Ophthalmology is the medical specialty dedicated to diseases of the eye.
There’s sometimes confusion over the training and role of ophthalmologists versus optometrists.
Ophthalmologists graduate from medical school and have an MD degree (or in some cases an equivalent DO degree). After medical school, they complete an additional three years of clinical residency training in a hospital setting to specialize in diagnosing, treating, and preventing all manner of diseases of the eye.
By comparison, optometrists do not attend medical school, but instead complete four years of optometry school. There is not a requirement for a clinical residency after optometry school, although some optometrists choose to do one additional year of clinical training. Optometrists focus their care on performing vision tests, prescribing corrective lenses and some medications, and looking for eye problems that require referral to an ophthalmologist.
In my experience, most medical malpractice claims against optometrists involve the failure to diagnose a disease or condition of the eye that requires immediate or urgent medical attention by an ophthalmologist. The delay in diagnosis can mean the difference between vision and blindness or severely impaired vision.
When it comes to ophthalmologists, the Medical Professional Liability Association Data Capturing Project provides some insight on medical malpractice claims obtained by reporting from medical malpractice insurance companies.
The top medical factors leading to claims against ophthalmologists include:
• Improperly performing a procedure
• Errors in diagnosis
The most frequent patient outcomes caused by negligence of ophthalmologists include:
• Moderate to severe visual impairment
• Retinal detachment and defects
• Other visual disturbances.
In our practice, the most common claim against ophthalmologists involves delayed diagnosis and treatment of retinal detachment or other retina-related issues, leading to blindness.
Nationwide, the average payment for a successful ophthalmology medical malpractice claim is approximately $280,000.
In Texas, the actual amount of a settlement or jury verdict for a medical malpractice claim varies based on the type of damages, thanks to the impact of tort reform. Economic damages (things such as past and future lost wages or medical care) are not capped. Thus, if an injury caused by an ophthalmologist’s negligence leads to $1 million in lost wages or medical expenses, it’s potentially able to be recovered. By “potentially,” of course, we mean depending on the ophthalmologist’s medical malpractice insurance policy limits and personal assets. On the other hand, noneconomic damages (serious consequences of negligence including things such as blindness, other physical impairments, pain, and mental anguish) are limited to $250,000 in a claim against an ophthalmologist or any other physician.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of medical malpractice from an ophthalmologist or optometrist, then contact a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.