- Available knowledge
- Geographic location where care occurred
- State of medical practices at the time of the illness or injury
Missed diagnosisIrish researchers recently reported that after an exhaustive review of thousands of papers on medical malpractice claims, that misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis were the common medical malpractice claims constituting between 26 percent and 63 percent of total claims. Most missed diagnosis claims for adults concerned cancer and heart attacks. Others were appendicitis and bone fractures. For children, cancer and meningitis were more commonly missed. A delayed diagnosis can lead to the lack of early treatment, which in cancer and heart attack cases can be fatal. On the other hand, a wrong diagnosis can lead to painful treatments and disability, such as chemo, for a cancer that does not exist.
Drug errorsThe second most common medical malpractice claim concerned drug errors, accounting for between 6 and 20 percent of claims. Errors in prescribing, dosage and administration included antidepressants, steroids, antibiotics, anticoagulants and antipsychotic medications. Nearly half of fatal medication errors occurred in patients over the age of 60 since this group often takes multiple medications.
Missed test resultsMalpractice claims arise because a doctor orders tests but then neglects to read the results. Consequently, the patient gets worse and does not receive the treatment that would have cured the condition or led to a recovery.
Wrong site surgery or Wrong patientFew people can believe or accept that surgeons occasionally perform procedures on the wrong body part, do the wrong procedure, or do procedures intended for another patient. There are cases where the wrong limb was amputated. Most surgical procedures involve surgeons marking the site, though this is no guarantee that the correct side is marked. Poor communication is often the culprit in these and other surgical error cases. Checklists and timeouts or pauses to review the medical records are required in most settings, though these types of errors, though rare, continue to occur at rate of about 1 in every 112,000 procedures.
Anesthesia mistakesBefore a patient goes under anesthesia, a physician needs to note the patient’s characteristics and condition. Technicians and the physician need to consider the patient’s age, medical condition, past reactions, type of surgery, medications they are on and other factors, which if not considered can lead to heart attacks or respiratory failure. Constant monitoring of vital signs is essential along with fluid outputs at 5-minute intervals. These mistakes also take place in dental offices, cosmetic surgery offices and include nurse practitioners, nurses, and residents.
Failure to diagnose. If a competent doctor would have discovered the patient's illness or made a different diagnosis, which in turn would have led to a better outcome than the one actually achieved, then the patient may have a viable medical malpractice claim.
Improper treatment. If a doctor treats the patient in a way that no other competent doctor would, the patient could have a medical malpractice claim. In a similar vein, it may also be malpractice if the doctor selects the appropriate treatment but administers it incompetently.
Failure to warn a patient of known risks. Doctors have a duty to warn patients of known risks of a procedure or course of treatment -- this is known as the duty of informed consent. If a patient, once properly informed of possible risks, would have elected not to go through with the procedure, the doctor may be liable for medical malpractice if the patient is injured by the procedure (in a way that the doctor should have warned could happen).
1) the plaintiff is rendered hemiplegic, paraplegic, or quadriplegic because of the malpractice, and has suffered a total permanent functional loss of a limb because of injury to the brain or spinal cord, or
2) the malpractice has left the plaintiff with a permanently impaired cognitive capacity and rendered him or her incapable of making independent, responsible life decisions, and permanently incapable of independently performing the activities of normal daily life, or
3) the malpractice has caused permanent loss of or damage to a reproductive organ resulting in the plaintiff’s inability to procreate.In 2014, the higher tier cap was $786,000.