Common Causes of Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice arises when a medical professional makes a mistake or does not act in a reasonable manner as someone would with similar training and experience. Unfortunately, these types of errors happen more often than you might think.

In 2005, the latest date that the Bureau of Justice Statistics provides information on this topic, there were 2,449 jury or bench trials related to medical malpractice. This number is enormous considering that the vast majority (often up to 90%) of cases are settled outside of court. When you also consider that most medical malpractice claims are never litigated or even reported, the actual number of medical malpractice situations every year in the U.S. is staggering.

Estimates regarding the amount recovered at trial are interesting. The median award for those at trial in a medical malpractice case is about $425,000. This is 16 times larger than the average award for all personal injury cases ($27,000). This difference could be based on the seriousness of the injuries involved, but it could also be a reflection of society’s desire to hold doctors and other medical professionals to a higher standard than the average person.

What Causes Most Medical Malpractice Claims?

The vast majority of medical malpractice claims are based on failure to diagnose, or misdiagnosis. Diagnosis problems make up roughly 46% of all medical malpractice claims. A research team that compiled results from 34 journal articles in 2013 indicated that most studies specified that missed diagnoses accounted for between 26 and 63 percent of all medical malpractice claims. Frighteningly, the most common consequence related to a missed diagnosis was death—it occurred in 15 to 48 percent of cases.

The most common misdiagnosis problems for adults were related to cancer and heart attacks. Appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, and bone fractures were close behind. In children, meningitis and cancers were the most common conditions to be misdiagnosed.

The second-most common cause of medical malpractice claims relates to drug errors. In the 2013 article study, drug errors made up 6 to 20 percent of all claims. Drug errors occur when the doctor or other medical professional prescribes medication that is not right for you based on your condition or medical history. It may also interact with other medications you are currently taking. Drug errors can also occur at the pharmacist level as well when a pharmacist provides the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of a particular drug.

The 2013 study found that drug errors were most commonly associated with steroid preparations, anticoagulants, antidepressants, antibiotics, and antipsychotics.

Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Claims

Doctors and other medical professionals are held to a higher standard than the average person. Patients trust them with their lives, so they expect doctors to be extremely cautious and take extra care to ensure their safety. Physicians and other members of the healthcare field also have specialized training and knowledge that the average person does not, so there is often no real way for the average patient to ensure that what their doctor is doing is correct (short of seeing another doctor for a second opinion).

If you or a loved one has been affected by a medical error, you may have a legal claim. Call Williams Elleby for more information.

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