Nearly everyone who visits a medical facility experiences errors, inconvenience, or aggravations at some point in time. Most of these create a minor annoyance. You go home, grumble to everyone in hearing distance, and then move on.
But sometimes medical staff, pharmacy or a physician makes an error that causes you longer-term harm. You experience a loss of time and money, and you may not be able to resume functions that make your life worthwhile. Or, the mistake might have resulted in the death or severe impairment of someone you love.
What kinds of mistakes can be considered medical malpractice claims? The list is long. We’ve identified five of the most common situations that can result in medical malpractice lawsuits, so you’ll get an idea of how the system works in practice.
Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.
Your doctor provides the wrong diagnosis, so you’re treated for the wrong problem. Or you eventually get the right diagnosis, but by then it’s too late for treatment to fix the actual condition.
There are many ways this can happen. For example, a doctor recognizes your symptoms but fails to follow standard diagnostic procedures. An x-ray or test gets administered or interpreted incorrectly. Or diagnosis may be accurate but test results are not communicated promptly to the physician.
For instance, a pelvic mass was identified immediately on a female patient’s CT scans, but the treating physician didn’t learn about the findings until her tumor had doubled in size and spread through her pelvis.
Delay in treatment.
The medical staff receives a male patient’s x-ray or lab report, clearly demonstrating he has a form of bladder cancer that needs immediate treatment. The diagnosis is made promptly and correctly, but treatment doesn’t begin right away because the staff failed to advise him to make an appointment. What would have been a simple outpatient procedure now requires more drastic surgery that might lead to incontinence with a long-term impact on his quality of life.
Surgical mistakes range from removing the wrong body part, leaving instruments or sponges in the patient, or applying incorrect procedures, leading to lasting harm. There are many ways these mistakes can happen, including fatigue, negligence, or an unqualified surgical team.
For instance, a patient reports in good health for routine cataract surgery. An ophthalmologist can make an improper incision for cataract surgery, leading to permanent blindness. Or the surgery may go well, but the surgeon fails to treat an unexpected infection.
Prescription errors can result from a simple human error mix-up: the pharmacist or office staff gives the patient a prescription intended for someone else. The dosage might be entered incorrectly; an accidental keystroke means a patient receives 10x the recommended dose, leading to heart failure, brain damage, or death.
Birth injury cases arise from errors in prenatal care, delivery, and immediate care of the newborn that lead to long-term harm. With prenatal care, the mother’s obstetrician prescribes a drug or treatment that harms the baby before it’s born.
Mistakes also occur when a baby is born with conditions that require immediate action. For instance, a baby deprived of oxygen requires immediate resuscitation. An inexperienced team might miss some steps in the standardized procedures, leading to permanent brain or heart damage.
If you suspect medical malpractice…
We’ve illustrated five of the most common reasons patients file medical malpractice claims. This only scratches the surface: medical malpractice can arise from any one of hundreds of causes.
You probably noticed a common denominator among these claims. The damage resulting from the mistake must be extremely severe; you can’t just be annoyed or inconvenienced. You must demonstrate tangible losses that come with a significant cost and often with life-changing impact.
Does your case qualify as malpractice? You’ll need to seek advice from an experienced attorney who will listen objectively and respectfully. These decisions can be extremely challenging. Your attorney will need to look at every detail of your case, as well as recent cases and reports from your state. It’s important to act immediately: states impose time limits on filing a claim and your attorney will need time to assemble the facts, talk to witnesses and plan the best path for you to recover damages. We invite you to contact us for a free case evaluation.