Hip Replacement Malpractice
vs (general) Medical Malpractice

Introduction

This page defines hip replacement malpractice and sets it in the wider context of medical malpractice.

If an individual is having problems with a hip implant, one of the possible root causes is that there may have been a mistake made before, during or after surgery by one of the healthcare professionals involved.

People search online for a range of general terms related to medical malpractice, including surgical malpractice, and more specifically hip replacement malpractice. It occurred to me that it may be helpful to provide a little structure and context and to consider the relationships between these different terms - hence this page.

Purpose of this page

The purpose of this page is to provide a frame of reference for someone in the process of selecting a lawyer to represent them in a case involving hip replacement malpractice. The objective is to help you assess the level of specialism and expertise that a candidate lawyer or legal firm possesses. Where does the firm sit on the continuum from hip replacement malpractice specialist, to medical malpractice generalist?

The Spectrum of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

The diagram below is my best attempt to define and describe the relative relationships between different categories or levels of medical malpractice.

Hip replacement malpractice is simply one specific example of surgical malpractice; in turn, surgical malpractice is simply one category of (general) medical malpractice.

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Click on the Diagram (above) to view a larger version; then Click on the 'Close' button or the dark area around the expanded image to return to the original page. Check out the Key to the diagram for definitions / explanations of the symbols & colours used (n.b. the Key opens in a new browser window).

So what is Hip Replacement Malpractice?

Hip replacement malpractice occurs where the standard of care that the patient actually receives from healthcare professionals (before, during or after his hip replacement surgery) falls short of the standard of care he could reasonably expect to receive.

Examples of possible hip surgery malpractice include:

  1. Surgeon recommends the wrong surgical procedure, for example hip resurfacing when total hip replacement would be more appropriate for the patient, or vice versa
  2. Surgeon selects the wrong type of hip implant for the patient, for example metal on metal implant, when metal on polyethylene might be more suitable. i.e. the device that is selected is inherently unsuitable for a particular patient.
  3. Surgeon selects the wrong size of hip implant for the patient
  4. Implant is incorrectly fitted, for example, misalignment of hip replacement components
  5. Mistake with fixing the implant(s)
    • Cement used when the implant is intended to be fitted without cement
    • Cement not used when the implant is intended to be fitted with cement
    • Wrong type of cement used with an implant
  6. Components from different hip replacement systems are mixed and used together contrary to manufacturers' instructions. Hip replacement implants are typically designed as part of a coherent hip replacement system - components are not intended to be cherry-picked and mixed from different systems / sets / manufacturers.
  7. Avoidable infection - the implant was contaminated / infected prior to use in surgery
  8. Failure to follow any element of the manufacturer's instructions for the use of each specific hip replacement component
  9. Failure to use the bespoke surgical tools that are designed & sold by the manufacturer to enable their implant components to be safely and correctly fitted.

Hip Replacement Malpractice - Deconstructed

In law, medical malpractice (or any lower level sub-classification) is classified as a tort of negligence.

In order for an alleged case of hip surgery malpractice to be proven, the plaintiff must prove each of the following four component parts, in the order presented below:

  1. That a duty was owed by the healthcare professional to the plaintiff. Typically, a duty of care exists whenever a healthcare professional undertakes care of or provides treatment to a patient.
  2. That the duty of care was breached - the healthcare professional failed to meet the standard of care that the patient could reasonably expect to receive.
  3. That the breach of the duty of care caused injury to the plaintiff, or put another way, that the breach of duty of care was the cause of the injury.
  4. Damage, harm or loss: the plaintiff must be able to evidence that he has suffered harm as a result of the injury. This will form the basis of any legal claim. In a hip replacement malpractice case, damage is typically defined as the presence of one or more physical injuries, or adverse medical symptoms, which result in:
    • Financial loss: for example, loss of earnings; additional medical expenses or
    • Emotional injuries: for example, stress, anxiety

Note, the same logical order approach to proving a case will apply to any other example of medical malpractice.

Choosing a Hip Replacement Malpractice Lawyer

Below are some notes to further explain the diagram above.

General Medical Malpractice (Level 3)

At the base of the pyramid is the widest spread of medical malpractice categories, including for example injury caused by: late diagnosis; incorrect drug dose; misdiagnosis. At this general level (tier 3), one category will be surgical malpractice (shown in Blue font). But remember, this is only one category of medical malpractice among many.

The key question I would ask myself if I believed I had been injured by hip replacement malpractice would be whether I would want the lawyer or legal firm representing me to be operating at level (3) of the diagram.

So, as I am discussing my case with lawyer X in our first meeting, I'm thinking… 'OK, he may have great experience in prosecuting medical malpractice cases where people have been injured by errors with diagnosis or mistakes with the prescription of drugs , but how much does this lawyer know about hip replacement malpractice in particular? Is he a true specialist in personal injury caused by hip replacement malpractice?'

Surgical Malpractice (Level 2)

Moving up a level of specialization, a lawyer or legal firm may position itself as specialist in cases involving surgical malpractice.

Again, even this category of malpractice is very broad, comprised of for example injury caused by errors with: heart surgery; cosmetic surgery; cataract surgery. Also included in this category will be mistakes made when selecting & fitting artificial joints including knee implants and hip implants.

Hip Replacement Malpractice (Level 1)

OK, so at the top of the pyramid we have lawyers and legal firms that have a real depth of experience in prosecuting personal injury cases where the root cause of the injury is suspected to be hip surgery malpractice.

These lawyers will have researched, prosecuted and most likely triumphed in a significant number of cases involving hip surgery malpractice. They are likely to be intimately familiar with the:

  • different types of and approaches to hip replacement surgery
  • range of hip implant products available in the market and how they should be fitted
  • major manufacturers and distributors of hip implant products
  • many complex considerations, specific to hip surgery malpractice, that need to be researched, assessed, and ultimately integrated into a coherent strategy for persecuting the legal case on behalf of the injured party, including expert witnesses with niche specialist experience

Furthermore, these lawyers are likely to be senior in legal firms that have extensive resources and specialist capability to research, archive and cross reference information relating to hip replacement malpractice and the related legal actions.

So, in an ideal world, anyone that has sustained an injury as a result of suspected hip replacement malpractice would be represented by a lawyer as described immediately above (Level 1). In addition, ideally the legal firm that the lawyer is part of should have significant experience and proven capability at Level 2.

Summary

To commence a legal action is a big step and anyone doing so will ideally be represented by a lawyer who is highly experienced in cases centering on personal injury caused by hip surgery malpractice.

Use the information on this page, and also the related information on product liability lawsuits, to provide some context and a partial framework for discussions with candidate lawyers.