How Common are Pediatric Medical Mistakes?April 26, 2021
Each year, 30 million children are sent to the emergency room for a range of illnesses and personal injury. For both the children and their parents, this can be an extremely stressful and overwhelming experience, particularly if the illness or injury is serious or life-threatening. The last thing parents expect to have happen is for a medical mistake to further jeopardize their child’s health. Unfortunately, this is more common than one might think, and it is even more common in fast-paced and chaotic emergency rooms. Many of these mistakes could have been avoided if the pediatrician responsible for the child’s care provided the medical standard of care and avoided common medical errors that lead to injuries. According to a recent study, close to 40 percent of medical errors involving pediatric cases are preventable. If a child suffers an injury or health complication from negligent medical errors, a skilled medical malpractice lawyer can assist the parents with the claims process and secure the financial compensation they deserve.
What are the Most Common Causes of Pediatric Errors?
The vast majority of health care providers are committed to providing each and every patient they treat with exceptional medical care. However, physicians are human and capable of making mistakes. According to a study published in Contemporary Pediatrics, the following are some of the most common causes of medical errors involving pediatric patients:
- Physician burnout: Research found that approximately one-third of physicians experience burnout at some point. This is directly associated with increased rates of medical errors, lower patient satisfaction, and quality of care. Physicians who are burnt out are also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
- Physician fatigue: Physicians who work long hours or double shifts suffer from extreme fatigue, which causes reduced cognitive function, memory deficits, and impaired learning. An exhausted, sleep-deprived health care provider is more likely to make a mistake when diagnosing or treating a patient.
- Frequent distractions: When health care providers are working in a busy emergency room, distractions can occur at any moment. Patients with more severe conditions may require the physician’s immediate attention, or a staff member may interrupt the physician with an important question. This can cause the physician to lose focus on his or her patient, resulting in a serious medical mistake.
- Poor communication: When treating a patient, particularly a pediatric patient who has a serious health condition, it is crucial that the treating physician communicates with staff, specialists that may need to be involved in the child’s treatment protocol, and the child’s parents. Poor communication can lead to a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis, medication errors, and other mistakes that can jeopardize the health of the child.
- Failure to properly monitor patients: When a child is suffering from a serious health issue, it is crucial that the medical team closely monitors his or her condition. A failure to do this can cause the health care professional to miss signs that the child’s condition is deteriorating, or that the child is developing new or different symptoms.
- Failure to make quick decisions: Oftentimes, physicians must make important medical decisions quickly, particularly if the child’s condition is life-threatening or deteriorating quickly. This can be challenging when a health care provider is extremely fatigued or feeling burnt out. However, hesitating to do so can jeopardize the health of the child if the necessary treatment is delayed.
- Cognitive errors: This occurs when a health care provider makes a premature diagnosis regarding the patient’s condition or fails to recognize symptoms that would indicate another health issue.
What are the Different Types of Pediatric Malpractice Claims?
Medical malpractice is fairly common in pediatric medicine. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), close to one-third of all pediatricians will be sued at some point over the course of their career. When a pediatric mistake causes harm to the patient, the patient’s family may pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against the physician. The following are examples of common medical malpractice claims involving pediatricians:
- Meningitis: This can be difficult to diagnose in the pediatric setting, and physicians often misread the symptoms, fail to diagnose the conditions, or do not diagnose the condition early enough. Meningitis can cause a child’s health to deteriorate quickly if a delayed diagnosis allows the condition to spread. If the harm is irreversible, meningitis can be fatal. According to the AAP, this is the most common illness associated with pediatric medical malpractice in the United States.
- Appendicitis: Over 25 percent of appendicitis cases involving pediatric patients are misdiagnosed. This is particularly true of female patients, whose symptoms are often diagnosed as pelvic inflammatory disease or urinary tract infections. In most cases, malpractice cases are the result of a failure to properly diagnose the illness, which causes the condition to become more serious and more difficult to treat. In addition to meningitis, appendicitis is one of the most common pediatric medical malpractice claims.
- Medication errors: These represent approximately five percent of pediatric medical malpractice cases. Nearly 70 percent of medication errors are caused by physicians, and 13 are caused by nurses. Examples of medication errors include the following:
– Ordering errors
– Administration errors, including incorrect dose, or the wrong timing or technique
– Transcription errors
– Dispensing errors
Depending on the type of injury or the nature of the illness, pediatric medical mistakes can range from minor ailments or complaints to serious health issues that cause long-term problems. In severe cases, the mistake can result in a tragic fatality. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the 28,000 babies born with injuries each year, roughly half of them were caused by a medical error that could have been prevented. Examples of preventable birth injuries include facial paralysis, collarbone fractures, brachial plexus injuries, cranial bleeding, and injuries caused by the improper use of a vacuum extractor.
Are All Pediatric Mistakes Considered Medical Malpractice?
It is important to understand that not all pediatric errors are considered medical malpractice. In order for a patient to have a viable pediatric malpractice case, he or she must be able to prove the following:
- Establish that a doctor-patient relationship existed: This can be easily proved by obtaining copies of medical records, hospital records, and medical bills. The physician in question has a duty to provide the medical standard of care that another reasonably experienced physician would have provided under similar circumstances.
- There was a breach of the standard of care: This involves an act or lack of care that a reasonable party would have committed if he or she was in the same situation as the physician being sued. In order to prove that there was a breach in care, a medical malpractice lawyer will likely obtain a statement from a medical expert, as well as medical documents and previous complaints against the physician or the hospital.
- The breach of care caused injuries: If the patient did not suffer any injuries or health complications from the breach in care, he or she will not have a valid medical malpractice case. The patient or the patient’s family must be able to prove that the breach in care resulted in injuries or other health complications.
- The injuries caused financial damages: The patient’s parents must be able to prove that the physician’s actions or inaction caused physical, emotional, and financial damages, including costly medical bills, lost wages, physical injuries, pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and costs associated with a disability resulting from the injury.
What Damages May I Receive in a Pediatric Malpractice Lawsuit?
When a pediatrician makes a medical mistake that jeopardizes the health of a small child, it can be physically, emotionally, and financially devastating, particularly if the child requires extensive medical care. A successful pediatric medical malpractice claim will ensure that the parents of the injured child are reimbursed for the following:
- All medical costs associated with the injury or illness
- Future medical expenses
- Costs associated with altering the home if the child becomes permanently disabled
- Lost wages for the time spent caring for the sick or injured child
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death benefits if the injury or illness results in a fatality
- Punitive damages if the pediatrician’s conduct was particularly egregious
In Maryland, the cap on non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, is $845,000 for 2021 and $1,056,250 for a wrongful death claim. There is no cap on economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Pediatric Malpractice
If your child was injured while under the care of a pediatrician, you are urged to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. We understand how devastating it is to see your child suffer in any way, particularly if it could have been avoided. We will conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether negligence was involved and ensure that the negligent party is held liable for your child’s injuries. Our dedicated legal team will walk you through every step of the claims process and address all of your questions and concerns. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.