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An In-Depth Assessment of Common Malpractice Lawsuit Types

Written by Berkowitz

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Injury Attorney in Connecticut Discusses Types of Malpractice Suits

Mistakes happen every day – even in the medical industry. While mistakes are common, medical errors can be devastating, and can even claim someone’s life in the process. Most medical mistakes are preventable and are the direct result of someone’s negligence or incompetence. This is never excusable in the healthcare industry.

It is important to note, however, that medical mistakes are rare. When they happen, not all patients file lawsuits. However, there are instances where a malpractice claim is a patient’s best option for recourse, especially when the patient feels the financial burden of the injury.

If you are unsure whether or not your case qualifies for a malpractice claim, it is in your best interest to speak with a personal injury attorney first. An injury lawyer can assess the circumstances of your medical issue and determine if malpractice was a component.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Malpractice Lawsuits?

1. Inadequate Medical Records

Physicians and other healthcare professionals are required to keep detailed records of a patient’s course of treatment, medications taken, and health conditions. When they do not, this may result in a malpractice lawsuit. After all, when a patient’s medical record is lacking information, doctors may not make the right decision. Sometimes, a physician will leave out information about why a course of treatment was chosen.

When a physician has inadequate medical records, errors are likely to occur. From being prescribed a medication that has a dangerous interaction with current drugs to being exposed to an allergen, medical records are there to save a patient from incompetent errors.

2. Inadequate Patient Intakes

When a patient sees a physician or is admitted to the hospital, someone conducts an intake interview. This collects the patient’s medical history, medications, family history, allergies, drug use, names of physicians, and more.

When the forms are filled out improperly, or the chart is not updated to reflect the patient’s answers, serious errors occur. Patients could be given medications that they are allergic to, a doctor could miss an obvious diagnosis, and more.

3. Inadequate Follow-Up Procedures

Patients do have a layer of accountability, but they cannot monitor every aspect of their care. There are times when a physician may want to wait and see if a patient’s condition improves or how a medication works before prescribing another course of treatment.

If a physician does not monitor the patient or conduct the necessary follow-up appointments, that patient could suffer serious injuries. For example, a diagnosis could be missed, a doctor could misdiagnose the patient and issue the wrong treatment, or the patient could suffer pain and suffering for a treatment that was unnecessary.

The same goes for addictions. If the physician fails to monitor the patient while on opiate pain medication or continues to prescribe without monitoring, that physician may be liable for the patient’s drug addiction (if one manifests).

4. Failure to Get Informed Consent

Before a physician can commence a treatment, surgery, or medical procedure, the physician offering that solution is required by law to inform the patient. Informing is more than just telling a patient about the procedure. The physician must disclose the diagnosis and prognosis to the patient, the treatment options, and the risks and benefits of each treatment option. Only then can a patient truly consent to the procedure.

If a patient does not receive adequate information about the procedure and errors occur, the physician could be held liable regardless of whether the patient agreed to the procedure.

5. Mishandled Lab Samples or Imaging Tests

Doctors rely heavily on blood work, laboratory testing, and imaging to help them diagnose. When a patient’s lab samples are mishandled, or when physicians do not review all data provided by these tests before diagnosing and treating, they could be liable for any injuries that occur. For example, a patient could be misdiagnosed because a physician failed to review the blood work, which clearly showed a different condition than what was diagnosed.

6. Communication Errors

Communication errors are a common reason for malpractice lawsuits. Physicians fail to communicate or listen to their patients, and patients can fail to communicate with their physicians.  If a physician does not listen to a patient, he or she could miss critical information that can help them find a better treatment solution or an accurate diagnosis.

7. Medication Errors

Medication errors happen frequently in the United States and can occur in a variety of ways. Physicians, for starters, are required to prescribe medications per manufacturer guidelines, and they are required to verify that their prescriptions will not interfere with other drugs (including over-the-counter treatments) the patient uses. A physician must also write the prescription legibly; otherwise, the information could be misinterpreted by the pharmacy.

A pharmacy is required to ensure all prescriptions are filled per the written doctor’s order, and that the right medication is dispensed. Often, pharmacy errors – such as dispensing the wrong medication or wrong dosage amounts – result in life-threatening consequences.

8. Anesthesia Errors and Complications

Inpatient procedures may involve a form of anesthesia, especially if the patient is undergoing surgery.

Anesthesia errors, such as giving too much or too little, can lead to brain damage, cardiac arrest, and more. The anesthesiologist is required to monitor the patient’s vitals while he or she is under anesthesia, and failure to do so could lead to complications.

9. Surgical Errors

Surgical errors are surprisingly common as well, and easily preventable. Issues like amputating the wrong limb or leaving surgical instruments inside the body to operating on the wrong patient occur throughout the United States each month.

These surgical errors can lead to life-threatening infections, permanent organ damage, and nerve damage. Some patients are left paralyzed, others are left without limbs, and some suffer from complications that claim their lives.

10. Childbirth Issues

Childbirth is difficult, but when childbirth is mixed with a physician or healthcare provider’s negligence, it becomes devastating.

A physician is required to monitor a mother and her unborn child’s progress during pregnancy, but also during childbirth. A large majority of malpractice claims are filed against OB/GYNs because of childbirth-related complications and injuries. These errors can result in permanent health problems for the mother, as well as long-term complications for the newborn.

Typically, childbirth injury cases involve one of three types of claims: Injuries to the child or mother, a child born with defects that were not detected, and wrongful pregnancy (when termination fails).

11. Delayed Diagnosis

Delayed diagnosis is one that is eventually diagnosed, but later than it should have been. In this case, a physician would review the other physician’s records to see at what point he or she should have found the right diagnosis, and how long the patient went before receiving it.

Delayed diagnoses are devastating, and they could be fatal. For example, if a patient’s cancer is not detected and treated early, cancer could progress past the point of treatment options. If that patient was diagnosed improperly the first time around and was unnecessarily delayed from receiving the right diagnosis, the physician could be considered liable.

12. Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis is when the wrong diagnosis is given to the patient entirely.

These account for a vast majority of malpractice complaints in the United States, though they are preventable.

A physician giving the wrong diagnosis is not automatically a malpractice claim; instead, the physician must breach the duty of care to the patient. For example, if a doctor performs all clinical tests and steps, then still diagnoses the patient incorrectly, this is not negligence.

If, however, the physician haphazardly prescribed medication and did not use the expected standard tests to diagnose properly, and the patient received the wrong diagnosis, the physician would be negligent.

Have You Been Injured by a Healthcare Provider?

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury or side-effect from the actions (or inactions) of a healthcare provider, contact a medical malpractice attorney immediately for a consultation.

The law limits the amount of time you have to file these types of claims, so it is important that you move quickly. A medical malpractice lawyer can evaluate your case, review your records, and see if your injuries qualify for compensation under malpractice laws for Connecticut. If a loved one has passed away because of a healthcare provider’s actions or errors, you may have grounds for a wrongful death suit.

To explore your legal options, contact Berkowitz Hanna today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Call our offices at 866-479-7909 or contact us online to get started.