The Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice

Apr 4, 2022

Failure to diagnose (or delayed diagnosis) and failure to treat are arguably the most common types of medical malpractice claims, in large part because so many malpractice scenarios fit that description. If a doctor overlooks an obvious ailment or problem, they will fail to treat it, which can lead to serious repercussions for a patient.

Another common category of medical malpractice is birth injuries. These injuries may affect the mother or the newborn and can potentially result in permanent disabilities or fatalities.

Patients and their families can also suffer costly and painful consequences resulting from surgical errors and prescription errors.

Missed Diagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

Of all the medical malpractice claims that are hard to prove, misdiagnosis may be one of the most difficult. Doctors can be wrong without being negligent or committing malpractice.

Proving malpractice requires negligence. Proving negligence requires an affidavit from another doctor in the same specialty who can testify to what the standard of care should have been for the doctor you’re accusing of malpractice.

Essentially, you need to get a training doctor or a respected doctor in the field to swear that a competent doctor in the same situation would have recognized your symptoms and provided the proper diagnosis.

In hindsight, a doctor’s mistake may seem glaringly obvious. However, in the moment when the doctor is making the error, things may not be as clear. Some symptoms may be subtle or difficult to detect. A particular set of symptoms may be associated with a common ailment and not the rare condition you were actually suffering from.

There are many reasons why a doctor could misdiagnose a patient. Malpractice frequently occurs when doctors fail to follow up or perform additional testing after their initial treatment for the misdiagnosed ailment doesn’t result in the improvement of a patient’s condition.

Birth Injuries

Birth injuries frequently take the form of brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain or physical injuries caused by the improper use of vacuums or forceps to pull a baby out of the birth canal. In many cases the injuries could have been avoided had the obstetrician or staff been properly prepared or heeded warning signs.

The scenario is often:

  1. The mother is in labor, and the fetus exhibits signs of distress
  2. The obstetrician fails to take the appropriate corrective actions
  3. Sometime later the baby or mother is facing imminent risk of death or injury
  4. The obstetrician uses forceps or a vacuum to try to extract the baby immediately
  5. The baby or mother is injured during extraction
  6. The baby suffers severe injuries, which may include permanent disabilities, brain damage or developmental delays

Birth injury medical malpractice cases can sometimes be easier to prove since there’s a clear timeline of events. Nurses or assistants involved with the delivery can attest to the condition of the mother and baby at various points during labor and delivery.

A training doctor or obstetrician will still need to testify to what a competent doctor would have done in the same situation.

Surgical Errors or Prescription Errors

Surgeries are not risk-free procedures. Surgeons and doctors are required to warn patients of potential risks, but they aren’t always personally liable or negligent if a patient dies or suffers complications during surgery.

However, there are scenarios where patients do suffer dramatically negative consequences due to surgical negligence. Examples include things like:

  • A surgeon amputates the wrong limb because they either misread notes or were given the wrong information
  • They perform the wrong surgery on a patient

Surgeons or surgical staff can also leave items like surgical sponges in a patient. They have procedures to prevent these things from happening. Nurses and surgeons understand the ramifications if they don’t follow those procedures, meaning failure to do so often rises to the level of malpractice.

Prescription errors can be equally problematic. For example, a doctor may overprescribe a potentially dangerous medication, or prescribe a medication a patient is allergic to. They could also mistakenly prescribe a medication that reacts badly with another medication the patient is already taking.

Pharmacists can also make mistakes. They could fill the wrong prescription and give a patient the wrong medication, leading to a similarly bad outcome.

Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Case in Atlanta?

Surgeons, obstetricians, nurses and pharmacists all owe a duty of care to patients who rely on them for competent medical treatment. When medical professionals fail to uphold their duty and patients suffer injuries or death, medical workers and their employer should be held liable.

The team the Dressie Law Firm is committed to making sure injured Atlanta patients or their surviving family members are compensated for medical negligence. Call us at (678) 909-1639 for a free case evaluation.