Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional causes injury to their patient. Medical malpractice is not necessarily purposeful – most times, the professional being charged with malpractice is not immediately aware of where they went wrong. For instance, a doctor that forgot to sterilize their workspace could cause major injury via infection to a sick patient. Though this passing of microorganisms was not intentional, it still caused injury to the patient. This unintentional nature of medical malpractice partly contributes to the high instances of malpractice in our country and is also what categorizes it under negligence law.
Medical Malpractice Statistics
After conducting to an eight-year study, Johns Hopkins University found that patients reported roughly 250,000 counts of medical malpractice each year. This figure rates medical malpractice as number three in comparison to all other medical-related leading causes of death, replacing respiratory disease. The most common type of medical malpractice pertains to misdiagnoses and/or failure to diagnose. 59% of patients report that incorrect diagnoses, or delayed diagnoses, caused their injuries. Although medical treatment does contribute to the overall well-being of the population, malpractice is far too common to be ignored.
What Is Considered Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice includes all negligent actions that result in patient injury. This leaves a wide range of possibilities for what could be considered medical malpractice. However, medical malpractice lawsuits reflect all other personal injury cases in that they involve four essential components:
- The medical practitioner owed their patient a duty. In addition to their duty of providing the pre-arranged examinations and services, the professional also owed a duty to provide these services in a safe and reasonable manner.
- The medical practitioner did not fulfill this duty to provide safe conditions and/or treatment to their patient due to their negligence.
- The medical practitioner’s negligence directly contributed to the patient’s injuries or the extenuating circumstances that caused their injuries.
- The patient sustained verifiable damage that detracted from their quality of life.
These components represent the cause-and-effect timeline that the claimant must prove to be valid. This is where the aid of an expert witness poses significant advantage. When proving that a medical professional breached their duty in some way, it becomes beneficial to have someone that understands how to comb through your documentation and medical records to find technical pieces of information that support your case.
What Will My Settlement Be?
The average medical malpractice settlement is just over $400,000. This includes compensation for all medical bills and other emotional damages that the experience caused the patient.
What Are the Most Common Forms of Medical Malpractice?
Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose is the most common form of malpractice. This represents a very basic form of negligence in which the physician does not properly examine the patient or waits too long to form a diagnosis. This can be extremely dangerous in time-sensitive situations.
Surgical errors are also a form of medical malpractice. Simple accidents can have lasting consequences, sometimes even leading to fatality. Sometimes surgeons operate on the wrong body parts or leave tiny tools within the patient’s body. Though these issues might not seem likely to happen – they do. Personal injury claims offer protection to survivors in these situations.
Birth injuries occur during the birthing process, with the infant being the victim. Birth injuries often result in nerve damage and other lifelong ailments like Cerebral Palsy. Either the victim’s parent or the victim themselves – once they turn 18 – can file a lawsuit for birth injuries.
Improper medication administration is another potentially fatal form of medical malpractice. This includes giving improper medication, improper dosing instructions, and/or administering the medication improperly when given by the doctor or a nurse.
Faulty follow-up is not as severe as the previously mentioned forms of malpractice, but it can still be dangerous to the patient. Discharging a patient too early and not following up with a patient’s condition properly means potential complications could go unnoticed before the patient requires emergency services.
Medical malpractice is a serious occurrence that happens extremely often in our country. Being the third most common cause of death, it remains vital to choose your healthcare providers wisely.