Everyone makes mistakes. But when a doctor or healthcare provider makes an avoidable error, it could cause serious health implications for the patient. In some cases, this error could even lead to permanent injury or death.
Worse, many patients aren’t made aware of the error or its effect on their health – some may struggle to get a diagnosis for their continued or worsened health problems.
Different studies have estimated between 250,000 and 440,000 people die each year from medical malpractice, but these numbers are based on known cases. Medical malpractice usually isn’t listed as a cause of death on death certificates, meaning that cases may be missed.
Non-fatal injuries from medical malpractice are likely even more common, but again, it’s hard to know an exact number when some people are unaware they experienced medical malpractice.
What Are the Different Ways in Which Malpractice Can Occur, and How Can a Breckenridge Medical Malpractice Attorney Help?
Malpractice can happen in various ways, which may be one reason that people don’t always know they’ve suffered a medical mistake. Another issue is that doctors may not tell their patients about an error or may downplay a mistake’s effects on the patient.
It can be easy to assume your worsened condition was simply bad luck, genetics, etc. If you even suspect medical malpractice, it’s a good idea to seek advice from an experienced Breckenridge medical malpractice lawyer to learn more.
In the meantime, here are some of the more common types of medical malpractice:
There are also a number of ways that surgical mistakes happen.
Frequently we see cases where a surgeon cut somewhere they shouldn’t, caused preventable damage, amputated the wrong limb or removed the wrong organ, left a foreign object like a surgical sponge inside the patient, made an error with anesthesia, or failed to use appropriate measures to prevent infection.
However, because patients are often presented with a long list of adverse potential outcomes when they consent to surgery, many people don’t realize their difficulties are caused by a medical mistake.
Additionally, the surgeon might explain what went wrong in vague terms without mentioning the words “error” or “mistake,” leading the patient to believe this is simply one of those bad outcomes mentioned on the consent form.
Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
Many conditions are treatable if caught early but less treatable as time passes. If your doctor misses something important or doesn’t diagnose your illness correctly until it’s too late, they may have been negligent.
It will be essential to show that they missed something other doctors in their specialty would have caught.
If they brushed off your concerns or failed to run any tests for an extended period of time, a Breckenridge medical malpractice attorney can help you figure out if this was a case of medical malpractice.
Failure to Treat Appropriately
Sometimes you receive the correct diagnosis but no treatment or incorrect treatment. For instance, if your doctor’s office fails to follow up with you about test results and treatment options, you may not even know you need treatment.
Often people tell us they assumed everything was okay or the doctor’s office would have called. They may have returned to the doctor when their symptoms worsened, only to be asked, “Why didn’t you make an appointment to discuss treatment options?”
Or the patient might have been treated inadequately. The doctor may have used an outdated treatment with less favorable outcomes or prescribed the wrong treatment for your condition. Lack of follow-up care after surgery or treatment can also be an issue.
Prescription Drug Errors
Prescribing the proper medication is one thing; dispensing it to the patient is another. There are several steps where things can go wrong:
- The doctor’s orders. Maybe your doctor wrote down the correct medication and dosage, but the nurse or pharmacist couldn’t read their handwriting and failed to confirm the prescription. Did the doctor mean to order Celebrex, Cerebyx, or Celexa? These are three different drugs with different purposes, and giving one when another was prescribed can have serious consequences. Or, maybe your doctor meant to prescribe 100mg but somehow wrote down 1,000mg instead, causing you to receive a dangerous overdose.
- Giving the treatment. If you were in the hospital, your prescriptions were probably given to you by a nurse. This person may have accidentally selected a drug with a similar name to the one you prescribed, or they might have delivered the wrong dose.
- Safety protocols. Because many drugs have similar names and dosing instructions are easily misunderstood, hospitals typically have a process for nurses and pharmacists to double-check prescriptions before dispensing them. If these protocols aren’t followed, a patient could suffer severe effects.
Childbirth is a complicated process, and there are a number of ways things can go wrong during pregnancy or delivery. Many of these issues are not the healthcare provider’s fault; however, the way in which the provider deals with these complications can improve or worsen the situation.
Sometimes, a doctor’s mistake when delivering a baby can lead to injuries for the infant or mother. Common birth injuries include:
- Brachial palsy, or damage to the nerves affecting the baby’s hand or arm. This condition is commonly caused by shoulder dystocia or difficulty delivering the baby’s arm. With regular exercise, the damage usually heals in a few months, but in some cases, there is permanent damage from a torn nerve.
- Cerebral palsy or hypoxic brain injury. Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage that may occur right before or during birth and results in lifelong difficulties with movement or motor function. Frequently it happens because the baby’s brain doesn’t get enough oxygen during the delivery, which can occur for multiple reasons, some of which are preventable. A hypoxic brain injury could also cause developmental delays and other neurological difficulties.
- Facial paralysis, or damage to facial nerves. Usually, this is caused by pressure on the face during delivery, and it’s more common when the doctor uses forceps. Mild cases may heal on their own, but some babies require surgery or have permanent difficulties.
- Fractures. Some new parents are shocked to learn their newborn has a broken bone. But fractures can occur during birth, especially with difficult deliveries. The clavicle or collarbone is the bone most likely to be broken, often resulting in the baby being unable to move one of its arms.
- Spinal cord injury. In some cases, a doctor’s incorrect usage of forceps or vacuum during delivery can damage the baby’s spinal cord, potentially leading to paralysis.
According to the CDC, about 1 in 31 hospitalized patients develops a hospital-acquired infection.
Hospitals and medical offices put a great deal of effort into sanitizing patient rooms and trying to limit the spread of germs, but these measures aren’t always successful. If you develop an infection in the hospital, it will be crucial to determine how or why you contracted the infection.
If the hospital indeed used all standard precautions, then your illness might have been the result of simple bad luck instead of negligence.
On the other hand, if we find that your doctor or other healthcare workers failed to take reasonable precautions that other hospital workers use, then you may have been a victim of medical malpractice.
How Do You Know if Your Condition Was Caused by Medical Malpractice?
Many people struggle with this question, and sometimes it prevents them from speaking with a lawyer right away. Others say they were reluctant to consider a lawsuit because they really like their doctor and would feel bad about suing them.
While these sentiments are understandable, sometimes the injured patient puts off obtaining legal advice until it’s close to the statute of limitations deadline – two years from the date of injury. (There are sometimes exceptions based on the circumstances of the injury.)
If you’re concerned about suing your doctor, you should know that physicians carry malpractice insurance for these situations and are unlikely to suffer any financial consequences personally.
Depending on the type of specialty, between one-third and one-half of physicians have been sued at some point in their careers, so it is not an uncommon or unexpected occurrence.
Furthermore, you shouldn’t be expected to pay the price for your doctor’s error. If there is evidence a healthcare provider was negligent, pursuing compensation can help you pay for damages like medical bills and lost income, so you can get your life back on track.
It can be hard to determine if your injuries were caused by malpractice or if you simply suffered an unfavorable outcome. Most people who aren’t in the medical field have no idea what another doctor in the same specialty would do.
For this reason, and because we may need time to investigate and build your case, we recommend talking to a lawyer as soon as possible.
Where Can You Get Help From a Breckenridge Medical Malpractice Law Firm?
If you’re unsure if what happened to you was malpractice, an experienced Breckenridge medical malpractice attorney at the Olson Law Firm can help you figure it out. Your initial consultation is free and confidential, so you can ask questions and explore your options with privacy.
Call us today at (720) 730-4325.