Cosmetic Surgery and Medical Negligence*
Plastic and cosmetic surgery injury claims in Ireland follow the same processes and procedures as compensation claims for medical negligence, as plastic and cosmetic surgeons receive the same training as medical practitioners and have to be registered with the Medical Council.
Consequently, the Injuries Board will decline applications for the assessment of compensation when you have suffered an injury due to the negligence of a cosmetic surgeon, and will issue you with an Authorisation to pursue an injury claim for negligent plastic surgery through the courts.
This article explains some of the procedures you will have to undertake in order to claim compensation for cosmetic surgery gone wrong, but it should not be regarded as a substitute for discussing your specific situation with a solicitor as soon as practically possible.
Complications with Cosmetic Surgery Claims for Compensation
There are many complications with cosmetic surgery claims for compensation – not least that you may not be eligible for compensation for cosmetic surgery gone wrong if the reason for your claim is that you simply do not like the outcome of the procedure.
In order to be eligible to make plastic and cosmetic surgery injury claims in Ireland, you must have sustained a quantifiable injury – physical, psychological or both – due to the negligence of a plastic surgeon or an agent of the clinical facility at which you underwent the procedure (1).
If you have suffered an injury which could not have been avoided under any circumstances, or negligence has undoubtedly occurred but no injury was sustained, it will be impossible to make a compensation claim for negligent plastic surgery.
(1) Plastic and cosmetic surgery injury claims in Ireland can be made against an administrator, technician or surgeon´s assistant if it is their error which has led to your injury. Cosmetic surgery claims for compensation would still be treated the same as medical negligence* claims, as employees of a clinical facility are considered to be agents of that facility.
Surgical Error during Cosmetic Surgery
As mentioned in footnote (1) above, it may be the case that a claim for negligent plastic surgery is not made against the surgeon who conducted the procedure, but against one of the clinical facility´s employees – even when a surgical error during cosmetic surgery has occurred.
A mistake by an administrator, technician or surgeon´s assistant may have led to a surgical error during cosmetic surgery and, in all cosmetic surgery claims for compensation, the first step that should be taken is to speak with a solicitor to describe the injury you sustained and how it occurred.
If your solicitor believes that you have a claim for negligent plastic surgery which is worth your while to pursue, he or she will then help you to make a formal complaint to the clinical facility at which you underwent the procedure and request the medical notes taken by everyone who was involved in your surgery (2).
(2) It is better that a solicitor helps to compile the formal complaint to avoid the possibility of conflicting allegations when a later “Letter of Claim” is submitted. The complaint will also be delivered without being emotionally charged, and its reply might justify why the action that led to your injury was undertaken – in which case you may not be entitled to compensation for cosmetic surgery gone wrong.
Breast Implant Surgery Error
Making a claim for a breast implant surgery error is one of the few times when it might not be an individual against whom you are making a claim for negligent plastic surgery, but the manufacturer of the implant if it transpires that the implant itself was faulty.
The situation may be further confused if the plastic surgeon has used an implant in your surgery knowing that it was of known poor quality as, whether or not you agreed to the implant to save money on the cost of your procedure, the surgeon has a duty of care to recommend the best possible treatment.
If you have used a surgeon who is a member of the Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons, it is likely that he or she will offer to revise the breast implant surgery error; however you still may be entitled to compensation for cosmetic surgery gone wrong and should discuss your options with a solicitor.
Nerve Damage during Cosmetic Surgery
Claiming compensation for nerve damage during cosmetic surgery is one of the least complex plastic and cosmetic surgery injury claims in Ireland, provided that your injury has been professionally diagnosed by a doctor at a hospital or your GP and can be attributed to the cosmetic surgery procedure you underwent.
Quite often there is no defence against a claim for nerve damage during cosmetic surgery and consequently, once a formal complaint is submitted, you may be approached directly by the clinical facility´s insurance company with an unsolicited offer of compensation for cosmetic surgery gone wrong.
You should always refer such approaches to your solicitor before accepting them, for if you inadvertently accept an unsolicited offer, and it does not adequately compensate you for your injury or cover the cost of revision surgery, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more.
Rhinoplasty Surgery Error
A nose job is one of the more common scenarios in which plaintiffs may feel justified in making plastic and cosmetic surgery claims for compensation because they do not like the outcome of the procedure; but in most cases the procedure and potential outcomes will have been explained in depth, and a claim for negligent plastic surgery will be unlikely to succeed if the surgeon has done his job correctly and prepared you for an unexpected outcome.
However, there are times when a rhinoplasty surgery error can have consequences such a nasal collapse which leads to breathing problems or the loss of taste and sense of smell. Infections can easily develop because of the dual open cavities of the nose and excessive bleeding, or excessive swelling, can also cause health issues which qualify you to make a claim for negligent plastic surgery.
In these cases, your solicitor would take the notes he or she received in response to the formal complaint and have them reviewed by an independent medical expert to see if the treatment you received was indeed negligent, and whether you are eligible for compensation for cosmetic surgery gone wrong.
Face Lift Gone Wrong
Like all plastic and cosmetic surgery injury claims, compensation claims for a face lift gone wrong are subject to a two-year time limit from the date you underwent the negligently-performed procedure; so it is best to speak with a solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity rather than wait to see if scars from a face lift gone wrong disappear over time.
Your solicitor would consult an independent medical expert to determine whether you are eligible to make cosmetic surgery claims for compensation when a face lift has gone wrong and, as it is not often possible for revision surgery to be performed in the short-term, you solicitor would prepare a claim for negligent plastic surgery which would take into account the length of time you will have to live with the consequences of your cosmetic surgeon´s negligence.
However, sagging skin and scarring are not always due to the level of care taken by a surgeon, and you might be considered partly responsible for your injury if you have not taken proper care of your skin after surgery or failed to attend post-surgery consultations.
Excessive Scarring due to Cosmetic Surgery
To determine whether you have suffered excessive scarring due to cosmetic surgery your solicitor would ask the independent medical expert to compare the scars you have developed against scars that have been left after any other surgical procedures you have undergone, as the health of your skin´s epidermis may be a contributing factor as to why the scarring appears to be excessive.
The success of many cosmetic surgery claims for compensation relies on the location of the scarring, how visible it is and what the likelihood is of it healing. Even short-term excessive scarring due to cosmetic surgery can qualify for compensation for cosmetic surgery gone wrong – especially if you have suffered a lack of confidence or self-image as a result.
How much compensation for excessive scarring due to cosmetic scarring you are entitled to will depend as much on your age, your sex and any other visible scars which already exist as much as the injury you have sustained in one specific negligent surgical procedure.
Facial Scar Revision Surgery Gone Wrong
In most cases, cosmetic surgery claims for compensation are made against the private practitioner or private clinical facility at which you underwent the negligent procedure, but there are times when a claim for negligent plastic surgery might be made against the State.
This is most likely to occur if you have undergone facial scar revision surgery at a public hospital and the facial scar revision surgery has gone wrong. In these cases, plastic and cosmetic surgery injury claims are made against the Health Service Executive (HSE), who rarely admit liability for injuries in public hospitals.
Consequently, it may be necessary for your solicitor to issue court proceedings. This does not necessary mean that a court appearance is inevitable as, if your solicitor will have prepared the strongest possible claim for negligent plastic surgery on your behalf and, if your claim is justified, it is probable that an out-of-court settlement will be negotiated. Furthermore, your solicitor would not wish you to endure a court hearing if you are conscious of your appearance due to facial scar revision surgery gone wrong.
Compensation for Liposuction Error
Any settlement of compensation for cosmetic surgery gone wrong should account for the consequences that an injury has made to your quality of life in addition to compensating you for the physical and emotional trauma you have experienced.
A settlement of compensation for a liposuction error, for example, should consider what hobbies, pastimes, and social pursuits you are unable to take part in due to the negligence of your plastic surgeon. This would be all the more significant if you had undergone negligent facial liposuction and were unable to go out of doors because of an infection or visible facial scarring.
You should also be able to recover any financial costs you have incurred – or loss of income you have experienced – and have the cost of revision surgery included in a settlement of cosmetic surgery claims for compensation.
Medical Malpractice by a Plastic Surgeon
It is important to remember that making a claim for medical malpractice by a plastic surgeon is a serious allegation, and it is likely that there will be consequences for the surgeon if your claim is successful. Plastic and cosmetic surgery injury claims should not be undertaken lightly, as you may be faced with substantial costs if your claim is unsuccessful, and it is in your best interests to speak with a solicitor at the first practical opportunity.
Most solicitors in Ireland will provide an initial consultation free of charge which will enable you to explain the cosmetic procedure you underwent, what the consequences of the procedure were and why you believe they are attributable to negligence.
You are not committing yourself to any course of action by speaking with a solicitor or placing yourself under any obligation to use the services of the solicitor you speak with. Many solicitors in Ireland have had experience of helping clients who have experienced emotionally distressing injuries, and you should not feel embarrassed or apprehensive about making the first contact at the first practical moment.