The Medical Error Most Responsible for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

A medical liability insurer reviewed data over a five-year period and determined the type of preventable medical mistake that led to the majority of medical malpractice lawsuits was diagnostic errors.  More than a third of these misdiagnoses resulted in the death of patients.

Coverys, the insurer, looked at more than 10,500 closed claims of medical malpractice between 2013 and 2017.  About a third of all medical malpractice lawsuits were due to errors in diagnosis.  Misdiagnosis accounted for nearly half of all the paid claims.

Surgical errors were the second leading medical mistake responsible for medical malpractice lawsuits.  Almost one in every four medical malpractice claims was for a mistake during surgery. Other top preventable medical errors cited in the study included medication mistakes, problems with patient environment and patient monitoring, and errors relating to obstetrics and anesthesia.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Due to a Harmful Misdiagnosis

But misdiagnosis was far and away the number one reason for medical malpractice lawsuits and the study provides an in-depth look at this serious healthcare mistake.

An incorrect patient diagnosis can happen anywhere along the treatment process, which the study documents.  Medical testing is the area where most misdiagnoses occurred in relation to claims of medical negligence.  More than have of all paid claims resulted from errors during the medical testing process.

Ordering the wrong lab test as well as mistakes in interpreting test results were the most frequent testing mistakes. Other medical testing related mistakes included a failure to properly perform the test, and miscommunications between doctor and patient about test results.

One third of all the medical malpractice lawsuits over a misdiagnosis alleged the error happened during the initial doctor and patient meeting.

Specific errors cited during the patient evaluation were the healthcare provider’s failure to obtain a complete patient history as well as family history, and a failure to adequately review pertinent notes in the patient’s record.

Missed or Ignored Diagnosis by a Specialist

Mistakes in the patient referral process was another leading cause of misdiagnosis.  Examples of patient referral errors found in this study were a failure to refer a patient to a specialist, failure to obtain a specialist’s findings and treatment recommendations, and a failure to properly enter a specialist’s lab test results and notes into the patient’s record.

General medicine practitioners, such as internists and family physicians, had more claims of misdiagnosis filed against them than any other provider.  Hospital physicians made the second most diagnostic mistakes that led to a lawsuit.

Reflecting the potentially catastrophic consequences of a diagnostic mistake, a delayed or missed diagnosis of cancer – including breast, lung, colorectal and prostate – accounted for 58 percent of all medical malpractice lawsuits.  The study notes these are some of the fastest rising types of cancer currently experienced in the United States.

Misdiagnosis recently was cited as the medical error that most worries patients today.  This study reinforces the concern patients and their families have during this critical stage of medical treatment.

If you had a family member die because of a delayed or missed diagnosis of a serious health condition, discuss your experience with a medical malpractice lawyer, who can pursue your legal rights to just compensation from those responsible.

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

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles April 3, 2018