What are the Most Common Medical Mistakes that Occur in Hospitals?

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Medical errors are responsible for up to 98,000 deaths in the United States each year. To put that in perspective, more people in this country die of medical errors than from car accidents or breast cancer. As patients, people put their trust in health care providers who are responsible for their care. However, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are also human and capable of making mistakes. Although a patient cannot pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit simply because he or she was unhappy with the course of treatment or its outcome, if the health care provider was negligent in some way, which caused the injury or health complication, the patient may pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer will assist the injured victim with the claims process and ensure that his or her legal rights are protected.

When is a Medical Mistake Considered Malpractice?

If a patient believes that their doctor was negligent, they will need to prove the following to have a successful malpractice claim:

  • There was a doctor-patient relationship: This is generally easy to prove by obtaining copies of medical records. A patient cannot file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a health care provider who was not directly involved in the patient’s treatment.
  • The health care provider committed an act of negligence: All health care providers take an oath to treat patients to the best of their ability, and to do no harm to the patients who are under their care. If the doctor breached the standard of care, which is the level and type of care that a reasonably skilled health care provider with a similar background would provide under similar circumstances, the patient has grounds to pursue a medical malpractice claim.
  • The health care provider’s negligence caused the patient to suffer harm: If a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional makes a medical mistake that is considered negligent and causes an injury or a health complication, the patient may file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The following are some of the most common medical mistakes that occur in the hospital setting:

Diagnosis errors: There are two types of diagnosis errors, including a misdiagnosis and a delayed diagnosis. A misdiagnosis means that not only will the patient not receive the appropriate treatment for his or her condition, causing the illness or injury to be left untreated, but also the treatment for the misdiagnosed condition may also cause the patient to suffer serious side effects. With a delayed diagnosis, the health care provider may correctly diagnose the condition but failed to do so in a timely manner. The delay can cause the patient’s condition to worsen or even become untreatable.

Medication errors: These are responsible for approximately 1.5 million injuries and over 7,000 fatalities each year. There are a number of different types of medication errors, including prescribing the wrong medication, giving the incorrect dosage, and administering a drug to the wrong patient. Medication errors involving incorrect dosages are the most serious, particularly if the health care provider prescribes too much of a prescription medication. This can happen when the equipment that administers a drug malfunctions, which can cause a large amount of a medication to be administered in a short period of time. Depending on the medication, this can cause serious, even fatal consequences.

Anesthesia errors: Anesthesiologists are specially trained to monitor patients during surgery and ensure that they do not feel pain. Examples of anesthesia mistakes include administering too much or too little of the medication, failing to monitor the patient’s vital signs, using faulty or defective equipment, and administering the wrong type of anesthesia medication for the surgery being performed. Other anesthesia errors can occur before the anesthesia medication is even administered. For example, if the anesthesiologist fails to closely review the patient’s medical history to ensure that the patient does not have any allergies to certain medications or is taking a medication that interacts with the anesthesia medication, this can cause very serious health complications. In addition, if the physician fails to confirm that the patient did not eat for the required period prior to surgery, this can also cause complications during surgery. Anesthesia errors can be even more dangerous than surgical errors, as even a small error can cause permanent injury, brain damage, or death.

Surgical errors: All surgical procedures have a degree of risk. However, there are some errors that are clearly negligent, including leaving a surgical instrument inside the patient’s body, performing a surgery on the wrong body part, puncturing an internal organ, and failing to provide the necessary postoperative care. Whether the error is due to fatigue, miscommunication, or recklessness, surgical errors often require follow-up surgeries and increase the risk of serious infections. In extreme cases, the surgical error and the resulting complications can have fatal consequences.

Birth injuries: Although some birth injuries, such as certain brain injuries, fractures, and seizure disorders, can occur during a difficult childbirth or other circumstances that are beyond the doctor’s control, others are the result of a medical mistake. The following are examples of birth injuries that are considered negligent:

  • Negligent prenatal care: If the pregnant mother does not receive the proper medical treatment during the pregnancy, it could cause serious health risks to the mother and the growing baby. The following are examples of negligent prenatal care:
    – Failure to diagnose conditions such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, Rh incompatibility, hypoglycemia, or anemia
    – Failure to identify birth defects
    – Failure to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy
    – Failure to diagnose a condition that spread from the mother to the fetus, including genital herpes or neonatal lupus
  • Negligence during childbirth: When the doctor or nurse fails to provide the standard of care during childbirth, it can cause serious injuries and health complications to the mother and the baby. Examples of negligence during childbirth include the following:
    – Failure to anticipate complications associated with the baby’s large size, or because of the umbilical cord getting tangled or wrapped around the baby’s neck
    – Failure to identify and respond to signs that the mother or fetus is in distress
    – Failure to proceed with a cesarean section if the circumstances warrant it
    – Negligent use of forceps or vacuum extractor

Wrong patient errors: If a patient’s chart is misplaced or switched accidentally, a patient may receive treatment for a condition he or she does not have. In addition to leaving the patient’s actual condition untreated, he or she may experience serious side effects from the wrong treatment. For example, if a patient is wrongfully given chemotherapy or undergoes an unnecessary surgical procedure, this can have devastating health consequences.

What Damages are Available in a Medical Malpractice Claim?

If a patient suffers an injury while under the care of a doctor, nurse, or any other health care professional, and the injury was the result of negligence, the patient may be eligible for damages, or financial compensation for the injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, the patient may require extensive medical care and be unable to return to work for an extended period. This can have serious financial repercussions on the patient and their family. If the patient is able to prove that their health care provider was negligent, which resulted in the injury, they may be eligible for the following damages:

Economic damages: These are expenses that can be easily quantifiable and precisely calculated. Oftentimes, a medical expert will be required to offer his or her professional opinion about the nature of the injuries in order to determine the appropriate amount of damages. There is no cap on economic damages. Economic damages include the following:

  • Medical expenses associated with the injury, including hospital bills, ambulance fees, at-home care, physical therapy, and medical accessories. These may also include expenses for long-term care if the patient needs to be cared for in a long-term care facility.
  • Lost wages if the patient is unable to return to work or becomes disabled. This also includes lost future earning capacity if the patient cannot return to work permanently.

Non-economic damages: These are awarded for a diminished quality of life. In Maryland, the cap on non-economic damages for 2021 is $890,000 and $1,335,500 for a wrongful death. Examples of non-economic damages include the following:

  • Pain and suffering, which is the physical and emotional distress that the patient suffers as a result of the injury or health complication.
  • Loss of consortium, which refers to the loss of affection, including sexual activity, that a spouse or loved one suffers because of the injury or a wrongful death.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, which includes the impact that the long-term emotional pain has on the patient’s ability to enjoy everyday activities. Chronic pain, loss of mobility, and depression can cause the patient to lose interest in life.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Medical Mistakes

If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury or health complication because of a medical mistake, you are urged to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. Medical mistakes can cause devastating injuries and tragic fatalities, many of which could have been prevented if the doctor or nurse provided the medical standard of care. We will conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether negligence was involved and assist you with the claims process. Our dedicated legal team will continue to fight for you until we secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.