A study in the Journal of Patient Safety estimates that hospital errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer, with approximately 440,000 deaths each year. Of all of the hundreds of thousands of medical mistakes that occur each year in hospitals and other medical settings, the most common preventable medical errors that may lead to medical malpractice claims include:

  1. Misdiagnosis. Failure to diagnose an illness is a common medical mistake. The most commonly misdiagnosed conditions are heart attack and cancer. The failure to diagnose life-threatening conditions can have devastating consequences and cause catastrophic injuries.
  2. Surgical errors. Whether the surgical team left tools or sponges inside the body during surgery, the wrong side or site was operated on or even performed on the wrong patient. Surgical errors are another common medical mistake.
  3. Failure to treat. This error occurs when the doctors correctly diagnoses a condition, but then fails to treat it in accordance with the acceptable standard of care for that condition. Discharging a patient too soon, or the lack of follow up care, can make conditions worse and lead to injury.
  4. Birth injuries. A significant portion of medical malpractice claims are against OBGYNs for childbirth-related medical mistakes. Conditions such as shoulder dystocia or other nerve damage, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy and cephalohematoma are common birth injuries that could have been caused by medical errors.
  5. Prescription drug errors. Doctors make errors in prescribing the wrong medication, incorrect dosing and administration of prescription drugs. Other drug errors include prescribing drugs that can cause harm in the patient when they interact with one another.


Sometimes medical mistakes can occur without causing any injury, which would not be a cause for a claim. A doctor or other medical professional either acts or fails to act in a manner consistent with the acceptable standard of care in such a way that causes injury to the patient. The injury must also cause emotional or financial loss in order to satisfy the elements of a medical malpractice claim. Any of these preventable medical errors that cause injury due to the action or inaction of your doctor may be cause to file a medical malpractice claim in Washington, D.C. or West Virginia.