During many forms of surgical procedures, anaesthetic is administered to prevent you from feeling any pain. Usually, anaesthetic works exactly as it should but, on occasion, things sometimes go wrong. Any sensations or feelings of pain during medical treatment while under anaesthetic is known as anaesthetic awareness. It happens rarely but this guide on anaesthetic negligence claims will explain when you could be compensated for any suffering you’ve endured. We’ll review the types of anaesthetic errors that could allow you to seek damages and explain the claims process in detail.
Our specialists are here to help if you believe you should be compensated for an anaesthetic error. They’ll review your claim with you, explain your options and offer free legal advice. If a claim looks viable, a medical negligence solicitor from our panel could help you to claim compensation for anaesthetic negligence.
To speak to us right away, please call 0800 652 1345 or please read on to find out more about anaesthetic negligence claims.
What is anaesthesia?
Anaesthesia allows doctors to perform operations, tests and medical procedures that may otherwise not be possible. They are used to prevent patients from feeling any pain or discomfort while they are being treated.
The three main types of anaesthetic are:
- General anaesthetic. Usually, a general anaesthetic is administered and monitored by a specialist doctor called an anaesthetist. A general anaesthetic is used to make you completely unconscious during surgery so that you can’t feel any pain whatsoever. This allows surgeons to make incisions, remove organs and perform complex tasks without the risk of the patient moving.
- Local anaesthetic. These are used to deaden feeling within a localised area of the body while minor surgery is carried out. You will remain awake during the procedure but you should feel little or no pain in the area affected.
- Regional anaesthetic. To try and avoid some of the side effects of general anaesthetic, a regional anaesthetic may be administered during some forms of surgery. A common example of this is the anaesthetic used when performing an epidural during childbirth to numb any pain in the lower part of the body.
We’ve mentioned surgeons already but it’s important to note that anaesthetic can sometimes be administered by dentists, GPs and other medical professionals. As such, if you’ve had an anaesthetic that’s gone wrong and caused you to suffer, please contact us to discuss your options.
Can I claim compensation for anaesthetic negligence?
Mistakes made with the administration of an anaesthetic could be a form of medical negligence. If you are to make a successful anaesthetic negligence claim, you’ll need to prove that:
- A medical professional was negligent because the level of care provided fell below what could be reasonably expected of a competent practitioner; and
- Because of that negligence, you suffered physically or mentally. This is known as causation.
The solicitors on our panel can only help you claim in cases where both negligence and causation can be proven. For example, they couldn’t help you if you found out that too much anaesthetic was used during your operation but there were no obvious side effects.
To prove negligence for anaesthetic errors, your solicitor will refer the case to an independent third-party expert. They’ll review what happened and try to determine if they’d have done things any differently. If they believe the defendant’s actions were negligent, you could have the grounds to proceed with your claim.
Problems resulting from anaesthesia errors
While most people have nothing other than minor side effects following an anaesthetic, the NHS lists some complications that can occur. As such, any of the following could potentially lead to anaesthetic negligence claims:
- Permanent nerve damage. This could lead to paralysis if the damage is to the peripheral nerves in the spinal cord.
- Allergic reactions. The NHS estimates that 1 in 10,000 patients suffer an allergic reaction to anaesthesia. While this is rare and many people recover fully, some can be left with life-changing or life-threatening injuries.
- Death. While very rare, 1 in 100,000 people dies during non-emergency surgery where general anaesthetic is used.
To reduce the risk of suffering, an anaesthetist should consider the following:
- Medical history.
- Personal factors i.e. if you’re overweight or a smoker.
- The type of anaesthetic i.e. is general anaesthetic required or would local anaesthetic suffice?
- The type of procedure.
If the risks are not properly reviewed prior to treatment and you suffer as a result, you may be entitled to begin an anaesthetic negligence claim.
In rare cases where the anaesthetic does not have the desired effect, it is possible for a patient to be conscious during surgery, feel pain or hear what’s going on around them. This is called anaesthesia awareness or accidental awareness. However, due to the muscle relaxants used during surgery, it is often not possible for the patient to raise the alarm about what’s happening.
As you can imagine, anaesthetic awareness can be a traumatic experience and lead to:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- Nightmares and sleep problems.
- Flashbacks and irritability.
- Anxiety and depression.
Can I claim compensation for anaesthesia awareness?
A few reasons you may be able to claim compensation where negligence has caused suffering from anaesthetic awareness include:
- Inadequate dosage. This may occur if an anaesthetist doesn’t calculate the right amount of anaesthetic required based on the patient’s health factors.
- Resistance to the anaesthetic. Obesity, age, excessive drug or alcohol use and other factors could reduce the impact of an anaesthetic on the patient.
- Faulty equipment. Any type of faults such as a broken pump, blocked pipe or disconnected equipment could all prevent the anaesthetic from reaching the patient.
- Monitoring failures. Anaesthetists use several tests to monitor the current level of anaesthesia. Mistakes during these tests could lead to less effective pain relief.
- Failure to spot the signs of anaesthetic awareness. Dilated pupils, sweating, movement and hypertension are all signs that could indicate the anaesthetic is failing.
If you or a loved one has suffered because of an anaesthetic error and believe you should be compensated, please call our team and they’ll review your options for free.
How much compensation will I get for anaesthetic negligence?
When claiming compensation for anaesthetic negligence, you should consider exactly how the error has caused you to suffer. That means that as well as claiming for any physical suffering (general damages), you should look at any costs you’ve incurred as well (special damages).
If you work with a medical negligence solicitor on our panel, they’ll review your claim in detail and try to secure maximum compensation for:
- Any physical discomfort, pain and suffering.
- Psychiatric damage caused by distress, anxiety, depression and other conditions.
- Loss of amenity i.e. if your injuries have stopped you from carrying on with your normal hobbies.
- Care costs.
- Travel expenses.
- Medical expenses.
- Loss of earnings. For longer-term suffering, future loss of earnings may also be considered.
- Home adaptations. For example, lifts and hoists might need to be installed to help if you’ve been left paralysed by an anaesthetic error.
How will my solicitor know how I’ve suffered from the anaesthesia error?
To help determine how you’ve suffered, you’ll need to undertake a medical assessment as part of the anaesthetic negligence claims process. This will be carried out by an independent medical specialist. They’ll read your medical records, examine any ongoing injuries and talk with you about how you’ve suffered. They’ll then provide a report about your prognosis to all parties involved in your claim.
Providing proof for an anaesthetic negligence claim
Proving that an anaesthetic mistake was made and that it’s caused you to suffer can be quite a complex task. So, your solicitor will try to collect as much proof as possible to support your claim. This might include:
- Your medical records. These could be used to show how you suffered following treatment and to assess whether the right kind of anaesthetic was used.
- Complaint responses. If you complained about your treatment, you should have been sent an official response. This may include an apology or a commitment to change procedures. While this won’t result in compensation, it could make it easier to understand what went wrong with the anaesthesia procedure.
- Witness statements. Your loved ones may be asked to supply a statement to explain how you’ve been affected since the anaesthetic error.
- Financial evidence. Bank statements, wage slips and receipts might all be useful if you need to claim back any costs linked to your injuries.
- A personal statement. You’ll be asked to describe how you felt during surgery and how your life has been affected since. Your solicitor will help with this but it’s a good idea to document as much as possible as soon as you can.
If you would like a solicitor on our panel to help you collect proof to support your claim, please call our advisors today.
Anaesthetic negligence claim time limits
Medical/clinical negligence claims in the UK have a 3-year time limit. For anaesthetic claims, this limitation period will start from:
- The date you were treated; or
- The date you became aware of the problems caused by an anaesthetic mistake.
If you have not yet fully recovered, the claims process might be a little more complex as time will be needed to understand your prognosis. In these cases, you may be paid interim payments before the claim is finalised to help you pay for a carer, deal with a loss of income or cover any medical costs.
For negligence during anaesthesia performed on a child, the time limit wouldn’t begin until they turn 18 years of age. However, a litigation friend could proceed with an anaesthetic negligence claim on their behalf before their 18th birthday.
Our advice is always to begin the claims process as soon as you’re able to. This will give you and your solicitor enough time to collate proof and arrange for medical reports to be compiled.
Fatal anaesthetic errors
Our solicitors know that being compensated won’t make things any easier if a loved one has died as a result of an anaesthetic mistake. However, at some point, a medical negligence solicitor on our panel could indeed help if you do decide to claim.
Compensation could be sought on behalf of the deceased’s estate to cover their death and any pain and suffering. Additionally, you could be compensated if you were reliant on the deceased’s income, pension or other benefits. You could also claim back costs such as funeral expenses.
If you would like to talk to us about claiming for wrongful death, please get in touch. We won’t put you under any pressure and you’ll receive legal advice on a no-obligation basis.
No Win, No Fee claims
Our panel of solicitors provide a No Win, No Fee service for any medical negligence claim they agree to work on. As a result, you’ll find the claims process much less stressful because you’ll know that you’ll only pay legal fees if the claim is won.
If your claim is taken on, your solicitor will begin working for you as soon as you’ve both signed the No Win, No Fee agreement. They will manage everything for you so you won’t have to deal with any complex legal negotiations or medical questions.
Remember, if the anaesthetic negligence claim is unsuccessful, you won’t need to pay for the solicitor’s work. Where there is a positive outcome, you’ll pay a success fee. This is a percentage of your settlement amount that your solicitor will deduct. Legally, success fees are capped at 25% but the fee you’ll pay will be listed in your contract.
Start an anaesthetic negligence claim today
If you’ve decided you’d like us to review your claim for free, why not call us on 0800 652 1345 today? During your initial consultation, we’ll examine what happened, explain your options and offer advice about what to do next.
If your case is taken on, you won’t need to pay any legal fees upfront and your solicitor will do all they can to try and secure the maximum amount of compensation possible.
If there’s anything else you’d like to know about anaesthetic negligence claims, please use our live chat service to get in touch.