Charlotte, NC Law Firm
Looking for a Charlotte Medical Malpractice Lawyer Near You?
Call Today!
Doctor Performing Medical Surgery Procedure in North Carolina

Medical Malpractice Claims and Cosmetic or Plastic Surgery

Medical malpractice happens when a medical professional acts negligently. Being unhappy with the results of plastic or cosmetic surgery does not equate to medical malpractice. Proving negligence, and recovering damages in particular, in cosmetic or plastic surgery can be more difficult than in other medical malpractice cases. That is in part because most cosmetic surgeries are elective, they are not medically necessary. Plastic surgery, on the other hand, is often medically necessary. 

Plastic Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery Differences

While the two terms may overlap, and most people use the terms interchangeably, there are significant differences between cosmetic and plastic surgery. 

Plastic surgery is surgery that is done in order to reconstruct or repair a body or facial issue. These issues are typically caused by trauma, disease, burns, or a birth defect. Since it is reconstructive, plastic surgery is not elective surgery. Typical plastic surgery procedures include:

  • Breast reconstruction
  • Cleft palate repair
  • Congenital defect repair
  • Burns

While many plastic surgeons do perform cosmetic surgeries, plastic surgeons are the only doctors who can perform plastic surgery. Cosmetic surgeries in contrast can be performed by a variety of doctors, depending on the procedure and location of the surgery. 

Cosmetic surgery procedures are undertaken to improve a person’s appearance and often their self-esteem. Since cosmetic surgery treats a person’s appearance, it is considered elective surgery. Examples include:

  • Skin rejuvenation - botox, fillers, laser resurfacing
  • Facial contouring and rejuvenation - rhinoplasty, chin and cheek implants, facelifts, eyelifts, chemical peels, collagen injections, dental surgery, dermabrasion, neck lift, and  laser hair removal 
  • Body - liposuction, tummy tucks, arm lifts, and breast augmentation, lift or reduction, 

Both plastic and cosmetic surgery can go wrong, leaving a patient with undesired and unintended results. Examples include:

  • Puffiness from botox
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Scarring
  • Blood clots
  • Disfigurement 
  • Paralysis
  • Complications from anesthesia

When Surgery Goes Wrong

If the surgery goes wrong, or if the patient is not happy with the results of the surgery, it does not automatically mean that there is a claim for medical malpractice. In order for there to be actual medical malpractice, the patient will have to show negligence on the part of the doctor.  In order to have a medical malpractice claim, the following elements must be shown:

  1. The doctor had a duty to the patient. This is generally the easiest element of a malpractice claim because doctors owe their patients a duty of care; 
  2. The doctor breached the duty either by acting negligently or failing to act;  
  3. The breach of duty is what caused the patient’s injury; and 
  4. There were actual, compensable, damages. This includes medical bills and lost wages. 

In North Carolina, before filing a lawsuit for medical malpractice, the victim must hire an expert witness to review medical records. That expert must be versed in the speciality in which they are reviewing records, so either cosmetic or plastic surgery, and agree to testify that the doctor breached the duty of care. Failure to hire an expert prior to trial will result in the court dismissing the case. 

If a patient was injured as a result of medical malpractice, damages are available. They include both economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are designed to return a victim to the same place they would have been had there been no medical malpractice. Economic damages include medical costs like hospital bills, doctors, visits, rehabilitation, assistive devices and prescriptions. They also include lost wages if the victim of medical malpractice has to miss time from work due to their injuries. 

Non-economic damages are designed to compensate the victim for the pain and suffering resulting from the medical malpractice. Non-economic damages include mental and physical distress, loss of enjoyment, loss of consortium and inconvenience. 

In the case of the death of a patient, the family of the patient may recover both economic and non-economic damages including medical costs, lost wages, funeral and burial costs, loss of medical benefits, and loss of a pension.

Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer for egregious behavior rather than compensate the victim. They are awarded to send a message to both the negligent doctor and society, that this type of wrongdoing will not be accepted. In North Carolina, punitive damages may be available if the doctor’s behavior was done with malice, or if the doctor’s behavior was willful or wanton. 

Beginning in 2011, North Carolina law imposed a limit on the amount of non-economic damages available to victims in medical malpractice cases. The number was set at $500,000 and is adjusted each year for inflation. Economic damages are unlimited. 

Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim in North Carolina

Medical malpractice claims, like all claims, are subject to a statute of limitations, or a time frame in which suit must be filed. In North Carolina, the victim of medical malpractice typically has 3 years to file a claim in state court. Exceptions include if the injury could not have been discovered at the time when it occurred, then the victim has one year after the injury occurred, or 4 years after the malpractice occurred, to file suit. Another exception includes the discovery of an object left inside a person, for example when something like a sponge or a scalpel is left inside a patient, then the victim has 10 years to bring a claim. Statutes of limitations often have exceptions so it is important to consult with an experienced attorney to determine the appropriate statute of limitations. Failure to timely file may result in the court refusing to hear the case. A Charlotte, North Carolina attorney can make sure that you timely file your medical malpractice claim.  

Let Our Charlotte, North Carolina Medical Malpractice Attorneys Review Your Case

If you have a medical malpractice case, the Charlotte, NC based lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced attorneys who can help you understand your rights and whether or not there is negligence to proceed with a medical malpractice claim. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation.

Additional Medical Malpractice Personal Injury Articles

May 31, 2023
The Crucial Steps to Take Immediately After a Car Accident in North Carolina

A car accident can be an overwhelming experience, not just because of the injuries and property damage, but also the paperwork and phone calls that need to be handled quickly after the accident. It can be even more daunting if you don't know what steps to take afterward, particularly with the specific personal injury laws […]

May 31, 2023
Why Hire a Improper Left Turn Car Accident Lawyer?

In the bustling streets of Charlotte, NC, every day is a symphony of motion. As inhabitants navigate the rhythm of life, unexpected mishaps can disrupt the harmonious flow, turning lives upside down. Such are the moments following an improper left turn car accident — a chaotic blend of confusion, stress, and a rush of questions […]

May 31, 2023
When Should You Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident in Charlotte?

The upheaval following a car accident can alter one's life drastically. Journeying through its aftermath may seem daunting, with individuals often feeling isolated and unsure. In such situations, a beacon of guidance and wisdom, such as an attorney, can make a considerable difference. The pivotal role an attorney plays in pursuing justice can't be understated. […]

May 30, 2023
Hit and Run Accidents

Hit-and-run accidents occur when a driver hits someone and fails to stop; the driver leaves the scene of the accident. Leaving the scene of an accident is illegal in all 50 states. Leaving the scene of the accident can result in a driver incurring criminal charges. That is in addition to any claims they may […]

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram