Hand Surgery Litigation: 5 Tips to Gain an Upper Hand

Hand surgery cases are complex and mistakes during litigation are costly.  Before reaching out to a Hand Surgery medical expert witness, take time to consider these 5 pearls that are unique to hand surgery matters:

Handedness: The handedness (dominance) and occupation of the claimant are primary factors in valuing compensability. For example, an injury to the dominant index finger of a chef will be far more devastating than the same injury on the non-dominant hand of a laborer.  Since each finger had a specific functional and occupational role, work with your Hand Surgery expert to understand the specific ways in which the injury affects the claimant.

Certification:  Not all hand surgeons are orthopedic surgeons, and not all orthopedic surgeons operate on the hand.  To avoid expert witness disqualification and other expensive mistakes, start by choosing a hand surgery expert (not a general orthopedic surgeon) whose certification meets the exact needs of the case.  This may be an Orthopedic Hand Surgeon, a Plastic Surgery Hand Specialist, or a General Surgeon with fellowship training in hand surgery.  All three fields allow candidates to become certified in Hand Surgery.  By picking the correct expert and assuring certification in hand surgery, your case will start on the right track.

Examination:  Some cases benefit when an expert examines a claimant directly. Plaintiff counsel may arrange this on their own client to define and value a claim, while defense counsel may demand an Independent Medical Examination (IME) during discovery. In either situation, the role of the expert is to determine the nature, extent, etiology, prognosis, and future medical needs for a specific hand injury. For some cases, however, physical examination of the hand will not add meaningful value to the expert’s opinion. For example, when a digit is amputated, there is often little to learn from direct examination of the hand.  Rather than arbitrarily insisting upon personal examination, work with your hand surgery expert to determine whether examination will add value to your particular case.

Shoulder, Arm, Elbow, and Forearm:  While all hand surgeons operate on the hand and wrist, only orthopedic surgeons operate on other parts of the extremity.  In fact, many orthopedic “hand surgeons” are really upper extremity specialists who treat the shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand.  If your case involves injuries to other orthopedic areas, you may be able to consolidate experts by choosing an orthopedic upper extremity surgeon.

Carpal Tunnel Surgery:  No tip list on hand surgery experts would be complete without mentioning carpal tunnel surgery. Complications of carpal tunnel surgery, namely median nerve injury, is a fertile area for litigation.  Most hand surgeons who perform an extensive number of carpal tunnel surgeries will eventually experience a complication or injure the median nerve.  The question is whether the complication arose naturally or as a deviation from the standard of care.  When the patient is a good candidate for carpal tunnel surgery, the surgeon is extensively experienced, and the complication is recognized in real-time, there is a higher probability that the error arose naturally. A lack of experience and a failure to recognize complications intraoperatively are factors that may support negligence.  An experienced Board-Certified Hand Surgery expert is a critical strategic asset in evaluating any hand surgery claim.

Are you wondering where to start in finding the right expert witness for your Hand Surgery case? Contact us today for a free consultation.

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One Response

  1. I didn’t know that some cases have expert examiners on hand for the claimant. My wife had botched hand surgery and is wondering whether she should go to court. I guess we should talk to a few surgeons to see if the damage can be reversed or if we can get compensated.

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