What Can I Sue a Doctor or Hospital For?

By Lia Kopin-Green
/
July 24, 2022

Medical providers are vested with one of life’s most serious responsibilities: they are often left in charge of our lives, health, and general wellbeing. Doctors spend many years of their lives studying and training to prevent errors in the field, but unfortunately, medical mistakes happen. Oftentimes, these mistakes can mean a matter of life or death. In fact, recent studies have shown that medical errors may account for up to 251,000 deaths in the United States each year, which would make these errors the third leading cause of death in the country.

Doctors are sued for medical malpractice when they provide care that is below the standard of care. You might want to consult a lawyer about filing a medical malpractice suit in the following situations:

1. Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose

Diederich Healthcare reports that 33% of medical malpractice allegations stem from misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose. Whenever a medical professional provides an incorrect diagnosis, it is known as a misdiagnosis. As a result of a misdiagnosis, a patient may receive unsuitable or inadequate treatment for his or her present condition, which could lead to injury or death. For example, assume that you are experiencing breathing problems, so you visit the doctor. The doctor diagnoses you with pneumonia and prescribes treatment. However, your condition continues to worsen, and your doctor does not provide any alternative treatment. Upon seeking a second opinion from another doctor, you are informed that you have lung cancer that has now spread to the point of being incurable. Your doctor’s initial misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose the lung cancer could be grounds for a medical malpractice suit.

2. Delayed Diagnosis

There is also the possibility of a delayed diagnosis. In these instances, the medical provider correctly diagnoses the patient, but not within a reasonable amount of time. By the time the doctor provides the diagnosis, it may be too late for treatment.

Medical providers may fail to order the correct tests or perform an exam in time for a diagnosis to be made, resulting in a delayed diagnosis. For example, suppose a doctor notices abnormalities in a blood test that signify a stomach problem, but does not order further tests. Later on, the patient’s stomach ruptures, which could have been avoided if the doctor had ordered the tests earlier, diagnosed and treated the issue on time.

3. Medication Mistakes

Providing proper medication prescriptions is one of the most important roles of a doctor. With that, there are many mistakes that a doctor can make while providing medications. According to Fierce Health Care, medication errors cause at least one death every day in the United States. When doctors administer the wrong dose of medication due to a mathematical error or even poor handwriting, they may face a medical malpractice lawsuit. It is also possible for doctors to make mistakes when administering drugs to their patients. Medications can cause serious damage if they are accidentally injected into the bloodstream instead of muscles, for instance.

4. Surgical Errors

Preventable surgical mistakes are one of the leading causes of medical malpractice lawsuits. While there are plenty of surgical errors that aren't life-threatening, there are some that can result in serious injuries or even death. Anesthesia errors or leaving a tool or material inside of a patient are two common surgical mistakes. Moreover, a doctor may perform wrong-site surgery, which means he or she accidentally operated on the wrong part of the patient’s body or operated on a different patient entirely. Surgical errors often occur as a result of poor communication, such as the doctor improperly communicating the correct dosage of anesthesia to the nurse. The surgeon may also be negligent if he or she is fatigued, unprepared, incompetent, or inexperienced.

5. Birth Injuries

Several complications can occur during childbirth that could cause harm to the baby, known as birth injuries. The medical providers who delivered the baby may be liable for medical malpractice if they could have prevented this harm. Generally, birth injury malpractice occurs when a doctor fails to assess or treat a condition or problem during childbirth, or if negligent prenatal care causes harm to the infant. In these cases, the patient must prove that the doctor’s treatment during prenatal care as well as labor and delivery fall below the generally accepted and reasonable standard of care. Failure to perform a medically necessary C-section or misuse of tools or equipment during childbirth can constitute medical negligence.

6. Failure to Disclose Risks

The duty of informed consent requires doctors to warn patients about certain known risks of procedures and treatments. The doctor must disclose several factors to the patient such as the treatment’s success rate, risks of both receiving and not receiving the treatment, and alternative treatment options. A doctor may be liable for medical malpractice if a patient, after being informed of possible risks, would not have chosen to undergo the treatment or procedure. In most cases, the patient must prove that he or she has suffered an injury or loss due to the doctor’s concealment of pertinent information.

7. Failure to Monitor

One of the primary roles of a doctor or medical provider is to monitor a patient after or during  treatment so that they can respond quickly if something goes wrong. Medical malpractice lawsuits can be filed by injured patients against doctors who did not properly monitor their health status, conditions or vital signs. For instance, doctors are obligated to keep close tabs on patients under anesthesia and monitor for changes in vital signs that may indicate an adverse reaction. Doctors may also be held liable for injuries or losses that occur while they were were meant to be monitoring patients under observation, such as a head injury or suicide risk patients. Furthermore, both the mother and baby need to be closely monitored during labor and delivery. There can be birth injuries or serious health problems for the mother if the doctor does not observe signs of problems or distress during childbirth.

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