme or discolored scarring might point to improper technique or postoperative care.
- Numbness or loss of sensation. An unanticipated loss of feeling in the surgical area could indicate nerve damage, which may indicate a medical mistake was made.
- Functional issues. If the surgery affects your ability to move or function normally—such as difficulty breathing after a rhinoplasty—it may be a sign of a poorly executed procedure.
- Unsatisfactory results. If the final outcome is drastically different from what was discussed and agreed upon with your surgeon, this could be considered a failure on the medical professional’s part.
If you experience any of these signs, you should consult with a qualified health care professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. You may also want to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to explore your legal options for financial recovery through a medical malpractice claim.
What is the new plastic surgery law in Florida?
As of July 1, 2023, Florida’s first plastic surgery bill, HB 1471, went into effect.
The new rules require an initial inspection of facilities by the Department of Health before they can start any procedures, replacing the previous rule that allowed immediate operations post-license issuance. Offices denying entry to inspectors will have their registration immediately suspended for at least 14 days, and they cannot reopen without written approval from the Department.
Additionally, there are specific new guidelines for liposuction and gluteal fat grafting, which include the following:
- Doctors must conduct in-person examinations of patients the day before the procedure.
- Written consent is needed for any tasks delegated by the physician.
- Only the physician can perform fat extraction and injections.
- Fat can only be injected up to a certain depth.
- Intramuscular or submuscular fat injections are not allowed.
- Ultrasound or other approved technology must be used during the procedure.
- Hospitalizations resulting from the procedure must be reported.
- There must be a one-to-one physician-to-patient ratio throughout the procedure, and doctors cannot engage in other procedures simultaneously.
Will plastic surgeons fix their mistakes?
If a mistake occurs during a plastic surgery procedure, some surgeons may offer to “fix” the issue in a subsequent operation. However, caution should be exercised before allowing the same surgeon to perform corrective surgery, especially if you believe the error could be due to negligence or a lack of skill.
The concern is that if the surgeon made a mistake the first time, there is a risk they might compound the problem in a second operation. Medical errors can be complex, and allowing the same physician to attempt a correction could lead to further complications.
Instead, it’s advisable to consult with a different, more-qualified physician to evaluate the situation and recommend a course of action. Seeking a second opinion will provide a fresh perspective on the problem and could result in a more successful outcome.
Can you sue a plastic surgeon in Florida?
Yes, you have the legal right to sue a plastic surgeon for medical malpractice if you believe the surgeon’s negligence led to an adverse outcome. Medical malpractice occurs when a health care provider’s treatment falls below the “standard of care,” resulting in harm to the patient. The standard of care refers to what a similarly qualified health care provider would have done under the same or similar circumstances.
Here’s how you can typically prove negligence in a medical malpractice case:
- Duty of care. First, you must establish that the plastic surgeon had a duty of care toward you. This is usually straightforward, as the patient-doctor relationship inherently includes a duty of care.
- Breach of standard of care. You must then prove that the health care provider breached the standard of care. Expert witnesses, usually other physicians specializing in the same field, often testify to establish what the standard of care is and how the defendant breached it.
- Causation. Next, you must demonstrate a direct link between the breach of the standard of care and the injury or harm suffered. In other words, you must show that it’s “more likely than not” that the surgeon’s negligence directly caused the adverse outcome.
- Damages. Finally, you must be able to quantify the damages you’ve suffered. These can be economic (like additional medical bills or lost wages) or non-economic (like pain and suffering).
What happens if a plastic surgeon messes up?
Errors during plastic surgery can lead to consequences ranging from minor complications to severe harm or even death. If negligence can be proven, the patient may be eligible for various types of damages, which can be broadly categorized as follows:
- Economic damages. These are quantifiable losses that the patient has suffered due to the negligence, such as medical bills, loss of earnings, and future medical care. Economic damages are intended to reimburse the patient for out-of-pocket expenses and losses.
- Non-economic damages. These are more subjective and difficult to quantify. They include emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and loss of consortium (i.e., loss of a familial relationship due to the injuries).
- Punitive damages. In cases where the surgeon’s conduct is found to be exceedingly reckless or intentional, punitive damages may also be awarded to punish the physician and deter similar behavior in the future.
How do I file a complaint against a plastic surgeon in Florida?
In Florida, you can file a complaint against a plastic surgeon for a medical mistake by contacting the Agency for Healthcare Administration online at www.ahca.myflorida.com, by phone at 1-888-419-3456 or by filling out one of the forms found here: https://mqacomplaintportal.azurewebsites.net/home.
Please be aware that filing a complaint against a plastic surgeon in Florida is an administrative process aimed at regulating the health care profession and doesn’t offer direct compensation to the injured party.
Actions taken against the health care practitioner could include the following:
- A reprimand
- A fine
- Restriction of practice
- Remedial education
- License suspension or revocation
To reiterate, filing a complaint against the surgeon will not result in monetary compensation for the injured party. To recover compensation after a medical mistake, you’ll need to seek the help of a personal injury attorney who specializes in medical malpractice cases.
How long do you have to sue a doctor after surgery in Florida?
Florida has specific statutes and regulations related to medical malpractice suits, including a 2-year statute of limitations from the time the patient was injured (or from when the patient should have reasonably discovered the injury). Failure to file a claim within this 2-year timeframe will likely prevent you from obtaining any compensation.
Contact an experienced Tampa medical malpractice attorney
Because medical malpractice law can be complex, consulting a qualified attorney for advice tailored to your individual situation is essential. If you suffered an injury during cosmetic or plastic surgery because of a doctor’s mistake, contact the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Lorenzo & Lorenzo. We can gather evidence and connect you with local experts in the field to help prove negligence and get you the compensation you deserve.
Contact our office today for a free consultation to learn more about your rights.
2023 Bill Summaries – The Florida Senate. (n.d.). www.flsenate.gov. https://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/BillSummaries/2023/html/3209
American Society of Plastic Surgeons. (2020). PLASTIC SURGERY STATISTICS REPORT 2020. https://www.plasticsurgery.org/documents/News/Statistics/2020/plastic-surgery-statistics-full-report-2020.pdf