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6 Common Types of Medical Malpractice

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Medical Malpractice (Newspaper Headline)

There are six common types of medical malpractice, leaving patients with serious injuries or illness. When seeking medical treatment, patients can reasonably expect their physicians to act professionally and provide them with the highest standard of care. Sometimes, however, doctors and medical providers make preventable mistakes. One study found medical errors cause harm to at least one out of every 20 patients in healthcare settings.

Medical Malpractice (Newspaper Headline)

Types of Medical Malpractice

When healthcare providers deviate from the accepted standards of care, and patients suffer adverse health effects as a result, it may constitute medical malpractice. Unfortunately, several types of medical mistakes commonly occur, causing injury or illness, worsened health condition, or death for patients. 

Some of the most common medical malpractice types include:

Missed Diagnosis

Missed diagnosis occurs when, despite examining the patient, a physician incorrectly diagnoses the condition. For example, you go to the doctor complaining of a headache but are sent home. Later, however, you suffer a stroke that causes partial paralysis. If the doctor did not do his or her due diligence in examining you and reaching a diagnosis, it may be medical negligence.

As a result of such errors, patients may not receive treatments in a timely manner, or ever. Delays in providing patients with the right care may allow the progression of their conditions. In some cases, they may cause unnecessary discomfort and suffering, or advance beyond treatment.

Delayed Diagnosis

Delayed diagnosis differs from missed diagnosis in that the patient’s condition does get diagnosed. However, in delayed diagnosis cases, this does not occur as promptly as it should have. 

For instance, a patient goes to the hospital with chest pain. A physician diagnoses the patient as having reflux and discharges him. Later, the patient returns with worsened pain, and additional symptoms. At that time, the physician diagnoses the patient as having a heart attack, and renders the appropriate treatment. The delay, however, may have caused the patient’s condition to progress or advance further than it would have otherwise.

If the delay is the result of a doctor’s negligence or failure to uphold the standard of care, it may entitle patients to recover compensation through medical malpractice cases.

Failure to Treat

Although they have received the correct diagnosis, some patients may not get the appropriate treatment. Common examples of failure to treat that occur in Illinois healthcare facilities include neglecting to provide the follow-up care a patient needs, failing to order testing, or discharging a patient too early.

Failure to treat mistakes may keep patients from receiving the diagnosis or care they require and deserve. Consequently, they sometimes suffer from worsened or additional conditions, or death.

Surgical Errors

Mistakes occurring during inpatient and outpatient surgeries commonly occur, potentially causing patients serious harm. According to the National Institutes of Health, at least 4,000 patients across the U.S. suffer surgical mistakes every year. 

Despite protocols in place to help prevent errors, some of the most commonly occurring surgical mistakes include:

  • Performing surgery on the wrong body part
  • Performing the wrong procedure
  • Failing to remove medical equipment from the patient
  • Failing to provide appropriate aftercare

Surgery errors can cause adverse effects for patients, such as unnecessary pain and suffering, wounds they should not or otherwise would not have, and the need for additional surgical procedures.

Birth Injury

Occurring during pregnancy or the labor and delivery process, birth injuries can have devastating effects on infants and their families. Mistakes, negligence, or other shortcomings in expectant mothers’ care can cause issues, such as cerebral palsy, facial paralysis, fractures, and subconjunctival hemorrhage.

As a result of birth injuries, babies may need immediate, as well as continuing, medical care. Such care often carries financial costs and, in some cases, may affect victims throughout their lives. In such cases, they may have entitlement to compensation for losses, including their associated medical costs, pain, and suffering, and any lost earning capacity resulting from their conditions.

Prescription Errors

Errors can occur at any point during the medication prescription, dispensing, and administration process. For instance, this type of medical negligence includes giving patients the wrong drug, administering the incorrect dosage, medicating a patient at the wrong time, or using the incorrect administration route or method.

Prescription mistakes can have ranging effects on patients. In some cases, prescription errors may have no adverse health impact on patients. In others, however, these types of mistakes may cause new or worsened conditions, or death.

How Does Medical Malpractice Affect Patients?

While doctors cannot cure every ailment and injury, patients can reasonably not expect to develop more problems because of the treatment they receive. As a result of the previously discussed medical mistakes, and other types, many experience that very thing.

Medical negligence can cause new adverse health effects. These may include the development of infections or other such ailments. Medical malpractice can result in a worsening of existing conditions, such as in the case of delayed or missed diagnosis. Patients may also suffer injuries, like wounds resulting from the incorrect surgical procedure.

In addition to the physical effects, patients sometimes develop mental or emotional issues as a result of suffering mistakes at the hands of those they have entrusted with their health and well-being. Patients who experience medical mistakes commonly develop anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other such mental illnesses.

Can You Sue a Doctor for Medical Malpractice?

Illinois laws allow patients injured due to the negligent acts or omissions of medical professionals to take legal action. Injured patients may file medical malpractice cases against the healthcare providers involved in their care and, in some cases, the facilities at which they received treatment. 

With few exceptions, Illinois imposes a two-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases. Therefore, injured patients have up to two years from the date they suffered harm due to a medical mistake, or when they should have reasonably discovered their conditions resulted from the mistake, to file a lawsuit. If they do not file in the allowed timeframe, it may result in a dismissal of their case and the loss of their right to pursue compensatory damages.

To successfully recover compensation for their associated losses, injured patients will have to prove their medical providers acted negligently or otherwise outside the accepted standards of care. Proving negligence involves establishing that the doctor owed the patient a duty of care, the doctor’s actions or omissions breached this duty, this breach directly caused the patient harm, and the patient suffered losses as a result of this harm.

A personal injury attorney can help you understand how to sue a doctor for medical malpractice in Illinois. A legal representative will aid in gathering evidence to prove the elements of negligence, which may include the patient’s medical records and an affidavit of merit.

Affidavit of Merit Requirement

To file a lawsuit for medical malpractice in Illinois, you will need to obtain an affidavit of merit. Through this sworn legal statement, Chicago medical malpractice lawyers attest that they have reviewed the case facts with a qualifying healthcare provider.

Further, the healthcare provider must swear through an affidavit of merit to that the case has reasonable and meritorious cause. Prior to signing this statement, the healthcare professional will typically go through the patient’s medical records and review other evidence pertinent to the case.

Only affidavits of merit signed by qualifying healthcare professionals are accepted. To qualify, medical providers must meet the following criteria:

  • Have qualifying experience and competence
  • Have taught or practiced in the same area of medicine as the plaintiff’s case within the last six years
  • Be knowledgeable about the case’s medical issues

Filing a lawsuit without the affidavit of merit, or with an affidavit signed by an unqualified physician, may result in a dismissal of the claim or having it delayed.

Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

Damages in medical malpractice cases seek to make patients as close to financially whole as possible. As such, they may recover compensation for their economic and non-economic losses resulting from the medical malpractice incident. 

Economic Damages

Economic damages provide compensation for the definable losses suffered as a result of doctor errors. For instance, these may include the associated medical costs, lost wages, lost future wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

Calculating economic losses typically involves gathering and reviewing documents, such as medical service invoices or billing statements, earnings statements, and other receipts. To determine potential future earnings, an attorney may work with financial experts to extrapolate what a patient might have earned, had his or her career continued on the path it was on before his or her injury or illness.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages, on the other hand, compensate injured victims for the less tangible losses suffered as a result of medical mistakes. For example, non-economic losses may include loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and disfigurement or permanent injury.

Because they aren’t tangible losses, valuing non-economic losses can be challenging. An attorney will explain how personal injury damages are calculated, and help ensure injured patients receive fair and full compensation. 

Often, to calculate non-economic damages, medical malpractice attorneys use the multiplier method. This method adds up the economic losses and multiplies the total amount by a set number. The multiplier number is typically between one and five, and is set based on factors such as the type, severity, and impact of the injuries.

How Can Patients Avoid Falling Victim to Medical Mistakes?

Mistakes rising to the level of medical malpractice can occur throughout the healthcare system. While much of the onus for keeping patients safe falls to medical professionals, there are things that those receiving healthcare can do to help keep themselves safe.

Steps that patients can do to help avoid healthcare-related injuries or illnesses include:

Speaking Up

Perhaps the most important thing that patients can do to help avoid healthcare-related mistakes that cause them serious injury or harm is to actively participate in their care. Therefore, they should never shy away from asking questions or otherwise speaking up if they have concerns. Patients may, for instance, call to follow up if they expected to hear about test results and were not contacted or ask if it is necessary to have a particular procedure or test.

Making Sure Care Is Coordinated

Some medical mistakes result from healthcare providers not having all the relevant information to make their diagnoses. While your physician will typically ask background questions, patients should feel open to tell their doctors things they think they ought to know. For example, prior to receiving an anti-nausea medication, a patient might verify that it is not one to which he or she has an allergy.

Ensuring Proper Hand Hygiene

Patients should ensure they and their healthcare providers, as well as any visitors, practice appropriate hand hygiene. To help avoid the spread of germs and infection, medical caregivers should wash their hands before and after each patient contact.

Improper hand hygiene, including by medical professionals, is a contributing factor to the contraction of many healthcare-acquired infections. Although healthcare professionals may need to clean their hands up to 100 times during the course of a 12-hour shift, studies have found that they wash their hands less than half as often as is needed, on average.

Bringing Someone to Appointments

It can help to have another person at appointments. Nerves, in addition to dealing with the symptoms that brought them to the doctor, can affect patients. Bringing a family member or friend can help ensure that patients get all the information they require, and ask the questions they have.

Even with precautions in place in healthcare facilities, and patients taking steps to ensure their own safety, the common types of medical malpractice commonly occur. Pursuing a lawsuit may help injured patients recover the compensation they need to be made whole again after experiencing a doctor mistake.

About the Author

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Over 35 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar