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The 5 Most Common Reasons for Medical Malpractice Claims

By February 1, 2012 August 25th, 2018 Guest Posts

Guest Post by: Allison Dean, who writes about medical malpractice lawyers. 

According to the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011, the majority of physicians in the U.S.will undergo a lawsuit at some point in their career.  Surgeons especially, due to the high risk nature of their job, are likely to be sued, so likely in fact that most will be sued before the age of 65.  But what are the most common reasons doctors are sued for medical malpractice?  See below.



1.      Unwarranted Procedure/Surgery

A physician is guilty of this when he/she performs a procedure or surgery when a doctor in a similar situation would not normally.  For instance, if a physician performs a weight-loss surgery as a quick fix before first suggesting diet and exercise, he/she may be guilty of malpractice. Unfortunately, doctors tend to choose quick fixes, such as surgery or medication, without first considering natural approaches.

2.      Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

Physicians are guilty of negligent misdiagnosis when other doctors, given the same situation, would have properly diagnosed a patient.  Misdiagnosis is especially common in terms of fracture/trauma cases.  Many times, physicians will assume that a patient’s injury is a sprain and not submit the patient to further testing, e.g. x-rays, etc.; and due to this assumption, the patient, who actually has a fracture or trauma, can suffer severe medical issues as a result.

Negligent failure to diagnose is when a doctor fails to diagnose a patient’s ailment when other doctors, given the same circumstances, normally would.  The most common example of this negligence involves instances of breast cancer diagnoses.  Doctors are aware of the rate of false negative mammogram results, and when a doctor depends on a false negative to give a diagnosis incorrectly, he/she may be guilty of negligence.

3.      Failure to Obtain Informed Consent

Informed consent is more than just a patient signing a piece of paper.  A doctor must explain the following in regard to a patient’s treatment, procedure, test/s, or surgery:

  • The purpose;
  • The alternatives;
  • The risks;
  • The expected outcome; and
  • Answer any and all questions a patient might have.

Even if a patient signed his/her consent to any treatment, procedure, testing/s, or surgery, if a doctor did not do any of the above, he/she could be sued for negligence.

4.      Medication Errors

As many as 1.5 million people are harmed and over 200,000 people die every year due to medication errors.  Here are some common instances of medication errors that physicians can be sued for:

  • A health care professional’s administration of medication in the wrong dosage;
  • Failure to educate a patient on his/her medication;
  • Improper documentation of prescriptions and refills;
  • Improper dosage prescribed;
  • Improper, careless, or incomplete charting;
  • Malfunctioning drug administration equipment;
  • Misdiagnosis and, due to that, improper prescription of medication;
  • Poor doctor handwriting on a script; or
  • Prescribing the wrong medication.

5. Unwarranted (Negligent) Injury During a Procedure/Surgery

There is a line between commonly expected errors and negligent errors.  For instance, a particular surgery may entail a huge risk for damage to an organ, and if that organ is damaged, it may not be the surgeon’s fault.  However, if a surgeon leaves a surgical instrument in a patient, something many of us have heard horror stories about, that doctor is guilty of negligence.

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