What Are The Most Common Medical Malpractice Mistakes (Part 1)?

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Medical malpractice occurs when a medical care provider provides services or otherwise acts in a manner that is below the standard of care, which is another way of saying they were negligent.  In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for an injury (not resulting in death) is typically 3 years.  In North Carolina and throughout the United States, medical malpractice cases are grossly under reported or otherwise not pursued.  Independent studies have estimated that medical malpractice kills over 100,000 patients a year.  Many more are seriously injured.  Yet just a fraction of those result in a lawsuit.  What are some of the most common medical mistakes?

MISDIAGNOSIS OR DELAYED DIAGNOSIS

Some of the most common cases involve a purported missed diagnosis or delayed diagnosis.¬† In North Carolina, patients must show that the medical care provider failed to diagnosis a disease or illness that other reasonably prudent medical care providers in the same or similar specialty, situated in the same or similar circumstances, would have diagnosed based on the presenting signs and symptoms.¬† Such signs and symptoms include¬†fever, tachypnea (shortness of breath), diaphoresis (sweating), tachycardia (high heart rate), hypovolemia (low blood pressure),¬†high white blood cell (WBC) count,¬†etc.¬† Care providers (doctors in particular) are trained to put together a list of differentials based on the signs and symptoms.¬† This is a list of the various diseases or illnesses that COULD result in the presenting signs or symptoms.¬† It is not that common for a disease or illness to¬†result in ALL¬†the classic signs and symptoms typically associated with that disease or illness.¬† ¬†More often, a patient with a disease or illness will present with three quarters or even half of the classic signs and symptoms.¬† That is where the doctor’s education, training and experience comes in.¬† Hopefully, the correct diagnosis is made.¬† However, doctors are not infallible,¬†and the law in North Carolina does not require that¬†they be.¬† Some make mistakes in terms of their diagnoses, yet are not negligent.¬† Perhaps a patient presented with a unique set of signs and symptoms.¬†¬†It is only if the doctor or other medical care provider fell below the standard of care, can a patient¬†attempt to prove a case.

MEDICATION ERRORS

Over a million people a year are injured as a result of medication errors.  Usually, it is a case of the wrong amount of a drug that is given.  Other times, the wrong drug is given, or the wrong route of drug administration is chosen.  Sometimes, the patient has no control over the process, such as when a surgical patient undergoes general anesthesia and a medication error occurs.  Other times, patients DO have a measure of control and are in a position to act as their own advocates.  Ask your doctor to tell you the name of the drug prescribed, the correct dosage, and exactly what the drug is designed for.  Be sure you understand the precise directions for taking the medication, including any storage requirements.  Make sure a family member or close friend also understands the type of medication you are taking and the reasons therefor.    Be honest and thorough with your doctor.  They need to have a complete understanding of your medical history.  It is crucial that they understand all the medications you are on that some other provider prescribed.  That is because certain medications can have adverse effects when taken in conjunction with other medications.

If you have been injured by a wrong diagnosis or medication error, please contact the Law Office of Kevin J. Williams, PLLC, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at (336)793-8459 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your options.  You may also e-mail Kevin using the contact form.

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Attorney Kevin J. Williams at his desk in his Greensboro North Carolina office.
Attorney Kevin J. Williams at his desk in his Greensboro North Carolina office.

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