What Are the Most Common Medical Malpractice Claims?

March 25, 2024 | Steve Crandall
What Are the Most Common Medical Malpractice Claims?

When we seek medical treatment, we trust healthcare professionals to provide us with the care we need to improve our health. However, there are instances where things don't go as planned, leading to what is known as medical malpractice.

This term refers to situations where a healthcare provider deviates from the accepted standard of care, harming the patient.

While medical malpractice can manifest in numerous ways, certain claims are more common than others. Let's explore some common types of medical malpractice that lead to claims. If you believe you might have a case, never wait to consult a medical malpractice lawyer near you.


Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

What Are the Most Common Medical Malpractice Claims

Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis represents a significant portion of medical malpractice claims.

According to a study published in the journal Diagnosis, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis accounts for nearly one-third (32 percent) of medical malpractice claims, making it the number one cause of serious harm among medical errors.

One in three care providers is sued for medical malpractice during their career due to diagnostic errors. These errors can result in death or permanent disability for the patients, as well as costly penalties for the healthcare providers.

These situations arise when a medical professional fails to correctly identify a patient's condition, either by diagnosing it as something it is not or by promptly failing to diagnose a serious condition. The implications of such errors can be severe, affecting a patient's health, quality of life, and, in some cases, survival.

In some instances, symptoms presented by the patient may be nonspecific or mimic those of other, less severe conditions, leading healthcare providers down an incorrect treatment path. Communication breakdowns between patients and healthcare professionals can also contribute, where important symptoms are either not reported by the patient or overlooked by the provider.

The complexity of the medical field itself sometimes plays a role in misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. With an ever-expanding body of knowledge and an increasing number of conditions with similar symptoms, even the most experienced healthcare professionals can face challenges in diagnosis.

Limited access to diagnostic tools or specialists in rural or underserved areas can also delay or complicate the diagnostic process, increasing the risk of misdiagnosis.

Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

The consequences of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis extend beyond the immediate health implications for the patient. They can lead to unnecessary treatments, including surgeries and medications. Such situations can lead to administering unnecessary treatments, including surgeries, medications, and other interventions that wouldn't have been necessary if the correct diagnosis had initially occurred. These unnecessary treatments can have side effects and complications, harming the patient's health.

Upon eventually reaching the correct diagnosis, the condition may have progressed to a more advanced stage that is more difficult, or sometimes impossible, to treat effectively. This progression can significantly impact the patient's prognosis, leading to a need for more aggressive treatment, longer recovery times, and, in some cases, reduced chances of survival.

The uncertainty and stress associated with a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, along with the potential for worsened outcomes, can lead to significant distress. Patients may lose trust in the healthcare system and experience frustration, anger, and helplessness.

Patients are encouraged to be proactive in their care by seeking second opinions, asking detailed questions about their diagnoses and treatment options, and fully reporting their symptoms and medical history.

For those who believe they have been the victim of a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, legal options may be available. Pursuing a medical malpractice claim can provide a pathway to compensation for the damages suffered due to the healthcare provider's error.

This compensation can cover medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. A lawyer can give you the guidance and support to understand and exercise these options.

Surgical Errors

Surgical Errors

While less common than some other types of medical malpractice, surgical errors carry the potential for severe consequences for patients.

These errors go beyond the known risks associated with surgery. They are preventable mistakes that breach the standard of care expected in the operating room. Such errors can extend beyond immediate physical harm, affecting patients' long-term health, emotional well-being, and financial stability.

Wrong-Site Surgery

Operating on the wrong body part, a situation known as "wrong-site surgery," is one of the most shocking and preventable surgical errors. This type of mistake can occur due to miscommunication, inadequate pre-surgical planning, or failure to follow surgical checklists and protocols to prevent such errors.

The consequences can be as mild as unnecessary scarring and as severe as the loss of function or removal of a healthy organ or limb.

Retained Surgical Items

Leaving surgical instruments or materials inside a patient is another grave error, known as "retained surgical items." Commonly retained items include sponges, needles, and instruments, which can remain undetected for days, months, or even years after surgery.

These objects can cause infections, obstructions, pain, and internal damage, often requiring additional surgeries to remove them and address the complications they've caused.

Performing the Wrong Procedure

Performing the wrong procedure is an error that can lead to unnecessary surgical risks and complications for the patient. This mistake can stem from miscommunication among medical staff, incorrect patient records, or surgical planning errors.

Patients subjected to wrong procedures may undergo unnecessary physical trauma and emotional distress, significantly delaying the treatment of their actual medical condition.

The emotional and psychological impact on patients and their families can be devastating. Erosion of trust in healthcare professionals and the medical system can lead to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.

The financial burden can also be astronomical, with costs associated with corrective surgeries, additional medical care, lost income, and decreased earning potential.

For patients who have experienced a surgical error, seeking legal recourse can be a means to obtain compensation for the harm suffered. This compensation can cover medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, lost income, and pain and suffering, providing financial support and acknowledging the injustice experienced.

Contact a medical malpractice lawyer to explore your options for compensation. A lawyer can advocate for their health and well-being after such devastating mistakes.

Medication Errors

Medication Errors I Medical Malpractice claim

Medication errors are one of the most prevalent concerns within the healthcare system, touching every point of patient care from diagnosis to treatment. These errors can occur in many environments—hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes, and even during routine consultations with healthcare providers. The ramifications of such mistakes can lead to adverse health outcomes, prolonged illness, and, in severe cases, death.

The incorrect prescription of drugs can happen for various reasons, such as a healthcare provider mixing up medications with similar names or appearances, misinterpreting a patient's medical history, or simply making a clerical error when writing a prescription. Receiving the wrong medication can cause severe allergic reactions or the worsening of an existing medical condition.

Dispensing the Wrong Dose

Dispensing the wrong dose forms another type of medication error. Whether it's too much or too little of a medication, dosage errors can drastically affect a patient's health.

Overdosing can result in toxicity and life-threatening side effects while underdosing may render the treatment ineffective against the intended condition. Factors contributing to dosage errors include miscommunication between healthcare professionals, incorrect transcription of prescriptions, and misunderstanding of patient dosage instructions.

Failure to Recognize Harmful Drug Interactions

Failure to recognize harmful drug interactions is another area where medication errors frequently occur.

With patients often seeing multiple specialists and taking various medications simultaneously, the risk of interactions increases.

Some drugs, when taken together, can diminish each other's effectiveness or lead to dangerous side effects. Healthcare providers must diligently review a patient's current medications before prescribing new ones, but this does not always happen as needed.

The oversight can result from incomplete patient medical records, lack of communication between healthcare providers, or insufficient knowledge about potential drug interactions.

Medication errors can lead to costly medical bills for additional treatments required to address the complications arising from the error. Also, the fear of potential medication errors can cause patients to hesitate or refuse necessary treatment, further endangering their health.

Patients are encouraged to ask questions about their medications, understand their purpose, and be aware of what adverse reactions to watch for.

Those affected by medication errors  can often take legal action to seek compensation for the harm suffered. Legal recourse can provide financial relief for additional medical expenses and compensation for lasting harm or disability. Have a medical malpractice attorney review your situation.

Birth Injuries

Birth Injuries I Medical Malpractice Claim

Birth injuries are some of the most heart-wrenching challenges a family can face, stemming from complications during the delivery process that result in harm to either the newborn or the mother.

These injuries can range from minor bruises and fractures that heal over time to more serious conditions that can lead to lifelong disabilities or even be life-threatening.

Failure to Adequately Monitor the Baby's Vital Signs

One of the primary causes of birth injuries is the failure to adequately monitor the baby's vital signs during labor and delivery. This monitoring is crucial for detecting signs of distress, such as oxygen deprivation, which can lead to serious conditions like cerebral palsy or brain damage if not promptly addressed.

Interpreting these vital signs accurately and taking immediate action, such as performing an emergency cesarean section, falls under the responsibility of healthcare professionals to mitigate any risks to the baby or mother.

Improper Use of Delivery Tools

Improper Use of Delivery Tools I Medical Malpractice Claim

Another significant factor contributing to birth injuries is the improper use of delivery tools, such as forceps or vacuum extractors.

These instruments, when used incorrectly, can exert excessive force on the baby, leading to injuries such as skull fractures, brain injuries, or nerve damage. Carefully considering and executing the decision to use these tools and techniques is crucial to avoid causing harm.

Failure to Perform a Cesarean Section

Failure to Perform a Cesarean Section

In some cases, birth injuries can result from a failure to promptly perform a cesarean section.

Situations may arise during childbirth that make a vaginal delivery too risky for the baby, the mother, or both. Delaying the decision to proceed with a cesarean section can lead to preventable injuries, underscoring the need for vigilance and decisive action in the delivery room.

For babies, these injuries can mean a lifetime of medical treatments, therapies, and assistance with daily living activities. The emotional strain on families grappling with the reality of their child's injury and its implications for their future can be overwhelming. Due to increased caregiving responsibilities, parents may face financial burdens from medical bills, specialized care, and potentially lost income.

For mothers, birth injuries can manifest as physical trauma or psychological distress, affecting their ability to bond with their baby, their overall mental health, and their physical recovery post-delivery.

The dynamics within families can shift dramatically as they adapt to new roles and challenges, seeking to provide the best possible care for their injured child while also coping with their own emotional and physical recovery.

For families affected by birth injuries, a legal claim may offer a pathway to obtaining compensation for medical expenses, ongoing care needs, and other damages. A trusted medical malpractice attorney can handle the process for you while you focus on your child’s well-being.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

While medical professionals strive to provide the highest standard of care, errors can occur, leading to serious and sometimes life-changing consequences for patients and their families.

Understanding the common types of medical malpractice claims, such as misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, surgical errors, medication errors, and birth injuries, can guide you in recognizing signs that you or a loved one may have been affected by such an incident. These errors can cause physical and emotional distress and impose significant financial burdens on those impacted.

If you suspect you or a family member has suffered due to a medical error, you have rights and options for seeking justice and compensation. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer in Cleveland can aid in your understanding of the legal process, gather the necessary evidence, and build a strong case to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.

If you believe you have been a victim of medical malpractice, we encourage you to reach out for a consultation. Remember, filing medical malpractice claims is a time limit, so it is important to act promptly to protect your rights and interests.

Steve Crandall Author Image

Steve Crandall


With licenses to practice law in Kentucky, Ohio, and various Federal Courts, Steve Crandall has been a top trial lawyer for nearly 30 years. Steve’s goals are to first investigate your case to get you answers and then focus on holding those responsible for the mistakes that changed your life. Steve’s clients can attest to the fact that Steve is responsive, keeps them constantly updated and aggressively pursues their case. Steve also remains their lawyer for life.

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