How Often Are Doctors Sued and Why?
How Common Are Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Against Doctors?
When you entrust your medical care to a doctor, you expect to receive thorough, high-quality treatment from your medical provider. Unfortunately, doctors sometimes fail to provide the expected standard of care, and their patients suffer harm. When this occurs, the patient may exercise their right to bring a civil lawsuit against the doctor to recover compensation for their losses, such as lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
But exactly how often are doctors sued for their negligent actions? The answer may surprise you. According to a study by the American Medical Association (AMA), a shocking 34% of physicians have faced a medical liability lawsuit at some point in their careers. The percentage is even higher for doctors 55 and older, with almost half the doctors surveyed reporting that they have been sued at least once.
Understanding why doctors get sued is essential for patients because it helps them recognize improper care and allows them to advocate for their rights if they have experienced subpar treatment. If you have questions about your legal options following an error by a medical professional, call Villari, Giannone & Matteo P.C. today to schedule a free case evaluation with a medical malpractice lawyer: 610-609-8477.
Is There a Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence?
It may seem that the terms medical malpractice and medical negligence can be used interchangeably. However, in a legal sense, they represent different ideas. Medical negligence occurs when a medical professional performs their job in a manner that deviates from the accepted standard of care expected from someone of their training and skill level.
While this deviation is an issue because it can potentially result in adverse outcomes, it doesn’t always lead to harm for the patient. For example, imagine if a doctor failed to order the necessary tests to properly diagnose and treat a minor infection, but the patient still recovered in a few days without treatment. While the doctor may be considered negligent for not giving suitable treatment, their actions did not cause harm or loss for the patient.
However, if a healthcare professional does cause an injury to a patient through medical negligence, then the act rises to the level of medical malpractice. At this point, the injured patient may have a viable personal injury claim. If the injury was so severe that the patient passed away, surviving family members could pursue a wrongful death action.
What Are the Most Frequently Encountered Types of Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice can occur in many different situations within the healthcare system. While any doctor has the potential to make a harmful error in treatment, certain providers have a greater risk of being involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Surgeons top the list of most-sued doctors, with 83% of general and plastic surgeons surveyed for the AMA’s report reporting at least one instance of being sued.
Because surgery is a complex, high-risk procedure, even minor errors can potentially cause severe, long-lasting injuries to patients. The other top reasons why doctors are sued for malpractice include the following.
Incorrect or Delayed Diagnosis
Some illnesses, including many types of cancer, are aggressive and require quick, accurate diagnoses to give the patient the best chance at a positive outcome. Without a correct diagnosis, patients can suffer longer than necessary or may face irreversible health problems from an untreated condition. Examples of harmful diagnosis errors include:
- Failing to recognize symptoms correctly
- Not ordering essential lab tests to confirm a diagnosis
- Not referring the patient to a specialist for diagnosis or treatment leading to a worsening of the condition
Prescription drugs are a marvel of modern medicine and can be used to treat myriad health conditions.
However, these powerful tools must be used with care, or they can cause harm or even death for the patient. Common prescription mistakes include:
- Failing to check for allergies or dangerous drug interactions
- Providing an incorrect dosage
- Giving an improper medication for the condition
- Not closely monitoring patients for signs of drug misuse or abuse when prescribing opioids or other potentially addictive medications
Failure to Treat
In addition to adequately diagnosing illnesses and injuries, doctors must provide necessary treatment to their patients.
Unfortunately, fatigue, overwork, poor communication, and other issues can lead to significant oversights in care, including:
- Sending a patient home too soon after a procedure
- Failing to make a plan or schedule follow-up care and appointments
- Forgetting to order tests
- Not providing adequate instruction on at-home care and symptoms to watch for
- Not consulting a patient’s medical history to look for potential signs of illness
Bringing a child into the world is an exciting moment for most families. Sadly, it is also a time when both mother and child are vulnerable to medical mistakes, and the outcome can be tragic. Birth injury-related medical malpractice can result from:
- Poor prenatal and postpartum care
- Fetal injury from instruments such as forceps
- Not performing a c-section when medically necessary
- Failing to inform parents of prenatal health conditions
How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Assist You?
The outcome of a medical malpractice lawsuit hinges on the quality of the case set forth by the plaintiff.
Although many doctors are sued in the US annually, most successfully defend themselves against their lawsuits. Malpractice cases are complex, and having a knowledgeable legal team on your side with access to medical experts and the resources available to thoroughly investigate your claim is vital to the success of your lawsuit.
If a negligent doctor has injured you or a loved one, an experienced malpractice lawyer from Villari, Giannone & Matteo P.C. can evaluate your case and help you determine your next steps. Contact our law firm today to put our extensive legal skills to work for you: 610-609-8477.
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