Filing a Cosmetic Surgery Malpractice Claim: How to Build a Valid Case

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It's a common misconception that cosmetic surgery is less risky than other types of surgical procedures. Every operation carries some degree of risk, including plastic surgery. While some of these risks are unavoidable, certain surgical complications may form the basis of a malpractice suit. Cosmetic surgery malpractice cases

Cosmetic Surgery Statistics

According the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 15.9 million cosmetic surgery operations were performed in 2015 alone. The most popular surgeries were:

  • Breast augmentation
  • Liposuction
  • Nose reshaping
  • Eyelid surgery
  • Tummy tuck

Women made up 92% of all cosmetic surgery patients. The majority of cosmetic surgery procedures were performed on women ages 40-54—accounting for 49% of patients. Only 1% of all surgeries were performed on teens age 13-19.

Cosmetic surgery represents a $13.3 billion business. Because elective surgical procedures aren't covered by insurance, patients often try to shop around for the lowest price. This has led to a sharp increase in the number of unqualified surgeons performing cosmetic procedures.

Only a physician who has earned board certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery should be performing plastic surgery. This organization requires members to complete extensive knowledge tests and six years of surgical training following medical school—with a minimum of three years of residency training in plastic surgery.

Basis for a Cosmetic Surgery Malpractice Suit

Since cosmetic surgery is considered elective, there is an expectation that the patient is assuming some element of risk by agreeing to the operation. And simply being unsatisfied with the results of your cosmetic surgery isn't enough to form the basis of a malpractice claim.

Additionally, it's well accepted that some patients have unrealistic expectations regarding the changes cosmetic surgery can make to their appearance, so juries are often reluctant to side with the plaintiff in any case that lacks clear evidence of misconduct on the part of the surgeon. However, here are some possible complications that could result in a viable malpractice suit:

  • Nerve damage
  • Infection
  • Hematoma
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE)
  • Seroma
  • Blood loss
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Visceral perforations or punctures to the internal organs

The risk of complications from cosmetic surgery is highest in patients who are overweight, smoke, and/or have a history of heart disease. There is also evidence to suggest that the most serious complications occur when surgery is performed in a surgery center or in an operating suite inside the physician's office. These facilities lack the resources of a hospital with an ICU, causing a delay in treatment that can worsen the patient's outcome.

Proving Your Malpractice Case

To win your cosmetic surgery malpractice case, you must successfully prove four key elements:

  1. Your care was the result of a doctor-patient relationship between you and the defendant.
  2. The plastic surgeon was negligent in his treatment of your condition before, during, or after the surgery.
  3. The plastic surgeon's negligence is the cause of the harm you've suffered.
  4. The plastic surgeon's negligence caused specific compensable damages such as added medical costs or time off work during your recovery.

Louisiana has a one-year statute of limitations for malpractice cases. You must file your case within one year of the surgery or the date when the complication was discovered in order to be eligible for compensation. Since it requires time to gather medical records, expert testimony, and other case evidence, it's in your best interests to seek legal representation as soon as possible.

Types of Malpractice Compensation

In a cosmetic malpractice case, plaintiffs can seek compensation for:

  • Past medical care necessary to correct the original error
  • Any necessary future medical care relating to the surgeon's actions
  • Lost wages during the recovery period
  • Loss of future earning capacity, if applicable
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium

Neblett, Beard & Arsenault’s experienced attorneys are dedicated to helping Louisiana residents receive the compensation they deserve for their medical malpractice claims. If you believe you've been harmed by the actions of your plastic surgeon, please call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.


Richard J. Arsenault
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Recognized by several legal associations, Richard Arsenault has vast experience in complex litigation cases.