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Negligence in Healthcare: Examples and How to File Claims

Just one medical error can make a person’s future fade away in an instant. Negligence in healthcare is shattering lives in our country—medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. 

Why should families have to grapple with unbearable loss, just because a nurse didn’t read the label on the medicine bottle, or the doctor ignored a patient’s symptoms? It’s not fair—but hospitals may want you to think what happened was an excusable mistake. 

You don’t have to accept the unacceptable. If what happened to you or a family member meets the legal definition of negligence, you can sue for damages. Read on for negligence in healthcare examples, and how to file your medical negligence claim.

What is Negligence in Healthcare?

Negligence in healthcare is when a healthcare professional doesn’t provide the standard of care that a competent professional would provide in similar circumstances, resulting in harm to the patient. It can involve acts of omission (failing to do something) or commission (doing something incorrectly).

Negligence can have severe consequences for patients. It can lead to prolonged illness, additional medical procedures, emotional suffering, or even death. If you suspect negligence in healthcare has occurred, you should consult a lawyer. You may be able to file a medical negligence claim. 

Key Components of Healthcare Negligence

Not every mistake constitutes medical negligence. For example, a doctor might provide treatment using their best judgment, and yet a patient still doesn’t improve. This isn’t medical negligence if the care met accepted medical standards. 

The four major components of negligence in healthcare help separate cases of true negligence from ones that aren’t. They’re known as the “four D’s”:

  1. Duty of Care: Healthcare providers have a legal duty to provide care on par with accepted medical standards. 
  2. Dereliction: Dereliction means there was a breach in the duty of care. In other words, the provider fails to meet the standard. This could be through action or inaction.
  3. Direct Causation: The patient’s injury or adverse outcome must be a direct result of the provider’s breach of duty.
  4. Damages: The patient suffers actual harm as a result of the breach. This can include physical injury, emotional distress, additional medical bills, lost wages, and more.
A doctor looking distressed, realizing she made a medical negligence error.

Negligence in Healthcare Examples

Most doctors want to help, not harm. They’re trying their best, and have invested years of their lives in medical school. Even so, mistakes happen. Healthcare workers are only human, after all. But that’s not an excuse for providing substandard care. 

A lot can go wrong when hospitals fail to train their workers or provide the best environment possible for working. Doctors and nurses can end up overworked and sleep-deprived, opening the door to error. And in rare cases, healthcare workers withhold treatment or even harm patients on purpose. 

Examples of negligence in healthcare include:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
  • Surgical errors (like operating on the wrong body part or leaving surgical instruments in a patient’s body)
  • Medication errors (such as incorrect dosage or wrong medication)
  • Failure to obtain informed consent from the patient before starting a procedure
  • Inadequate follow-up care
  • Birth injuries due to improper prenatal care or errors during delivery
  • Anesthesia mistakes
  • Failing to monitor a patient after a procedure
  • Improper hygiene that leads to infection 

Who Might Commit Medical Negligence?

Negligence in healthcare isn’t perpetrated only by doctors. Various healthcare professionals can make mistakes that lead to patient harm. Here’s a list of people who could potentially commit medical negligence:

  • Nurses: If you’ve ever stayed in the hospital, you’ll see nurses more often than your doctor. They play a crucial role in patient care. Mistakes in medication administration, monitoring vital signs, or providing post-operative care can lead to serious harm.
  • Surgeons: When you go under the knife, you’re putting a lot of trust in your surgeon. It’s possible for them to commit errors, like operating on the wrong site or leaving instruments inside the body.
  • Anesthesiologists: More often than not, anesthesia only works to our benefit. We can undergo painful procedures without any feeling or awareness of what’s happening. But anesthesiologists can make mistakes. Incorrect dosage or monitoring during anesthesia can result in life-threatening complications.
  • Pharmacists: A pharmacist might dispense the wrong medication, or add incorrect dosage instructions. That could spell major health issues for a patient. 
  • Dentists: Negligence in dental procedures, like improper tooth extractions or infections from unsterilized equipment, can cause harm.
  • Medical Technicians: Errors in lab tests, radiology scans, or equipment handling can lead to incorrect diagnoses or treatments.
  • Hospital Administrators: Poor management, such as understaffing or inadequate training, can create conditions that lead to negligence.
  • Therapists: Physical, occupational, or mental health therapists can be negligent by providing inappropriate treatment or failing to recognize patient needs.
  • Midwives: Mistakes during childbirth, such as improper handling of delivery complications, can result in harm to both mother and baby.

Understanding the Scope of Negligence

Negligence in healthcare can involve more than one person. Sometimes it’s the result of several failures across different levels of care. For example, let’s say a patient is admitted with a severe infection. The doctor misdiagnoses it as a minor issue. Then, the nurse administers the wrong medication due to a mislabeled chart. 

The patient undergoes tests. However, the lab technician’s incorrect test results go unnoticed because the hospital’s reporting system is flawed. The pharmacist then dispenses a medication that interacts poorly with the patient’s existing prescriptions. All these combined errors result in the patient’s condition worsening. 

This would be a valid medical negligence claim in the making. Have you found yourself in a similar situation? Keep reading to find out how to file a claim.

Medical records with a stethoscope, highlighting healthcare negligence.

How to File a Medical Negligence Claim

If your case meets the definition of medical negligence, you may be able to file a claim. The purpose of this claim is to seek compensation for harm you suffered because of a healthcare worker’s mistake. 

Here’s a simple guide to help you through the process:

  1. Get Your Medical Records: Gather all your medical records related to the treatment where the negligence occurred. This includes doctor’s notes, test results, and any communication you had with your healthcare provider.
  2. Consult a Lawyer: But not just any lawyer! Find a lawyer who specializes in medical negligence cases. They can evaluate your situation, explain your rights, and help you understand if you have a strong case.
  3. File a Complaint: Your lawyer will help you file a formal complaint with the court. This is a document that outlines what happened, how it harmed you, and what compensation you seek. 
  4. Expert Review: Medical negligence claims often require an expert review. This means a medical professional will look at your records to confirm that negligence occurred and caused your injury.
  5. Negotiation and Settlement: Worried about spending weeks in courtroom hearings? You’ll be relieved to hear most medical negligence cases are settled out of court. Your lawyer will negotiate with the healthcare provider or their insurance company for a fair settlement.
  6. Court Proceedings: What happens if you can’t reach a fair settlement? Your case will go to court. But don’t worry, you won’t have to go up against the doctor or hospital’s insurance company yourself. That’s your legal team’s job. They will present evidence and argue your case to a judge or jury.

Throughout this process, it’s important to communicate regularly with your lawyer and follow their advice. With the right support, you can seek the justice and compensation you deserve. Call us now to get started.