Medical Malpractice

Patients are injured in U.S. hospitals every day, and these injuries can lead to medical malpractice claims. An injured patient or a deceased patient’s close family members can file a medical malpractice claim against the medical facility and health care providers that were responsible for the medical errors.

Fatal or Life-Altering Medical Errors

Between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die annually from preventable hospital errors, according to a recent study. This means medical errors are third behind heart disease and cancer among leading causes of death in the U.S.

There are also many medical errors that leave people with life-altering injuries. Patients who become temporarily or permanently disabled after a medical mistake may not be able to earn a living and support their family the way that they once could. When a patient is severely injured by a medical error, the patient can choose to pursue compensation for loss of future income.

Failure to Diagnose

One of the most common medical mistakes that can lead to a medical malpractice claim is a failure to diagnose. If a patient is misdiagnosed or their diagnosis is delayed, the patient’s condition could worsen from lack of treatment. In some cases, patients who are treated for a condition that they do not have suffer injuries from the medication that they receive.

Medication Errors

Another common complaint filed by medical malpractice attorneys involves injuries sustained due to medication errors. It is estimated that around 5 percent of hospitalized patients are affected by adverse drug events, and 700,000 visits to the emergency room every year are due to problems with medications. Medication errors may happen when the wrong medication is given, the wrong dosage of medication is given or a toxic combination of medications is prescribed.

Birth Injuries

Some of the most devastating medical errors that occur in hospitals affect the littlest patients. Newborns may be injured during birth due to the negligence of hospital staff. The effects of minor birth injuries could be temporary while serious birth injuries could leave infants with a life-long motor disability, such as cerebral palsy.

Never Events

In 2001, the term “never event” was introduced to describe adverse medical events that should never happen. Never events are rare, avoidable and particularly dangerous medical errors, like wrong-site surgery, wrong-patient surgery and objects being left inside a patient after surgery. These types of incidents can cause severe injuries or death.

Filing a Claim

Medical malpractice lawsuits have a stricter set of requirements than personal injury lawsuits. In order to file a medical malpractice claim, a plaintiff will need to prove four elements:

  • There was a doctor-patient relationship between the two parties
  • The health care provider was negligent in some way
  • The negligence led to the injury
  • The injury led to certain damages, such as physical pain or medical costs

Additionally, expert testimony is often required in malpractice cases. Some jurisdictions require that a case be looked at by a malpractice review panel before it is taken to court. Statutes of limitation vary by state, and some deadlines are as short as two years from the date of injury. An attorney can help inform an individual on the statute of limitations specific to their state.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

Additional Medical Malpractice Articles

Search LawInfo's Medical Malpractice Resources

Related Topics In This Section