Most medical malpractice lawsuits fall into a few categories, and the most common causes of litigation are well known. As a physician, avoiding a malpractice claim is not as easy as you might think. Nearly 50% of physicians over the age of 55 have been sued for medical malpractice. Good communication with your patients and meeting the standard of care are the keys to staying out of court.
Not every bad outcome in medicine is a cause for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Mistakes happen. Sometimes circumstances prevent the desired best result, but that does not necessarily mean the physician is responsible for damages. This is especially true when an informed consent statement is in place. To win a medical malpractice lawsuit, a claimant must prove that the physician was negligent or did not meet the standard of care.
The standard of care is a measurement of a healthcare provider’s work. While the standard of care is not a written down, published rule, it is generally agreed that it is what a minimally competent healthcare provider would have done in the same situation. According to an article in VeryWell Health, “Understanding Standard of Care for Patients,” a standard of care can also be a set of guidelines generally agreed upon within the medical community. Additionally, there are medical associations and societies that formally develop and publish practice guidelines for different medical specialties. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also publishes information on healthcare safety that helps to define the standard of care for many types of procedures.
When a patient is injured, and the standard of care has not been met by the physician, a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed. Of course, anyone can sue for any reason, but a legitimate case must have these two ingredients: Injury and Negligence. According to medical professional liability insurance carrier data, almost 80% of all claims filed are dismissed. But clearly, there are many cases filed each year, and whether they are real or frivolous doesn’t really matter. They cost time and money, and they can cause a great deal of stress for the physician or hospital. So, what are the most common medical malpractice cases filed against physicians?
Misdiagnosis, Delayed Diagnosis, or Failure to Diagnose are the most common reasons for malpractice lawsuits, according to MDLinx. This makes sense if you think about it. A patient who goes for regular checkups and follows their physician’s orders and advice, but then finds out they have cancer in its late stages is going to think the doctor should have caught it sooner. Or worse, if the family of a deceased loved one finds out they died of something that was treatable but was undiagnosed are going to want to hold the doctor responsible.
The next most common cause of malpractice claims is Delivering Babies. OB/GYNs face more exposure to risk than most other physicians. There are many things that can go wrong from the beginning of pregnancy through labor and delivery, including the number one cause listed above, Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose. There are 2 lives involved in childbirth, the baby and the mother, which doubles the exposure to risk. Often surgery is necessary and that increases the risk of a malpractice suit as well.
The next most common cause of medical malpractice lawsuits is wrongful prescriptions. A study done by the Mayo Clinic says that about 70% of Americans take at least one prescription drug. Prescription errors are common, and overprescribing is one of the most common errors.
In addition, surgical errors are at the top of the list of medical malpractice cases. There are more than 4,000 surgical errors in the U.S. each year. General surgeons are sued at a much higher rate than many other medical specialties because of the risks involved in invasive surgery and the use of anesthesia.
A 2020 report from CRICO, “The Power to Predict,” states 3 factors that increase the risk of a malpractice payout: Failure to Have or Follow Protocol, Patient Assessment Failures, and Absent or Insufficient Documentation. These factors can obviously occur to any physician or hospital in any specialty or location. Physicians can reduce the likelihood of a lawsuit through risk management strategies and understanding this data.
Physicians and hospitals also need to protect themselves, their practices, and their patients by obtaining the best medical professional liability insurance available. The experts at eQuoteMD can help guide you through the process to get the best coverage for any specialty in any state.