Medical Malpractice 101: What It Is & Common Causes

Medical Malpractice 101: What It Is & Common Causes

Medical malpractice among doctors, hospitals and surgical offices has surged in recent years.

In fact, according to Malpractice Center, medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in between 80,000 and 100,000 deaths per year. But what exactly is medical malpractice, and what are the top causes of it?

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice is when a doctor, physician, or hospital causes harm to a patient due to negligence or omission, according to the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys.

Medical malpractice can happen anywhere that you receive care from physician or other recognized health care provider. Some of the more common places are a doctor’s office, urgent care, ER, hospital or surgical office.

Common Medical Malpractice Errors

  • Misdiagnosis: One of the most common types of medical malpractice is misdiagnosis. A misdiagnosis occurs if a doctor or physician makes an incorrect diagnosis or prescribes a treatment for a diagnosis that is incorrect.  The effects may be disastrous as treatments may cause additional damage to a patient’s body, while the original correct ailment remains untreated.  According to a 2009 analysis, the five most common misdiagnosed conditions are infection, neoplasm, myocardial infarction, pulmonary emboli and cardiovascular disease.
  • Wrong Site Surgery: Wrong-site surgery is a type of medical malpractice that is more common than most people may think. For example, knee surgeries can be performed on a healthy knee, while the other, damaged knee is left untreated. Again, results can be disastrous depending on the seriousness of the condition, but negligence by a physician and/or the operating room staff is nonetheless inexcusable.
  • Medication Errors: Medication errors can also lead to unnecessary harm in patients. According to a 2006 study, medication errors account for approximately 400,000 injuries each year in hospitals. These injuries are unnecessary for patients and exhibit negligence from the physician or other health care providers.
  • Post-Treatment Negligence: Medical malpractice also includes a failure to monitor patients properly after receiving treatment. A common example occurs after a patient receives surgery. As patients recover doctors and other health care providers may leave them unattended and become oblivious to reactions or complications that ensue..  This can be catastrophic and even lead to death among patients.
  • Inadequate Follow-up-: In this scenario, a doctor or other health care provider failed to provide appropriate or timely follow up that results in additional and unnecessary harm to a patient.  This can include medications, therapy treatments, andother therapies..
  • Improper Medical History-: Prior to providing treatment your physician and oand other health care provider must take an accurate and adequate history including but not limited to prior medical issues and allergies. .  If a physician fails to take this information correctly and prescribes something that the patient may be allergic to, the resulting reaction can have drastic  and catastrophic consequences that cause unnecessary harm to the patient.
  • Technical Errors: Technical errors are the mistakes that happen in the course of a procedure. For example, a surgeon can accidentally cut an artery, which could be disastrous for the patient. While at times the damage can be repaired quickly, other times it cannot—and the consequences can be severe. It is critically important that these issues be timely recognized and dealt with appropriately!

How to Determine Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice can happen at any time—from a simple check-up or urgent care visit to a complex surgery. If you feel that something is still not right after a visit with a medical professional, seek a second opinion immediately.

There are some ways to prevent, or curtail, being a victim of medical malpractice. Here are our three recommendations:

  1. Always have an advocate with you! If you are visiting a hospital, or meeting with a doctor, ensure that you bring a friend, family member or colleague to advocate on your behalf. When you are sick, it’s best to have an ally by your side—someone who knows your wishes and can ensure your doctor is looking out for your best interests.
  2. Don’t be afraid to question your doctor. When consenting to an operation or are receiving a diagnosis, you are putting your life in your doctor’s hands. You have a right to question your doctor. While discussing medical issues is often uncomfortable, it is crucial to be as informed as possible.
  3. Make sure you get multiple opinions. Sometimes, questioning your doctor isn’t enough to avoid becoming a malpractice victim. If your diagnosis is severe enough that your doctor recommends surgery or powerful medications, seeking an additional medical opinion can often be essential to ensure you have the best possible result.

When facing a medical emergency, people are vulnerable, and unfortunately, many medical malpractice cases are the result of doctors and medical personnel who are negligent in the face of those patients’ needs. Our goal is to help minimize medical malpractice as much as possible.


If you or someone you love needs to report a medical malpractice case, please call (888)-296-1681 or fill out a request for a case review at the bottom of our homepage.