Top Medical Malpractice Claims Identified

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A review of 10 years of lawsuits reveals that the top medical malpractice allegations are for surgical errors and diagnostic mistakes. And these medical errors cause patients the most severe harm.

Covery’s, a medical malpractice insurance provider, reviewed closed medical malpractice lawsuits between 2010 and 2019, which resulted in a comprehensive report: “A Call for Action: Insights From a Decade of Malpractice Claims.”  That 10-year review included more than 20,000 claims of medical malpractice involving slightly fewer than 12,000 adverse events.

Errors Most Commonly Alleged in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Claims of surgically related errors were the most common, accounting for nearly 30% of all lawsuits reviewed.  Following closely were allegations of misdiagnosis; about 27% of the medical malpractice claims.

After those two, the other leading claims of medical malpractice were for:

·         Medical treatment

·         Medication errors

·         Patient environment/safety

·         Obstetrics

·         Patient monitoring

·         Anesthesia

In terms of serious surgical errors alleged in the lawsuits, the top five were:

·         Performance of surgical team

·         Surgical object left in patient

·         Unnecessary surgical procedure

·         Operating on the wrong side or wrong site of patient

·         Delay in surgery

Wrong-site surgery was the topic of a study released last December, documenting how often it can occur.  While seemingly an error that should never happen, the study (“Wrong-Site Surgery in Pennsylvania During 2015-2019”) found 368 instances of wrong-site surgery between 2015 and 2019 in Pennsylvania hospitals alone.

That is an average of nearly 1.5 wrong-site surgery errors each week.

According to the Covery’s report, claims of surgical errors involved the death of the patient in 8% of the medical malpractice lawsuits.  Another 4% of the patients were found to have experienced high-severity injuries.

Patient Deaths Linked to Diagnostic Errors

While diagnostic errors were the second most commonly alleged medical error, the resulting harm on patients was even more severe than surgical mistakes.  The medical malpractice lawsuit study determined that 35% of the patients died in diagnostic error alleged events.

The top five claims of misdiagnosis included errors or delays with:

·         Taking patient history and conducting physical exam

·         Test result interpretations

·         Ordering diagnostic tests

·         Referral management

·         Patient follow-up visits with doctor

Surgical errors and misdiagnoses also were found in medical malpractice lawsuits that alleged errors in communication. The top five allegations of miscommunication among healthcare providers or between providers and their patients and patient families (listed in order of prevalence) involved:

·         Diagnostic errors

·         Surgical mistakes

·         Medication errors

·         Medical treatment errors

·         Obstetrics errors

About 30% of the medical malpractice lawsuits alleging communication error events resulted in the patient’s death.

This helps illustrate how interrelated the many steps of medical care often are. An error in one portion of treatment can lead to other preventable mistakes that can threaten or take patient lives.

If you were seriously harmed or had a loved one die unexpectedly while receiving medical care, you may want to consult a personal injury lawyer experienced in conducting medical malpractice investigations.

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

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog August 25, 2021


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