An ophthalmologist is trained to diagnose and treat conditions that require more invasive testing or correction. Patients seeing these specialists may suffer from severe vision problems due to diseases or medical complications. The actions an ophthalmologist takes can make a marked impact on their quality of living for better or worse. The Chicago ophthalmologist medical malpractice attorneys of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC work with those who have needed to make permanent adjustments to their lifestyles to be able to cope with the damage caused by a medical error or failed diagnosis.
A Career in Ophthalmology Requires a Commitment to Education and Training
Those wishing to become ophthalmologists need to dedicate over a decade of their lives to medical training, starting with a degree in medicine or osteopathy. After graduating medical school, future ophthalmologists need to spend a year interning in the field of general medicine before entering a residency program in ophthalmology for up to three years. From there, they may become board certified as ophthalmologists or enter into fellowship programs dedicated to specialization in treatment areas such as corneal disease, glaucoma treatment, ophthalmologic pathology, pediatric ophthalmology or neuro-ophthalmology.
To obtain and maintain board certification, doctors must routinely pass an examination and show that they have continued to invest in ongoing education. Their commitment to taking additional courses throughout their careers will help them stay on top of the latest developments in their fields and acquire additional skills that can help them perform their duties more effectively. Ophthalmologists are paid extremely well as a result and make an average annual salary of over $325,000 each year.
Despite committing time and energy to continued training and education, the best doctors are cable of making mistakes. This is especially true if they are overbooked or stressed. It is a responsible and wise practice for many doctors to take out insurance policies to cover the damages they may be held liable for if they act negligently. Our Chicago ophthalmology malpractice lawyers find that this information helps some clients who are hesitant to pursue their legal rights out of fear that it will harm their doctor financially.
Conditions Requiring Treatment From an Ophthalmologist
Many medical conditions can have an impact on our eyesight as well as the physical health of our eyes. An ophthalmologist’s role is to gather information about patients’ current medical conditions, health history, and lifestyle when assessing their symptoms and complaints about their vision. Some of the conditions their patients may suffer from include the following.
- Conjunctivitis — also known as pink-eye, conjunctivitis is an infection that causes the lining of the eye to become itchy, inflamed and irritable. It can be treated with antibiotic eye drops and medications. Where it becomes a serious problem is when the infection is not treated in a timely fashion and the patient suffers damage to the eye.
- Glaucoma — this condition is the result of fluid pressure that builds behind the eye, resulting in strain and vision loss. It is remedied through surgical procedures that drain the fluid responsible for the pressure so that vision can be restored.
- Cataracts — when cataracts form over the lens of the eye, it results in cloudy and darkened vision. Surgery is required to remove the cataract, but it is usually possible to restore vision.
- Blurred or diminished vision — vision loss can occur for numerous reasons, but many people suffer progressive vision loss over time naturally and need some form of vision correction to be able to see clearly. If they are not satisfied with glasses or contacts, they may elect to undergo LASIK or PRK surgery, which is performed by an ophthalmologist.
- Ptosis — a drooping eyelid can cause discomfort and affect the patient’s sight. The condition is resolved through a minimally invasive surgical procedure.
- Diabetic retinopathy — diabetes can have an impact on the nervous and cardiovascular systems and elevated glucose levels may damage the retina or the optic nerve. There are numerous treatment methods available to reduce the effects of the damage and to prevent further deterioration from occurring.
As many vision problems are linked to other medical conditions, it is important for ophthalmologists to determine when a problem warrants further investigation by another specialist. In addition to performing diagnostic tests on patients’ eyes, the ophthalmologist may discuss referrals to other doctors if required. The types of tests performed by ophthalmologists include the following.
- General eye examinations — these examinations can allow the doctor to determine whether further testing is required by looking at the eye itself and receiving feedback from the patient to determine how and to what degree his or her vision is impaired.
- Corneal topography — this test maps the surface of the cornea to detect any signs of damage such as scratches, scar tissue, and inflammation.
- Fluorescein angiography — during this test, a dye is used to identify problems in the blood vessels in and surrounding the eye.
- Fundus photography — this procedure obtains an image of the optic nerve and the blood vessels that are feeding it.
- Biopsies — the removal of a small amount of abnormal tissue in the eye can help the doctor test for certain conditions.
Medical Malpractice Committed by Ophthalmologists Has Catastrophic Consequences
Medical or surgical errors related to the eyes can cause permanent disability, emotional turmoil and loss of opportunity due to the sudden inability to work. While some victims of malpractice are able to undergo revisionary procedures to correct the damage, others are left with permanent vision loss or blindness. The cost of assistive care for the blind can be exorbitant and places an additional burden on the victim and his or her family.
Examples of negligence our Chicago ophthalmology malpractice lawyers have seen include the following.
- Errors in diagnosis or delay in treatment. The failure of a doctor to provide a diagnosis in a timely fashion can have devastating consequences, even when the original issue was minor. An example is the progression and spread of an infection, which may result in the loss of the eye. Misinterpretation of test results can also lead to diagnosis errors or result in the recommendation of inappropriate treatment measures.
- Failure to order or perform tests. Some cases of misdiagnosis are the result of the complete failure to conduct the tests needed to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.
- Not keeping an accurate medical record. Patient medical records are not only instrumental in assisting doctors with diagnosing patients, but they may also help doctors avoid treatment options that are not appropriate due to the interaction of medication or a medical condition which may complicate a procedure or treatment option.
- Errors during surgery. Tears and lacerations occurring during surgery that are not quickly identified and repaired may lead to permanent vision loss. Making an incision in the wrong location may also cause blindness or another permanent injury.
- Infection due to surgical error or inappropriate recovery procedure. Every surgical procedure opens the patient to the risk of an infection, but eye infections have the potential to do devastating damage. It is important that every reasonable step is taken to prevent and identify infections following surgery and to provide treatment at the first sign.
- Failure to follow up with patients. It is highly common for patients not to be well informed when it comes to their medical procedures. This stems from the trust they have in their physicians, but can also be due to a lack of follow up and communication. In order to make sure that the patient is doing what is needed to ensure a speedy and healthy recovery, the ophthalmologist needs to follow up.
- Failure to refer to other doctors or communicate well with the patient’s healthcare team. Some conditions are indicators of problems elsewhere in the body and these concerns need to be relayed to the patient’s primary care physician or a specialist more qualified to treat the underlying concern.
- Medication errors. Providing the wrong medications to patients may result in further complications and even delay the treatment of the original concern. In the worst cases, the patient then needs additional care for the original condition as well as those that arise due to the error.
The permanent loss of vision has horrendous implications on a victim’s quality of living. Those waking up from medical procedures to learn they may never see again endure suffering on a physical and emotional level. They are overcome with worry over how they will support their families now that they are unable to return to work. In addition to needing to learn how to live without vision, they will be constantly reminded of their tragic experience.
Sample Ophthalmology Malpractice Verdicts & Settlements
$950,000 Settlement; Ophthalmologist Malpractice; Chicago, Illinois
This case started as a schoolroom scuffle. Two teenage classmates got into a fight. One of the boys took a pen and stabbed the other in the eye. The kid was rushed to see an eye doctor. He had a ruptured globe as well as general inflammation around the eye. However, the eye doctor did not spot the issue correctly. As a result, the child's eye began to experience atrophy. Consequently, doctors had to prescribe a prosthetic. This caused him untold pain, loss of self-esteem, and money (the medical bills eclipsed $60,000). For this and the related tangible and intangible harm, he brought a lawsuit against the ophthalmologist. The complaint claimed the eye doctor was negligent in his diagnosis, treatment, and instructions related to the care of the kid. It sought compensation for all the damages that this negligence caused. Both sides settled out of court for a reported $950,000.
$1,500,000 Jury Award; Ophthalmology Malpractice; Cook County, Chicago
The plaintiff in this action was a middle-aged man. He was fifty-eight when he brought the case. Over a couple of weeks, he saw an ophthalmologist on a number of occasions. He told the doctor his right eye hurt. The eye showed signs of pain and swelling. The doctor treated the condition. After the man last saw this eye doctor, he had to go to the emergency room. An eye doctor there diagnosed him with an infection along the inside of his eye. The man thought that the first doctor messed up. In particular, he claimed the first ophthalmologist improperly treated the infection and that caused blindness, shrunken eyeball syndrome, and the need for him to wear a prosthetic shell casing. He sought damages from the doctor in an Illinois court for these harms as well as the costs and pain that came with it. The defendant doctor had several objections. First, he said he operated within the correct standard of care. Second, he replied that the plaintiff's infection was unrelated to the care he rendered. Third, he offered that bacteria or some other external source could have triggered the plaintiff's issues instead of his service. The jury had to figure out who was right amidst all of this finger pointing. They awarded the plaintiff a $1.5 million verdict. Of that money, $800,000 was for suffering and pain; $600,000 was for lost normal life; and $100,000 was for disfigurement.
$500,000 Settlement; Ophthalmology Malpractice; Cook County, Illinois
Here, a man in his late forties when to see an eye doctor. His left eye bugged him and he wanted to get it checked out. There was some pain and a little swelling. The ophthalmologist diagnosed it as pink eye. Then, he prescribed the patient some eye drops. Yet, things only got worse for the man. Eventually, he started to lose vision in the affected eye. He went to see another eye doctor. That ophthalmologist diagnosed the issue as acute retinal necrosis. That is a viral infection. It is very aggressive by nature. The new doctor also gave the man a course of treatment. Thankfully, the steps he took prevented a complete infection. However, he still lost most vision in the eye. He sued the first eye doctor for malpractice. He alleged the defendant failed to diagnose his condition. Also, he alleged the defendant improperly treated him. The defendant filed a response. However, the substantive merits of his objections could not be measured because the matter settled prior to trial. The man received $500,000 in compensation, and that included over $150,000 for medical bills.
$678,483 Jury Award; Ophthalmology Malpractice; Chicago, Illinois
In this dispute, the ophthalmologist conducted a cataract surgery on the plaintiff. The doctor did not perform an ultrasound before that procedure. The doctor also did not advise the patient to see an ophthalmologist trained in retinal issues beforehand. After the cataract operation, the doctor discovered the plaintiff had a detached retina. The plaintiff, a female in her late fifties, sued the doctor. She claimed that he should have done an ultrasound or referred her to a specialist prior to the surgery. Since he did not, she suffered ongoing pain, needed multiple retinal operations, and incurred extraordinary medical bills (almost $80,000 worth). The defendant ophthalmologist claimed the operation he did was critical and stood behind the adequacy of that care. However, the jury did not stand with him. They found for the woman and awarded her $678,483 ($138,483 for medical bills; $315,000 for suffering and pain; and $225,000 for lost normal life).
$362,274 Jury Award; Ophthalmology Malpractice; Chicago, Illinois
The dispute here revolved around a LASIK procedure. During the operation, the doctor recut the original flap. This caused issues that required follow-up operations. Now, the woman was left with scarring, pain, and reduced vision. She and her husband sued the doctor. They alleged he breached the standard of care. Specifically, they claimed he should have provided surface treatment or re-lifted the first flap instead of doing what he did. The defendant maintained that he performed the operation with the level of care required for the circumstances. The jury disagreed. It awarded the plaintiffs $362,274. Of that amount, $205,000 was for the woman's pain; $95,000 was for the woman's lost normal life; $8,274 was for the couple's medical bills; and $54,000 was for the lost services that the man suffered.
Experienced Ophthalmologist Malpractice Lawyers Will Review Your Case for Free
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has been helping Chicago malpractice victims recover the compensation they are entitled to for many years. Our medical law team has extensive knowledge, experience, and a successful track record. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a medical error, delayed diagnosis, surgical mistake or the failure of your doctor to communicate with you properly, you may also be entitled to receive damages for your medical bills, lost wages, adjusted quality of living, pain, suffering and out of pocket expenses.
Contact us today to arrange a free consultation with one of our award-winning Chicago ophthalmologist medical malpractice attorneys so that you can learn more about your rights while we collect the information we need to investigate the matter further. We will review your legal options and answer any questions you have so that you know what you can expect from the process of litigation. Retaining our services comes at no risk as we assure you that we will either secure compensation on your behalf or work completely free of charge.