Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor provides care or makes decisions that ultimately result in harm to a patient. Examples of medical malpractice lawsuits include cases in which a radiologist misses a key finding when reading a diagnostic x-ray, such as a cancerous tumor, or those in which a doctor introduces infection during surgery by failing to practice sterile technique correctly. There are limitless possible situations that may result in a medical malpractice lawsuit, but the most common are:
- medical malpractice related to diagnosis
- surgical errors,
- hospital setting malpractice (ER errors or discharge of a patient too early),
- and prescription drug malpractice.
Other types of malpractice include practicing medicine without a valid license, radiation overdose malpractice, and wrongful death.
Medical Malpractice Related to Diagnosis
A significant portion of overall medical malpractice lawsuits falls into this category, which includes failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, and misdiagnosis. To prove the failure of diagnosis, evidence must show that the patient suffered more than he or she would have if the diagnosis occurred sooner. It’s also important to prove that most physicians would have considered and ruled out the condition based on the symptoms presented to win a failure to diagnose or delay in diagnosis lawsuit.
For example, if a patient presented with severe abdominal pain and the physician failed to consider or rule out appendicitis, it may not be a challenge to prove that most doctors would consider appendicitis as a possible culprit and order diagnostic testing to confirm or rule out the diagnosis.
In misdiagnosis cases, there may be one of two results: either the treatment administered caused further harm or failure to deliver appropriate treatment resulted in further progression of the disease.
Surgical errors do not alone warrant a medical malpractice lawsuit, but surgical errors that are the result of substandard care from a doctor and that cause harm to the patient can be sufficient negligence to file a lawsuit. To determine whether the care provided was substandard, the level of attention any prudent healthcare professional with the same experience and training would have provided in the same or similar situation.
Surgical errors are preventable errors during surgery that go beyond the known risks of the surgery included in the informed consent document signed before the procedure. Surgical errors can be the result of the doctor’s incompetence (inexperience, lack of knowledge), inadequate planning before the procedure, improper process during the procedure, miscommunication (such as the surgical site), drug or alcohol use, neglect (such as using contaminated equipment), or exhaustion due to lack of sleep.
Malpractice in the Hospital Setting
Negligence in the hospital setting can include errors in the emergency room or to discharge patients too early, and in both cases, harm to the patient must result. Emergency room errors can be the result of lack of communication during a shift change, failure to acknowledge obvious signs of patient distress, overlooking symptoms of stroke or heart attack, administration of the wrong medication or dose, misdiagnosis, or failing to triage a patient accurately.
When it comes to being discharged from the hospital too soon, readmission shortly after discharge from the hospital is typically not a reason to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, if being released too early (before the patient is stable enough to go home safely) results in further harm to the patient, there may be a lawsuit.
Prescription Drug Malpractice
Most prescription drug malpractice lawsuits result from improper dosing resulting in temporary or permanent harm to the patient. Other potential cases involve failure to monitor a patient accurately during medication therapy (for example, while a patient is on anticoagulants or blood thinners), prescribing medications for off-label use, and prescribing or administering a drug to a patient with a known allergy. Medication errors that result in harm to the patient can classify as medical malpractice.
If you believe your or a family member are the victim of medical malpractice and suffered further injury, as a result, contact our law office for a free legal review. You might be entitled to compensation for your injuries if the physician administered substandard care. When it comes to medical malpractice lawsuits, you can trust us to use our experience and knowledge to advocate for you and your family.