Medical malpractice occurs when healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurses, or hospitals, fail to meet the standard of care expected in the medical profession, resulting in harm or injury to patients. These cases can be complex, often involving issues of negligence, misdiagnosis, surgical errors, medication mistakes, and more.
A study in BMJ estimates that hospital errors are 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:
- Misdiagnosis. Failure to diagnose an illness is a common medical mistake. Misdiagnosis is a medical error that occurs when a healthcare provider, such as a doctor, nurse, or medical specialist, incorrectly identifies a medical condition or illness in a patient or fails to identify it altogether.
This can result in a patient receiving an incorrect diagnosis, which can lead to inappropriate treatment, delayed treatment, or no treatment at all for their actual medical condition. 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.
- Surgical errors. Surgical errors are preventable mistakes or actions made by healthcare professionals during surgery that result in harm to the patient. These errors can occur at any stage of the surgical process, from preoperative planning to postoperative care.
Surgical errors are a form of medical malpractice and can have serious consequences for patients. 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.
- Failure to treat. This error occurs when the doctors correctly diagnose a condition, but then fail to treat it in accordance with the acceptable standard of care for that condition. This failure can take various forms and may result from negligence, misdiagnosis, delay in diagnosis, or inadequate medical care. Failure to treat can have serious consequences for patients and may lead to the worsening of their medical conditions, additional health complications, or even death.
Discharging a patient too soon, or the lack of follow-up care, can make conditions worse and lead to further injury.
- Birth injuries. Birth injuries are physical injuries that occur to a newborn baby during the process of childbirth or shortly after delivery. These injuries can vary in severity and may result from various factors, including medical complications, the baby’s position during birth, and medical interventions during labor and delivery. Birth injuries can have long-lasting consequences and may lead to lifelong disabilities or health issues for the child.
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.
- Prescription drug errors. Prescription drug errors, also known as medication errors, occur when there are mistakes or inaccuracies in any aspect of the medication use process, from prescription to administration. These errors can happen in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes, and outpatient clinics. Medication errors can lead to serious harm to patients and may result from a range of factors, including human error, miscommunication, or system failures.
Doctors can 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.
How long do I have to file a medical malpractice case in Washington, DC?
In general, there is a three-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases here in DC. However, the “discovery of harm” rule allows a person to file a claim from the date the injury is discovered. This discovery of harm rule also extends three years from that date to initiate a lawsuit.
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