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Group of concentrated surgeons engaging in rescue of male patient in operation room at hospital

When you’re sick or hurt in an accident, your health and well-being are put in the hands of medical professionals, and there are many moving parts when it comes to managing illnesses and injuries. From the diagnosis and medications to surgeries, procedures, and recovery, several different medical professionals may be involved, including doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, and pharmacists.

The fact is, we rely heavily on them to diagnose illnesses, treat injuries, and create plans of care for the best recovery possible. But what happens when a medical error causes harm to a patient, and how are the appropriate parties held liable?

Unfortunately, it’s estimated that around 250,000 people die from medical errors each year in the U.S. Injuries or deaths due to medical mistakes are often life-changing, can result in permanent health issues, and are emotionally traumatic. When a medical error occurs because a doctor or other professional failed to meet their duty of care, a medical malpractice lawsuit offers the opportunity to be compensated for damages.

There are four legal elements of a medical malpractice claim that must be met:

  1. Duty of care
  2. Breach of care
  3. Causation
  4. Damages occurred

The team of experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Paulson & Nace has handled many intricate claims involving medical negligence and errors. We’ve helped clients in Washington, DC, Maryland, and West Virginia be properly compensated for preventable harm and suffering. This guide will further explore the most common types of medical malpractice cases.

Types of Medical Malpractice

Several types of medical malpractice claims occur in the U.S. every year. Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists require years of education, training, and experience to work in the medical field. Due to the nature of their work and the human body’s complexities, there are countless ways a patient could be harmed or suffer unnecessarily.

The most common types of medical malpractice lawsuits include the following:

Misdiagnosis, Failure to Diagnose, and Delayed Diagnosis

There are injuries and illnesses that, if properly and timely diagnosed, are successfully treated, managed, and even cured. But sometimes, doctors overlook symptoms or fail to run the appropriate tests. They also brush aside patient symptoms and concerns or come to the wrong conclusion. All of these factors could be the difference between life and death and could improve or limit the quality of life. Ultimately, failure to diagnose results in a lack of treatment and health management, which could have serious ramifications.

If another medical professional with the same qualifications and experience would have done things differently than the doctor who failed to diagnose an illness or condition, they may be held liable through a medical malpractice lawsuit. Since many illnesses and injuries require aggressive treatments and time-sensitive surgeries, a delay in diagnosis could have a profound effect on the patient’s health and overall life. Cancer could spread, or irreversible damage to vital organs may occur. Ultimately, a delay in diagnosis means a delay in treatment.

Misdiagnosis is another example of medical malpractice. Like delayed diagnosis, when someone is misdiagnosed, the actual underlying condition goes untreated, and treating the wrong illness could affect the patient’s physical and emotional health. This type of medical error also has a financial impact; medical bills and lost wages are unnecessary costs that occur from being misdiagnosed.

Birth Injuries

Growing your family should be a happy and exciting experience, but many babies experience birth injuries. Some emergencies at birth result in injuries that couldn’t have been prevented, whereas others are the fault of medical professionals.

The severity of a birth injury depends on several factors, and a lot of times, the injury is quick to heal, while others cause permanent damage. But when is a birth injury considered malpractice?

All medical malpractice cases are centered around proving the standard of care, that it was violated and caused the injury, and that their medical error resulted in harm.

Babies can be injured at birth in various ways, such as when a doctor misuses forceps or vacuum extraction tools or improperly monitors the fetus. Poor communication, inadequate instructions given to the mother by medical staff, and incorrect prescriptions are other causes of birth injuries.

Common types of birth injuries caused by medical malpractice include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (brain injury)
  • Facial paralysis
  • Cephalohematoma (bleeding between the skull bone and fibrous covering)
  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Fractures and breaks

Birth injuries can be devastating to the child and their family. If the injury could have been avoided, it can be even more difficult to accept. There could be both short- and long-term physical, emotional, and financial effects; pain and suffering, costly care and procedures, and a decreased quality of life are some of the effects of a birth injury. In many cases, parents’ lives are forever changed due to medical negligence and errors, and when that happens, a birth injury lawyer can protect and fight for your rights.

Failure to Treat

Illnesses and injuries require specific treatments and types of care. Examples of a doctor failing to treat an illness or injury involve failure to assess and monitor the condition, order appropriate tests, refer the patient to a specialist, inform the patient of treatment options, and treat the condition in a timely manner.

In many cases, a treatment that’s too slow or delayed leads to extensive harm and suffering and can even be fatal. The risks of failure to treat mean a patient’s condition may worsen, or further medical issues, like infections, may occur. When a doctor fails to treat your illness or injury, and you are further harmed or suffer as a result, a medical malpractice lawsuit could ensure you’re compensated and that the doctor is held accountable.

Far too often, failure to treat results in the patient having to endure more serious treatments that take longer. Even worse, irreparable harm and undue suffering may occur.

Prescription Drug Errors

Over 6,800 prescription medications and seemingly endless over-the-counter drugs are prescribed and sold in the U.S. Prescription medicine helps people with illnesses recover, manage chronic conditions, provide an improved quality of life, and save lives. Determining what medicine is best and safe for a patient’s health is a complicated process that requires intensive medical training. Yet, even with these safeguards, 7,000 to 9,000 people die yearly from medication errors.

With all the benefits of prescription medication, they can be extremely dangerous and harmful when a mistake is made. Interactions with medications, supplements, and other health products can cause serious side effects and even be fatal.

Because of the known risks, those who prescribe, administer, distribute, and manufacture medication must follow strict procedures and processes. Doctors have a duty of care to collect a thorough medical history, which includes current medications, drug allergies, and any addiction risks, before prescribing or ordering anything.

Some examples of prescription drug errors include failing to give instructions for use, not having warning labels on packaging, and administering or prescribing the wrong dosage. It could also involve a doctor or nurse misreading a patient’s medical charts and then prescribing or administering the wrong medication. Medication errors can lead to overdoses, organ damage, seizures, anaphylaxis, and hypertension.

Surgical or Procedural Errors

Surgeries and other medical procedures are performed every day, and we’re lucky to live at a time when so many treatment options exist; we enjoy the opportunity of longer, healthier lives due to medical advancement.

When an accident happens, and you suffer an injury that requires immediate medical care, such as emergency surgery, you should be able to trust the medical team tasked with treating you. But sometimes, surgical errors occur, even during the most basic, low-risk procedures. We know doctors make mistakes, but when they do, they can significantly affect the patient’s life and that of their families.

Personal injury lawsuits involving surgical errors could be filed in a variety of situations. At Paulson & Nace, we’ve handled many types of medical malpractice claims, including:

*These are considered “never events.” Sadly, while these should never happen, they do more often than you’d think.

Causes of surgical errors include doctor fatigue, operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failure to follow all necessary steps of a procedure, lack of experience, failing to check tools for proper sanitization, miscommunication, and more.

It’s important to note that not all surgical errors result from medical negligence or malpractice. As medical malpractice lawyers, we must prove that another doctor with the same certification and experience in the same situation would not have caused you harm.

What Can Victims of Medical Errors Do?

People need to trust professionals who can diagnose, treat, and manage injuries and illnesses. But when a mistake is made, the ramifications can be widespread. While a medical malpractice lawsuit can’t change what happened, it can ensure financial security to cover the high costs of medical bills and future treatments and procedures, compensate for lost wages and lost income, and recognize the pain and suffering you’ve endured.

Professionals who may be liable for medical errors include doctors, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals, radiologists, anesthesiologists, dentists, and psychiatrists. Determining damages and building a strong case is complicated; it requires specific legal knowledge and experience, consulting with expert witnesses, and thoroughly investigating and collecting the necessary evidence to hold those involved accountable. Since there’s a statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, the sooner you seek the advice of a medical malpractice attorney, the better.

Contact Paulson & Nace online or at 202-463-1999 for a free case consultation if a medical error happens to you or a loved one. 

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