The Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice

The Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice


  • Out of 4,000 physicians surveyed, 48% said they had been named in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
  • Surgeons and Ob/Gyns were the most named professionals in medical malpractice lawsuits.
  • 49% of these physicians have been named in a medical malpractice lawsuit between two and five times.

When you make an appointment with a doctor, you assume that you will be diagnosed and treated appropriately. When your physician tells you that you need surgery, you expect to be put under, have a procedure, and wake up with the issue solved, if not at least improved. Unfortunately, people don’t always have a positive experience with medical professionals.

A medical malpractice case arises when a patient is not provided with the currently accepted standard of care by a doctor, nurse or another medical professional. Mistakes are made in only a small number of cases which is good news unless it happens to you.

It would be fair to think that once a mistake is made, it wouldn’t be made again. It’s not necessarily the case. It seems that the same medical mistakes are made repeatedly, causing patients to seek remedy in a court of law. Let’s take a closer look at medical malpractice.

Elements Necessary for Medical Malpractice

It’s important to note before we talk about any mistakes that certain elements must be present for your Mobile medical malpractice attorney to move forward with a case. A mistake doesn’t always constitute malpractice.

The elements are:

  • There must have been a relationship established between the medical provider and patient.
  • The medical provider had a duty of care and failed to perform in accordance with that duty.
  • The patient was injured or harmed and sustained damages.
  • The injury was a direct result of the medical provider’s negligence or error.

The Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice

The Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice infographic

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The most common types of medical malpractice are misdiagnosis, childbirth injuries, medication errors, anesthesia errors and surgical errors. It’s not to say that errors or negligence aren’t present in other situations, but the majority of medical malpractice cases center around one of these reasons.

1. Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

You visit a doctor because you don’t feel well. You sit with the doctor, discuss your medical history and your current symptoms. The doctor hands you a diagnosis and a prescription. The troubles begin when your symptoms don’t get better and, in some cases, get worse. You may have been misdiagnosed.

Misdiagnosis is one of the most common types of medical malpractice. If you have ever searched online for what disease or condition has a headache, for example, as a symptom, you’ll have dozens of results on your hands. There are several conditions that have common symptoms and it’s not always apparent which condition you have. This is why it is so easy to receive a diagnosis that isn’t correct.

Another issue is delayed diagnosis. When you aren’t diagnosed with anything at all immediately but later diagnosed with something that should have been treated as soon as symptoms appeared, you could suffer serious harm. Remember that it is always your right to get a second opinion, even if you don’t believe you have a condition that would be considered life-threatening.

2. Childbirth Injuries

There are a number of injuries that can be caused to both mother and child when birth injuries occur. An error or negligence on the part of a medical professional may occur at any time during the birthing process or, in other cases, during the prenatal care of the mother.

A medical professional may fail to identify birth defects or misdiagnose a condition in the mother prior to the birth of the infant. There may be an error made during the birthing process itself. It doesn’t matter when the negligence occurred. If a child or mother is injured during pregnancy or labor and delivery, a medical malpractice case may arise.

3. Medication Errors

According to a decades-old study, medication errors affect about 1.5 million people every year. The prescription given may be incorrect, the medication could be inappropriate for the condition, or a drug may be given to the wrong patient.

A medication error, however, most often occurs when a patient gets too little or too much of a drug. The doctor may write the wrong dose on the prescription, a nurse may give the wrong amount or a machine like an IV pump may malfunction.

4. Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia mistakes can be very dangerous. The slightest error by an anesthesiologist can have devastating effects on a patient. An error can occur when a patient’s full medical history is not taken, when preoperative instructions aren’t given or when too much or too little anesthesia is administered during a procedure.

5. Surgical Mistakes

Surgical mistakes are perhaps the most frightening for patients. When you are put under anesthesia for a procedure, you have no control over the situation. This can cause a great deal of anxiety and, thankfully, most people wake up and things are just fine.

In other cases, the wrong surgery is performed, nerves are severed, medical instruments are left behind and more. Surgical mistakes have the potential to be incredibly serious and sometimes fatal.

Again, it is important to remember that not every mistake made by a medical professional will lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit. When an error is remedied before it causes harm, it is rare that a medical malpractice case will be initiated. When a patient sustains harm at the hands of a medical professional, they have every right to seek a remedy for the damages they incur.

CMT Coal Terminal

Proposed Orders in Coal Case

In the Coal Case, Judge Brooks ordered the attorneys to submit proposed orders on the pending motions for summary judgment. Both proposed orders are attached.  Plaintiffs’ central argument is that the Planning Commission lacked the authority to permit a coal handling facility as a coal mine.

Plaintiff Proposed Order

Defendant Proposed Order

Undue Influence: financial abuse of the elderly

Undue Influence

Unfortunately, as baby boomers began to reach retirement age, financial abuse of the elderly became a growth industry.  Fraudsters prey on the elderly because of their vulnerability, and the effects can be devastating to those who are too old, tired or confused to protect themselves.  If you suspect an elderly person is being exploited you do not have to be a close friend or relative to protect that person.  Your lack of a financial incentive adds to your credibility. There are many types of elder abuse and different possible signs to look for.  The focus here is undue influence and what you should do if you suspect an elderly person is being taken advantage of financially.  Mary Quinn’s article Undue influence and elder abuse: Recognition and intervention strategies (CE), published in the Journal of Geriatric Nursing, explains that “Undue influence is the substitution of one person’s will for the true desires of another.”  Undue influence is almost always associated with a breach of trust.

As a general rule, people – even though they may be elderly, sick and depressed – have the right to do what they want to with their property. The question is whether the benefactor is acting volitionally.  If you have reason for concern, you may want to determine whether the elder is independent and self-reliant or does he need help with activities of daily living?   Is someone else in control of his or her financial affairs?  Is there a power of attorney involved?   Other circumstances to look for include whether the suspected victim is getting independent advice?  Is he or she isolated from family, friends and outside activities?  Has an “advisor” benefited excessively from the elder?  Asset transfers or unusual transactions between a susceptible person and an advisor are highly suspect and may justify asking a court to appoint a conservator.

After death, only people with “standing” – generally defined to be those who would have benefitted but for the undue influence – are allowed to challenge a will or transaction involving a decedent.  Most often the suspicion of undue influence arises in connection with estates when family members learn of diminished assets or suspicious bequests in their loved ones’ will.  You might find that substantial assets passed outside the estate by survivorship clauses, beneficiary designations or gifts shortly before death.  Since you cannot ask the decedent, how do you investigate whether your loved one was exploited?  A potential starting point is a lawyer who drafted the will or document of conveyance. Lori A. Stiegel, Senior Attorney, ABA Commission on Law and Aging, in conjunction with Mary Joy Quinn, Director (ret.), Probate, San Francisco Superior Court addressed the lawyer’s obligation to protect the client from undue influence.  In the June 2017 Issue, Brief they pointed out that:

For many years, the ABA Commission on Law and Aging has urged lawyers to screen all older adults for elder abuse during initial interviews (“universal screening”), whether by telephone or in-person. Learning about risk factors and indicators of undue influence is necessary to screen effectively and provide competent services. Concerns about possible undue influence should affect a lawyer’s determination of who is the client, how to communicate with the client, and what advice and counsel should be provided. Case law recognizes that a key factor in assessing undue influence is whether the alleged victim truly had independent counsel.

You might want to determine whether the attorney who drafted the will had a long-standing relationship with the decedent or the favored beneficiary? Did the beneficiary play any part it procuring the gift or will?  Who witnessed the will and what were the surrounding circumstances?  A family recently approached me about the validity of a will that disinherited them in favor of a paramour.  I contacted the drafting attorney who sent me a video of the execution of the will. Upon watching the video it was clear that the decedent was free from undue influence.  I complimented my colleague for having protected his client’s estate from enduring what could have been expensive and protracted litigation.

Elder abuse is wrongful conduct that should be punished – not rewarded by the unjust enrichment of fraudsters.  If you are concerned, investigate and don’t hesitate to get professional advice.


Lori Carver Speaks Out For The First Time Regarding The Pill Mill Case

Recently Lawrence Specker of wrote an article about Lori Carver and her part in taking down two Physicians’ Pain Specialists of Alabama (PPSA) clinics. Drs. Xiulu Ruan and John Patrick Couch were found guilty of running a pill mill out of the PPSA clinics, for this reason, the clinics were shut down by the federal government in May of 2015. On Thursday, May 25, 2017, Dr. Couch was sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay $15 million in restitution, consequently. Dr. Ruan’s sentencing will take place on Friday, May 26.

Lori is represented by Peter Mackey of Burns, Cunningham and Mackey, and Gregory Vaughan of Holston Vaughan. Lastly, you can find a link to the article written by Lawrence Specker here.

Mobile Bar Association President Pete Mackey

Peter Mackey- Partner of Burns, Cunningham & Mackey