Can I File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for a Prescription Medication Error?

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Each year, more than 250,000 people die of medication errors in this country. The public sometimes forgets that doctors are human and are capable of making mistakes. Unfortunately, when a health care professional makes a medication mistake, it can jeopardize a patient’s health and safety. Depending on the type of error, a medication error can cause the condition to worsen, as well as cause other potentially life-threatening health complications. However, for a patient to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit, they must be able to prove that negligence was involved. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can assist patients with this process and ensure that they receive the financial compensation they deserve.

Examples of Common Medication Errors

There are many types of medication errors that can jeopardize a patient’s health. The following are examples of common mistakes that doctors, nurses, and pharmacists make:

  • Administering the incorrect medication
  • Prescribing a medication for the wrong length of time
  • Administering too much or too little of the medication
  • Mislabeling a medication
  • Prescribing a medication for which the patient is allergic after failing to review the patient’s medical record
  • Prescribing a medication that could be harmful to the patient because of a pre-existing medical condition
  • Prescribing a medication that has a negative reaction to a drug that the patient is already taking
  • Failing to discuss potential side effects of the medication with the patient

Who is Liable for a Medical Error?

Depending on the nature of the error, there are several parties who may be held liable, including the following:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Hospitals
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturer

The following are examples of scenarios involving medication errors, and who may be held liable for any resulting health complications:

  • Administering the incorrect medication or the wrong dosage: Sloppy handwriting, a misplaced decimal, or misreading a word or a number can result in a serious prescription error. For example, if a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist misses a decimal point, he or she could administer a dosage amount that is too low, in which case it would be ineffective; or too high, which could cause a life-threatening overdose. Doctors are notorious for having illegible handwriting. However, if poor penmanship on a prescription causes a pharmacist to fill an incorrect prescription, the doctor could be held liable, and the pharmacist can also be liable for failing to verify what was written.
  • Mislabeling medication: This usually happens before medication leaves the manufacturer, or in some cases, it can happen at the pharmacy. Regardless of where the error occurred, it can result in the patient receiving the wrong medication or an incorrect dosage. If the pharmacist is responsible for mislabeling the drug, he or she may be named in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
  • Harmful medications: It is the pharmacist’s responsibility to keep a record of all medications the patient is currently taking, as well as any allergies. If a patient is given a medication for which he or she is allergic, or that has a negative interaction with another drug, the pharmacist is likely to be held liable.
  • Failing to discuss potential side effects: Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists all have a responsibility to discuss the potential side effects of a drug with their patients. In addition, patients need to know whether the medication should be taken with or without food, and if certain foods should be avoided. For example, consuming grapefruit can make certain medications less effective.

What Types of Injuries can Medication Errors Cause?

Prescribing the wrong medication, giving an incorrect dosage, or administering a medication for which the patient is allergic can cause a wide range of health complications. The following are examples of health issues caused by medication errors:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Heart attack
  • Hemorrhage
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Muscle cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Organ failure
  • Paralysis
  • Stroke

How can a Patient Prove a Health Care Professional was Negligent?

To have a successful medical malpractice claim, patients will need to show that there was a duty of care owed to them by the health care professional, and that he or she breached that duty. If the patient can establish that there was a breach in care, which caused serious health complications, they may seek damages for medical malpractice. Most medical malpractice claims are based on the idea that the health care professional was negligent in some way. To prove negligence, the following must be true:

  • There was a doctor-patient relationship.
  • The health care provider was negligent.
  • The health care provider’s negligence caused the patient to suffer an injury or a health complication.
  • The injury or health complication led to damages, including costly medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

How Does a Patient Seek Compensation for a Prescription Error?

Malpractice cases can be quite complex, particularly when medication errors are involved, so it is highly recommended that the patient consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can walk them through every step of the claims process, address all of their questions and concerns, and secure the financial compensation they deserve. There are three types of damages awarded in medical malpractice cases, and a malpractice lawyer will explain the amount the patient will be eligible to receive based on the details of the case.

  • Economic damages: These are costs associated with an injury that can be precisely calculated. In some cases, a medical expert may be used to determine the amount of damages. In Maryland, there is no cap on economic damages. Examples of economic damages include the following:
    • Medical expenses: This includes hospital bills, ambulance fees, and physical therapy, as well as the cost for long-term care if the injury or illness is severe.
    • Lost wages: If an injury, illness, or other health complication prevents someone from being able to return to work, they can sue the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist for the cost of lost wages. These damages will also include loss of future earning capacity if the patient is disabled and unable to return to work at all.
    • Funeral expenses: If a prescription error results in a fatality, the surviving family members will be compensated for the cost of the funeral.
  • Non-economic damages: These are awarded for a diminished quality of life. In Maryland, the cap for non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case is $830,000, and $1,037,500 for a wrongful death Examples of non-economic damages include:
    • Pain and suffering: This is the physical and emotional distress caused by the medication error.
    • Loss of companionship or consortium: A loss of companionship can be filed by a child or a spouse, but loss of consortium applies specifically to spouses or significant others of the patient and refers to the loss of affection or sexual activity.
    • Loss of enjoyment of life: If a prescription error causes a serious health complication, resulting in permanent damage, the patient may suffer from depression and anxiety, as well as an overall loss of enjoyment of life. In addition, chronic pain and loss of mobility may make it difficult to complete daily activities.
  • Punitive damages: These are meant to punish a physician, nurse, or other health care provider for a particularly egregious mistake. An example could be if a surgeon performed a surgical procedure while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or intentionally withheld important medical information from a patient. In these cases, punitive damages may be awarded.

If a patient wishes to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against their health care provider for a prescription error, they are urged to contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Secure Maximum Financial Compensation for Victims of Prescription Errors

If your health was compromised because of a prescription error, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will review your medical records and conduct a thorough investigation to determine who is responsible for jeopardizing your health. Our dedicated legal team will walk you through every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. 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.