Learning from Serious Medical Mistakes

med monitor.jpgMedical malpractice lawsuits serve two very important purposes. The first is to provide just compensation to individuals or family members who have suffered terribly from preventable medical mistakes. The second is to help prevent such catastrophic medical errors from happening to others in the future.

As detailed in a recent Wall Street Journal article, the latter is now motivating insurance companies to examine previous medical malpractice errors. They want physicians and hospitals to learn from these mistakes.

Medical Malpractice Claims Increase 4 Percent a Year

According to the report, the dollar amount awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits has increased about 4 percent annually. And insurers have started reviewing paid medical malpractice claims with physicians and hospitals to pinpoint the errors in those cases.

While this could be good news for patients, the reason for this new tact surely is bottom-line related. Insurers want to reduce the amount they pay to victims in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Leading Types of Medical Errors in Missouri 

A review of medical malpractice cases in Missouri is enlightening. The Missouri Department of Insurance annually collects information on medical error claims from insurers. Its most recent report is for 2014. All totaled, insurers paid $46 million in Missouri medical malpractice claims in 2014. The leading mistakes that year resulting in medical malpractice litigation included:

  • Surgical errors – they accounted for about one-third of all lawsuits
  • Improper medical treatment – errors in treatment unrelated to surgery or drugs accounted for about 18 percent
  • Medical misdiagnosis – failure to correctly diagnose accounted for another 18 percent
  • Patient safety issues -patient falls and injury during transport account for about 14 percent

The Wall Street Journal article echoes the Missouri findings. It says that errors during surgery and errors in diagnosis are common grounds for medical malpractice lawsuits across the country. It also notes that mistakes made in child delivery can be catastrophic. This holds true for Missouri. In 2014, pregnancy and birth-related errors comprised 6 percent of all of Missouri’s medical malpractice cases, but 16 percent of the total amount in medical malpractice financial awards.

Another overriding factor in paid medical malpractice claims identified by insurers is poor communication, which includes not only between doctor and patient, but also among the patient’s health care team.

If you lost a loved one due to a serious medical error, you may want to consult an attorney who represents medical malpractice victims to pursue justice on your behalf. By identifying why the error occurred, you may be sparing others from a similar tragedy.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.