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How Often Does Medical Malpractice Occur?

There are several famous cases of medical malpractice, such as Michael Jackson’s sudden death, Julie Andrews’ botched throat operation, and Allan Navarro’s $217 million misdiagnosis settlement. You’d think that instances such as these are flukes that happen to just a few unlucky people, but medical malpractice happens more often than people think. In fact, there are around 250,000 counts of medical malpractice each year.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare practitioner causes injury or mental, physical, or financial damage to a patient by disregarding, omitting, or defying the appropriate standard of care.

You can bring medical malpractice claims against any healthcare provider, whether that includes individual practitioners like doctors, nurses, or EMTs or the facilities, hospitals, or medical corporations they work for or represent. Depending on the case, you may even sue employees who don’t necessarily provide healthcare themselves, such as administrative officers.

Types of Medical Malpractice

There are many types of medical malpractice, but they can be divided into four general categories:


Misdiagnosis refers to failure to discover an illness, giving the wrong diagnosis, or prescribing treatment for the wrong disease. A famous example of a medical malpractice case that involves misdiagnosis is Allan Navarro’s claim versus Tampa University Community Hospital. He went to the hospital’s emergency room with symptoms of a stroke, but was misdiagnosed with sinusitis and sent home. The next day, he had to undergo emergency surgery, which left him comatose for almost three months. Navarro was awarded $217 million in damages after being left with permanently limited cognitive abilities.

Improper Treatment

Improper treatment involves the incompetent administration of a treatment that could lead to medical errors. These include birth errors and surgical mistakes, among others. An example of this is comedian and Saturday Night Live alumnus Dana Carvey. In 1988, he underwent a double bypass operation. Two months later, he found out that the surgeon mistakenly bypassed the incorrect artery. Carvey underwent emergency surgery to repair the incorrect treatment and had to undergo a lengthy two-year recovery period. He filed a lawsuit against the surgeon and the hospital, which was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Medication Errors

Medication errors happen when a healthcare practitioner prescribes the wrong medication or dosage or recommends drugs that could cause harm. This happened to actor Dennis Quaid’s twins, who, at two weeks old, developed staph infections and were taken to Cedars-Sinai, where they were given the required treatment with Heparin, a blood thinning medication—except in the wrong dosage. The twins were given a dose meant for adults, more than 1000 times the amount needed, leaving the babies in critical condition.

The Quaids didn’t file a lawsuit against the hospital, though the matter was settled for $750,000. They did, however, file a case against Baxter Healthcare Corp., the manufacturers of Heparin, for failing to put clear labels on Heparin bottles to distinguish proper dosage.

Failure to Disclose Known Risks

Failing to inform a patient about the risks of a certain treatment–in which case they could have refused it–or not obtaining informed consent for such can be considered medical malpractice. This was the case in the claims of both singer-actress Julie Andrews and comedienne Joan Rivers, who both say they were unaware of the risks of the procedures they underwent, causing them major damages (and in the cause of Rivers, her untimely death).

How Common Is Medical Malpractice?

An eight-year study by Johns Hopkins University found that patients reported about 250,000 counts of medical malpractice annually, and it’s considered the third leading cause of death in the United States, just behind heart disease and cancer. The most common types of medical malpractice are misdiagnoses and failure to diagnose.

What to Do if You’re a Victim of Medical Malpractice

There are many situations that may be considered medical malpractice, and if you believe you or a loved one have been a victim of such, it’s best to consult an experienced attorney, like one from Strom Law, to help you. Contact one of Strom Law’s medical malpractice lawyers today to schedule a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation. 




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