Medical Errors (Malpractice)
What is a Medical Error?
A medical error, or medical malpractice, refers to something that a healthcare provider did or did not do to cause a bad outcome in a patient, and it should have been done differently. Medical errors may injure or even kill patients. They are preventable.
5 Examples of Medical Errors
- A doctor doing a surgery on the wrong part of the body
- A doctor failing to diagnose a serious condition, such as heart attack , cancer, broken bone or infection
- A doctor failing to communicate test results, such as laboratory findings or imaging studies, to a patient causing a delay in treatment
- A nurse failing to communicate patient information to a doctor causing a birth injury
- A nurse giving the wrong medication, a doctor prescribing the wrong medication, or a pharmacist preparing the wrong medication
Medical malpractice is a term used for the type of law that deals with medical errors.
Medical errors can take place in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, surgical center, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, nursing homes, or at home.
Medical Error Research
A 2016 study reported that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States. Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that medical errors cause at least 250,000 deaths each year in the United States. The figure below shows how medical errors compare with other leading causes of death.
Research shows that medical errors are common in the US. A 2011 study by Classen found that medical errors occurred in 1 out of 3 hospital admissions. It is estimated that medical errors in the United States cost $17.1 billion in 2008 (Van Den Bos, 2011).
“Never Event” Medical Errors
Due to these costs, Medicare and Medicaid have a list of “never events” that they will no longer pay for because they are preventable injuries or illnesses caused by healthcare. Examples of these medical errors and events include:
- Pressure ulcers
- Catheter-caused urinary tract infections
- Objects left in a body after surgery
- Errors in blood transfusion (blood incompatibility)
- Air embolism
- Surgery on the wrong site or wrong patient
- Some types of falls and traumas, fractures and dislocations
- Surgical site infection after surgeries (including bariatric surgery, coronary artery bypass grafting, orthopedic procedures)
- Catheter associated infection after coronary bypass surgery
- Deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism after knee or hip replacement surgery
- Poor sugar control with diabetes
- Electric shock
Medical errors cause physical, emotional, and financial harm to patients.
Most Common Medical Errors
- Pressure ulcers
- Postoperative infection
- Accidental puncture or laceration during a procedure
- Adverse drug /medication errors
Medical Errors In Depth
- Wrongful death
- Surgical errors
- Failure to diagnose cancer
- Missed diagnosis
- Birth injuries
- Medication errors
- Emergency room errors
- Hospital malpractice
- Product Liability
Do You Have a Case?
Medical errors are very common in our community. You are not alone. Kuehner Law Firm has been handling medical malpractice cases our entire careers. These cases are complex because you must understand both law AND healthcare.
Proof for a Medical Malpractice Case
In order to be successful with a medical malpractice case, you must be able to prove three things:
- There was a medical error
- This medical error caused you harm
- There is a serious and lasting injury
If you feel you have been hurt as a result of a healthcare provider, the first thing you must figure out is if there was actually a medical error. You must be able to prove this. The next thing you must do is show that the error caused you harm, and this is a serious and lasting injury. Your medical records are often used to show that the medical error directly caused a patient’s serious injury. All three parts, the medical error, causation, and the serious and lasting injury must be proved to be successful in a medical malpractice case.
Sometimes there is a clear medical error, but there is no serious and lasting injury. For example, a nurse could give a patient the wrong type of medication, causing an allergic reaction, and a longer hospital stay. This was an error and bad health care, but not a serious and lasting injury.
2 Things To Do When You Believe You’ve Been Seriously Hurt
What should you do when you feel you were seriously hurt by a healthcare provider or hospital that was careless and you want legal advice?
- Find an attorney who has experience with this area of law—Medical malpractice.
- Speak with them soon after the medical error happens. There are rules that say you can only wait so long before you begin a lawsuit. The right attorney will guide you through this process so you can recover after a medical error and move on with your life.
6 Tips for Preventing Medical Error
- Speak up and ask questions. If you are concerned about something, be sure to speak up with your doctor. You have the right to know about your medical care.
- Be sure you have someone, such as your primary care doctor, coordinating your care.
- Give your health care providers all the information they need. Tell them about every medication you are taking. Tell them about your allergies. Don’t assume they know.
- Have a family member with you for your doctor appointments or hospital stays. They can help ask questions about your health care.
- Ask about test results. Don’t assume that no news is good news. Ask your doctor how you will get results and follow up.
- Learn about your health conditions. Ask your doctor about your condition. Do your own research to get the latest evidence.
The Kuehner Law Firm Approach
Standards of Care
New York State
Settling and Court
Legal and Medical Experts
When we get a possible new case we always start with the medicine. A new client tells us what happened, and we look to the medical literature. We immediately start evaluating what the medical professors, scientists and medical societies say is the safe and proper way to deliver the care that hurt our client. Once have this background, we order and review the medical records to see if they show that the doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers followed the common sense safety rules that are called “standards of care”. If after our review we believe that rules were broken and as a result our client was hurt, we immediately hire the right expert to review the whole case.
In New York State there is a special rule that says that a patient can’t sue a medical provider unless or until a doctor gives them permission. This is a requirement that every lawyer must fulfil before they can file a lawsuit. At the Kuehner Law Firm we meet that obligation by working with the best experts in the country. We use experts that understand the importance of patient safety and spend their time not only treating patients just like our client, but also teaching other doctors how to practice medicine in a way that eliminates the chance of unnecessary patient harm. Once we select the one appropriate for the case, we give them all the records and ask the expert to evaluate the case carefully. We want to know if the evidence is very strong that there was a violation of a safety rule that ended up badly hurting the patient.
The reason we work so hard to understand the case and get the best experts right up front is that we want to be able to settle our cases for our clients if possible. Some cases settle and some need to go to court. Over the years we have learned that if we know all about our case early and have a very highly qualified expert helping us to see what was done wrong and why it hurt our client, it is much more likely that the case will settle before trial.
Sometimes the insurance company refuses to see the case for what it is and they push the case to trial anyway. In those cases, the Kuehner Law Firm excels. Presenting a case to the jury takes experience and expertise. Mr. Kuehner is dedicated to the science of trial presentation and juror education. Before even starting his practice of law, Mr. Kuehner was hired to teach at Syracuse University. He taught the topics of trial technique to both undergraduate and law students. He has been continually working as an adjunct professor at Syracuse University for the past 17 years. In addition, Kevin Kuehner has been recognized as a top trial attorney by many prestigious organizations. Kevin Kuehner was selected to become a member of the American Board of Trial Attorneys which is reserved for only the most respected trial attorneys in the Country who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in trial presentation.
Our office handles medical malpractice cases every day. When choosing a physician to perform a dangerous surgery, you wouldn’t want to pick the doctor that only does the procedure once in a while. The same is true for picking a medical malpractice lawyer to sue a doctor or hospital. The rules are different for medical error cases. More and different types of medical experts are needed. Our office has the experience with medical error cases to be absolutely certain your case gets a proper evaluation and that the doctor or hospital that hurt you is held accountable.
If you think a family member has been hurt because of a medical error, contact us at the Kuehner Law Firm. We will evaluate your case and help you to figure out the best direction for your case.