Every year, nearly 64 million Americans undergo some type of surgical procedure. Surgeries inherently involve risks due to the invasive nature of medical procedures and potential complications, such as infection, bleeding, or adverse reactions to anesthesia.

If you suffered a bad outcome from a surgical procedure, you may wonder if your medical provider is responsible for the damages. While you can’t typically sue for a bad outcome after surgery, you may be able to seek compensation if a medical provider’s negligence led to your injury.

Our Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Wagner Reese can determine whether your injuries were due to medical malpractice or an unfortunate bad outcome and help you understand your legal options.

What is a Bad Outcome After Surgery?

A bad outcome in surgery refers to an undesirable or unexpected result following a medical procedure. It typically refers to known potential complications or suboptimal effects, such as prolonged recovery time, minor infections, increased pain, limited functionality, or incomplete resolution of the initial medical concern.

For example, after undergoing a hernia repair surgery, you may develop a mild infection at the incision site, causing temporary redness and swelling. While your doctor can treat the infection promptly with antibiotics, it prolongs your healing process and requires additional follow-up care.

Bad outcomes can arise even when medical professionals follow best practices and provide competent care. This differs from medical malpractice, where negligence or substandard care directly contribute to more severe negative outcomes.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice refers to instances where healthcare providers, such as surgeons, nurses, or other hospital staff, fail to meet established standards of care, resulting in patient harm or injury.

Medical negligence can include surgical errors, misdiagnoses, medication mistakes, or inadequate postoperative monitoring. For instance, performing surgery on the wrong body part, leaving surgical instruments inside a patient, or failing to address complications promptly could constitute medical malpractice.

Other examples include incorrect administration of anesthesia, inadequate informed consent, or neglecting proper sterilization protocols, leading to avoidable infections.

Medical malpractice claims seek to hold negligent medical practitioners accountable for providing improper care, allowing victims to seek compensation for their damages.

Difference Between a Bad Outcome and Medical Malpractice

While a bad outcome can be disappointing or harmful, it doesn’t necessarily indicate negligence. Malpractice can refer to unintentional or malicious negligence that directly leads to your injuries during or after surgery.

The following offers a comparison of a bad outcome versus medical malpractice:


Bad Outcome Medical Malpractice
●      Can be a result of known, inherent risks associated with the procedure.

●      Often arises from factors beyond the control of the medical team.

●      May not always be preventable, even with the best medical care.

●      Arises from a failure to meet the standard of care expected from a competent healthcare professional.

●      Involves negligence, errors, or omissions directly contributing to the adverse outcome.

●      Implies a breach of the duty owed to the patient, leading to avoidable harm.

●      May indicate a lack of proper communication, documentation, or informed consent.



Filing a Claim After an Unsuccessful Surgery or Surgical Complications

One of the biggest differences between a bad outcome and medical malpractice is that you can’t typically file a claim against a provider for a bad outcome. Bad outcomes are the inherent risk you take when undergoing surgery. Your provider should review potential outcomes with you before you consent to the procedure. It’s like signing a waiver saying you understand what might go wrong and accept the risk as part of treatment.

However, when a medical provider commits medical malpractice, this waiver is voided. By breaking protocol and providing substandard care during your surgery or aftercare, they make themselves responsible for any injuries caused by their negligent action or inaction.

How to Prove Medical Malpractice

If you believe that your case isn’t just a bad outcome but rather a result of medical malpractice, there are specific criteria that you need to prove. You can work with our medical malpractice lawyers at Wagner Reese to gather evidence and establish the following:

  • Establish a doctor-patient relationship: You must show that there was an agreed-upon patient-provider relationship between you and the surgeon or hospital. Our attorneys will gather medical records, informed consent contracts, appointment records, or bills that show this relationship.
  • Prove negligence: It’s not enough to be unhappy with the results of the surgery. You must prove that the doctor was negligent in your diagnosis or treatment. This often requires expert testimony to demonstrate how the provider’s care deviated from the standard of care expected.
  • Link the negligence to the injury: Proving you were harmed isn’t enough either. You must prove that the doctor’s negligence, not an inherent risk of the procedure, directly caused the harm. Your lawyer might look at medical records or speak with experts to prove that what happened was because of the doctor’s errors, not just something that can occur during the treatment.
  • Show the harm led to damages: Even if the healthcare provider was negligent, you can only sue if you suffered damages due to this negligence. This could be physical pain and injury, mental anguish, additional medical bills, and/or lost earning capacity.

Speak with an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

Understanding whether your bad surgical outcome was due to inherent risks or medical malpractice can be difficult. Our lawyers at Wagner Reese have over 150 years of combined experience handling personal injury claims in Indiana.

We will review the evidence in your case to determine who might be responsible and help you seek maximum compensation. Schedule a free consultation today to discuss your claim and learn your legal options.