It is estimated that nearly 225,000 people die from medical errors each year, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States. In addition, 80% of medical malpractice cases involve serious injuries. Healthcare providers and the facilities they work in owe patients a standard duty of care. This duty of care is an understood promise that a medical caregiver will uphold a high level of care and act reasonably compared to other medical providers in a given situation. When the trust patients place in hospitals and healthcare workers is violated and this duty of care is no longer upheld, medical negligence occurs. Though medical malpractice is a common cause for death and injury, few victims file claims. A medical malpractice claim can help victims recover compensation for life-altering disabilities or injuries.
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Injuries sustained as a result of medical negligence can leave victims facing lifelong consequences. Some events, such as wrong-site surgery, are considered “never events,” because they are particularly alarming accidents that should never occur. Diagnostic errors ranked as the most common cause of medical malpractice claims between 2013 and 2017. Other common causes of malpractice injuries are birth injuries, surgical errors, treatment and medication errors, and anesthesia errors. In addition, fall-risk patients who are left unattended are at an increased probability of a slip and fall accident.
Approximately 6-8 birth injuries occur per every 1,000 births in the United States, making it one of the most dangerous places in the developed world to give birth. Many of these injuries are preventable, often resulting from some form of negligence. Some of the most common severe injuries sustained during birth are cerebral palsy (CP), hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), intracranial hemorrhage, soft-tissue damage, neonatal neurologic injuries, fractures, and infections.
Cerebral palsy is the most common childhood disability and frequently occurs as a result of a birth injury. HIE, or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, results in long term neurodevelopmental impairment and significant brain damage in 25% of victims. Neonatal neurologic injuries can include brachial plexus injuries, facial nerve damage, and spinal cord injuries.
In the United States alone, nearly 4,000 patients suffer from surgical errors annually. The most common surgical error is wrong-site surgery, an act defined as a “never event.” In addition to incorrect surgical site errors, errors such as foreign objects left inside of patients, nerve damage or punctures to organs, anesthesia mistakes, and operating on the wrong patient can occur. These accidents are typically caused by poor communication, insufficient training, fatigued surgeons, and general human error.
A preventable mistake, medication errors can take different forms. Mixed medications, failure to read labels, incorrect dosage, and overriding medication use safeguards are some of the mistakes that can be made. In addition, a pharmacist may restock a medication incorrectly, causing a patient to be dispensed the wrong medicine. Finally, errors associated with distribution, labeling, packaging, administration, and storage can occur. Errors involving other types of treatment, such as delayed treatment or incorrect treatment plans, can further deteriorate a patient’s condition.
One in every six patients is impacted by a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis. Often, these errors take the form of overlooking a critical ailment and instead incorrectly diagnosing it as something harmless. In some cases, a diagnosis may not be given at all. Some of the most common incorrect or overlooked diagnoses are cancers, cardiac diseases, pulmonary embolisms, and neurological diagnoses. These errors are frequently attributed to overloaded and fatigued physicians.