ESTABLISHING A MEDICATION ERROR CASE
Each year, thousands of people in the United States are harmed by medical malpractice. While medical malpractice can involve several different acts, it includes situations in which a medical provider harms a patient through negligence or providing care to a patient that does not meet the accepted standard of care. Medication errors are one of the most common types of medical malpractice errors that occur, and it is important to know how to respond if you are harmed by a medication error so that you can obtain the compensation you deserve.
If you are harmed as the result of a medication error, you are often able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to obtain compensation for the resulting damage. Many of these cases require a person to establish that medical malpractice occurred, which involves establishing that:
- A relationship existed between the patient and the medical professional who made the error. This requires showing that the medical professional agreed to treat the patient and that the patient agreed to receive treatment.
- It must be established that the medical provider was negligent in providing care, which often involves the introduction of experts in the medical community.
- It must be established that the patient was harmed as a result of the medication error. The degree of harm influences how much the malpractice victim will be able to recover. Some of the types of damages that patients are often able to recover include medical expenses, loss of wages, and pain and suffering.
What are the Most Common Types of Medication Errors?
A medication error may occur due to negligence by anyone involved in the production, prescription, or dispensation of drugs. Some of the most common examples include:
- Prescription of the wrong medication. A doctor may prescribe the entirely wrong drug for a given condition after making a misdiagnosis. Alternatively, a pharmacist may misread a prescription or give out the wrong drugs due to carelessness. In some cases, the prescription of an incorrect and dangerous medication may occur due to misleading advertisements or a lack of warning labels from pharmaceutical companies.
- Incorrect dosage. Even the correct drug can cause serious harm in incorrect doses. Pharmacist errors may result in medications that contain much more or less of the active ingredients than the label indicates. A doctor may also prescribe a dangerously high or low dose of a given drug, or a nurse may make mistakes when administering injections. In these situations, a low dose can have negative consequences, as the patient’s condition may go untreated. However, the more dangerous is accidental prescription overdose, which can be deadly.
- Administering a drug to the wrong person. Hospital negligence or pharmacist errors may result in a patient receiving a drug that was meant for someone else. Understaffing, overwork, and poor training may contribute to these errors.
- Dangerous drug combinations. Doctors and pharmacists must check a patient’s history and current medications to ensure that a new prescription will not interact poorly. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies must include labels on drugs warning doctors of any dangerous combinations.
- Lack of proper directions. Pharmacists and doctors should warn patients of the proper procedure for taking a drug. For example, some medications work most effectively when taken with food.
Who is Liable for Injuries from Medication Errors?
Depending on the circumstances, multiple parties may be legally responsible for the injuries and damages that result from medication errors. In general, possible liable parties can include:
- Prescribing doctor. If a physician prescribes the wrong drug or dosage due to misdiagnosis or any other negligence, then you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit against that doctor.
- Nurses and other medical workers. Improper dosage and other errors in administering a drug may result from medical negligence on the part of nurses and other medical professionals.
- Medical institutions. If medication errors occur in hospitals, nursing homes, or other facilities, the institution itself may be liable for the damages. For example, if the nurse who administered an incorrect dose of your medication works for a hospital, then you may be able to collect compensation from the hospital.
- Pharmacists. A pharmacist and/or the pharmacist’s employer may be liable for dosage errors and other mistakes that cause drug-related injury.
- Pharmaceutical companies. Lawsuits against drug companies typically involve dangerous drug defects. However, these companies may also be liable for medication errors if improper labeling or misleading advertising caused the error.
Finding the underlying cause of a medication error may be difficult. Hospitals, doctors, and pharmacists rarely admit to making mistakes, and victims and/or their families generally do not have the medical expertise necessary to recognize an error.