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5 Of The Most Common Claims for Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice lawsuits provide patients and families who’ve suffered preventable harm as the result of substandard care to hold treating health care providers financially liable for the damages they suffered. Though medical malpractice cases generally share the same objective – securing needed justice and compensation from at-fault providers – they can entail a range of different circumstances and claims.

As a firm that’s excelled in handling complex and high-stakes medical malpractice cases across Illinois, Power Rogers & Smith knows many victims and families find it difficult to determine when exactly medical malpractice occurs, what a potential claim looks like, and whether they may have a viable case.

The only accurate answer to this question is that it depends. Your ability to pursue legal action against a doctor, nurse, hospital, or some other provider depends entirely on the individual facts and circumstances surrounding your purported injuries or losses.

Understanding Medical Negligence

Though the “it depends” answer isn’t one which provides immediate insight or revelation for potential plaintiffs, it can convey the concept that medical malpractice cases are highly fact-specific claims that demand the attention of experienced legal professionals. It also speaks to the broad scope of conduct which may constitute medical negligence, as well as how negligence may manifest in connection to a patient’s injury, illness, complication, or untimely death.

Though the best thing victims can do when trying to figure out if they have a medical malpractice claim is to speak personally with an experienced lawyer, there are commonalities which exist in these types of cases. Generally, medical malpractice claims share the following characteristics:

  1. A provider breached the “duty of care.” This means a medical professional failed to meet the accepted standards of their profession (defined as how a reasonably skilled and prudent medical professional would act under the same or similar circumstances);
  2. The failure to meet the standard of care resulted in the patient’s injury. Also known as causation, this element requires patients to prove that unfavorable health outcomes were proximately caused by medical negligence; and
  3. The patient suffered actual damages as the result of the provider’s negligence. Without damages, there is no viable claim.

Common Examples of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Understanding the general characteristics of a medical malpractice claim can help victims and families better understand their own rights and whether they should seek further assistance from proven professionals. However, medical malpractice can take many different forms – and knowing what they look like can go a long way.

Here are a few of the most common examples of medical malpractice claims:

  1. Diagnostic Errors – Mistakes in diagnosing medical ailments can have major consequences, including failures to treat conditions professionals could and should have identified, providing ineffective or potentially harmful treatment, and a worsening of the untreated underlying condition (especially if early intervention is critical to a positive prognosis). While they are among the leading cause of medical malpractice lawsuits, diagnostic errors, whether by way of a misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or a failure to diagnose, often make for very technical claims that require significant evidence of how and why medical professionals failed to arrive at an accurate diagnosis a reasonably skilled provider would be expected to make.
  2. Surgical Errors – Though they’re a very common medical malpractice claim (accounting for roughly a third of all malpractice claims brought by inpatients), surgical errors can vary widely in terms of what they involve. Common allegations made by injured patients include negligence during surgery or post-operatively that leads to infections and other serious complications, organ or nerve damage, surgical instruments left behind, wrong-site surgery or unnecessary surgery, anesthesia errors, C-section errors and birth injuries, and more.
  3. Birth Injuries – Some estimates suggest lawsuits against OBGYNs and other providers involved in the treatment of pregnant women comprise about 20% of all medical malpractice cases. As some of the most emotionally difficult cases, birth injury claims may allege negligence before, during, or after delivery. Common allegations include failures to diagnose or identify maternal conditions or potential complications, failures to monitor maternal and fetal health, C-section errors, labor induction / labor-inducing medication errors, trauma caused by vacuums or forceps, and oxygen deprivation / brain damage, among others. In most devastating of cases, medical mistakes involving newborns can have life-long or fatal consequences.
  4. Medication Errors – Medications have the potential to treat so many medical ailments, but negligence in prescribing or administering medications can quickly turn into medical emergencies. Some studies have estimated that roughly one million medication errors occur nationwide each year, many involving poor prescription practices, misinterpretation, pharmacy errors, emergency room errors, and failures to properly diagnose or identify risks for potential complications, among other types of claims.
  5. Lack of Informed Consent – Health care providers have a duty to adequately inform patients about suggested treatment, potential risks and expected outcomes, and reasonable alternatives to professional recommendations made by themselves or other doctors. Failures related to obtaining informed consent can result in damages for patients, as well as medical malpractice claims. Medical malpractice suits based on a lack of informed consent grapple with complex concepts of medical ethics, duty, and the practice of medicine, and must take into account the varying degrees of consent requirements present within health care (i.e. doctors who provide emergency care may have more latitude when it comes to treatment and patient consent than those who do not).

Power Rogers & Smith is one of the nation’s leading medical malpractice law firms, and has one the largest medical malpractice verdict in history ($55M). If you have questions about medical malpractice or wish to discuss a potential medical negligence claim with an attorney, call (312) 313-0202 or contact us online to request a free consultation.

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