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5 Medical Errors That Lead to a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

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5 Medical Errors That Lead to a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Medical malpractice occurs when you are injured by a medical professional (typically a doctor, but not always). The doctor must have failed to meet minimum professional standards when treating you. Not every medical error rises to the level of medical malpractice, but many of them do.

Background: The Certificate of Merit

Background: The Certificate of Merit

A successful medical malpractice claim can be lucrative for victims as well as lawyers. The possibility of a large judgment or settlement encourages some people to file frivolous medical malpractice claims against their doctors, hoping for large payouts. 

Since doctors pass these costs onto their patients, this drives up the cost of medical care for everybody. Most states, including Florida, have added requirements designed to weed out frivolous claims.

The Florida legislature has added the following prerequisites that you must meet before a judge will accept your medical malpractice lawsuit. You must:

  • Conduct a pre-lawsuit investigation.
  • Prepare a Certificate of Merit, signed by a practicing medical professional, that confirms your claim is reasonable. It doesn’t have to confirm that your claim will ultimately win, only that it is reasonable enough for you to realistically speculate that it might win.
  • Send the Certificate of Merit plus a Notice of Intent to Sue to the doctor, hospital, or whoever else you are suing.
  • Wait up to 90 days for the defendant to investigate, reject your claim, ask for more information, or offer to settle. You cannot file a lawsuit during this time unless the defendant rejects your claim outright. The purpose of this rule is to encourage settlement as an alternative to litigation.
  • If you cannot settle your claim within the 90-day period, you must participate in mediation. This requirement also encourages settlement.

Only after completing the foregoing steps can you file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

5 Common Types of Medical Errors

To say that there are hundreds of possible medical errors that might justify a medical malpractice lawsuit is probably an understatement. Below are descriptions of five of the most common medical errors.

Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

A misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor incorrectly identifies your malady. If you complain of fatigue, weight loss, and abdominal discomfort, the doctor might incorrectly diagnose you with irritable bowel syndrome. This misdiagnosis naturally leads to treatment for a condition that you don’t have. At best, this is a waste of time and money.

In a worst-case scenario, however, misdiagnosis can be fatal. That is because, given your symptoms, there is obviously something wrong with you. If it’s not irritable bowel syndrome, then it must be something else that is not being treated. This is how misdiagnosis leads to delayed diagnosis.

Now, let’s suppose that “something else” is pancreatic cancer. The doctor’s delayed diagnosis of pancreatic cancer leads to a delay in treatment, which in turn allows the cancer to metastasize, leading to your death. 

That is a high price to pay for an initial misdiagnosis. It is also a strong justification for a wrongful death lawsuit based on medical malpractice.

Surgical Errors

The term ”surgical errors” includes mistakes a doctor might make before, during, and after surgery. Some of these errors are beyond shocking, such as operating on the wrong kidney or even operating on the wrong patient. It might mean sewing up a patient after surgery while a medical instrument (such as a scalpel) is still inside the patient’s body.

It could also mean misuse of a scalpel during surgery, thereby damaging surrounding tissues. It could mean internal bleeding during or after surgery. It could even mean permanent paralysis. In its most insidious form, a surgical error could mean completely unnecessary surgery performed upon the recommendation of an unscrupulous doctor.

Medication Errors

Presumably, you wouldn’t swallow a pill without knowing what was in it. But you probably would do so if your doctor prescribed it to you. A medication error could mean prescribing the wrong medication, the wrong dosage, a drug you are allergic to, or a drug that negatively interacts with another drug you are taking. You can even sue a pharmacist for an error in preparing your medication. No matter how you slice it, medication errors are dangerous.

If the drug itself is defective and your doctor had no reason to know about the defect, that is a product liability claim, not a medical malpractice claim.

Anesthesia Errors

Your doctor schedules a surgical procedure, and you “take a nap” for a few hours. You don’t really know exactly how long you’ll be under because even the doctor doesn’t know for certain how long it will take to complete your surgery. A complication could arise that lengthens the amount of time that you will need to be under anesthesia. 

When it comes to anesthesia, even a minor error can lead to serious consequences for you, such as waking up during surgery, respiratory distress, or cardiac arrest. Even after you’ve woken up, an anesthesia error can cause vomiting, which might lead to choking and asphyxiation.

Failure to Monitor

It is a medical professional’s responsibility to monitor a patient during and after treatment or a medical procedure. Failure to do so can result in dire consequences for a patient. Proper monitoring means observing your vital signs, symptoms, and overall condition throughout both treatment and recovery. 

After surgery, for example, failure to monitor could lead your doctor to miss internal bleeding. This could kill you or lead to serious post-surgical complications.

Additionally, inadequate monitoring of the effects of medication effects can lead to overdoses or dangerous adverse reactions. 

Time Out: The Use of Expert Witnesses in Medical Malpractice Claims

An expert witness doesn’t necessarily witness any event relevant to your case but possesses relevant expertise–a cardiologist, for example. An expert witness can testify about events they did not see happen as long as they are within the expert’s specialty. 

When it comes to expert medical witnesses, the expert’s ‘specialty’ must be closely related to the medical issue involved in the case. The expert might, for example, testify that the defendant should have ordered an electrocardiogram (ECG) when the patient complained of chest pains. The use of expert witnesses is particularly common in medical malpractice cases. 

Seek the Assistance of a Miami Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Just any lawyer won’t do. You will need a Miami medical malpractice lawyer from Shaked Law Personal Injury Lawyers with expensive experience handling these lawsuits. It would also be best for your lawyer to have experience handling medical malpractice claims in whatever medical specialty your claim falls under (radiology, for example). Such experiences raise the likelihood that your lawyer will enjoy a long working relationship with medical experts in your specialty. Contact us today at (305) 937-0191 for a free case consultation.