Types of Mistakes That Can Amount to Medical Malpractice

Robyn Sztyndor

September 30, 2022

There are several types of errors that may qualify as medical malpractice. These can range from misdiagnosis to prescription errors. Other errors can involve improper communication within the medical community or even negligence during childbirth. In some cases, patients may be left without proper treatment for months or even years.


Misdiagnosis is one of the most common types of medical malpractice claims. Misdiagnosis occurs when patients present with symptoms of a disease and the physician makes a wrong diagnosis that causes the patient harm. Misdiagnoses are often the result of a failure to recognize rare disorders that mimic common diseases.

There are many different causes of misdiagnosis. Some of these include poor communication, rushed diagnosis, or the failure to diagnose the right medical condition. Sometimes, a doctor will misread tests or images, or they may fail to rule out other possible conditions. The result is that the patient may suffer serious consequences or even die.

Prescription errors

When prescriptions are made, doctors have a duty to accurately calculate the dosages of drugs. Even the slightest mistake can have serious consequences. Incorrect dosages can lead to overdoses or even death. Even more serious are prescription errors that result in the wrong drug being prescribed. This can be considered medical malpractice.

Prescription errors are extremely common, affecting hundreds of thousands of people every year. Many are due to miscommunication between the patient and the doctor. A breakdown in communication can result in the wrong dosage or a harmful reaction. Moreover, patients who have poor English comprehension are at an even greater risk of medication errors. The financial burden of treating medication errors is estimated at $40 billion per year. These errors can occur at different stages in the prescription process. For example, the doctor might forget to add a necessary ingredient to a medicine, which could lead to the wrong dose.

Communication errors in health care

Medical malpractice claims can be filed when communication errors affect the quality of care. These errors can occur for a number of reasons, including ineffective closed-loop communication, information loss during transitions of care, or failing to establish clear lines of responsibility among providers. A study conducted by the Joint Commission found that over 80 percent of serious medical errors are caused by ineffective communication between healthcare providers during patient handoffs. Oftentimes, these errors result in delays in treatment or increased lengths of stay.

Healthcare providers must take extra precautions to prevent these problems. They should develop clear communication guidelines while keeping patient privacy in mind. In addition, all communications involving a patient’s care must be documented. The Situation Background Assessment Recommendation (SBAR) is one way to do this. It is a standard way to talk about a patient’s condition that gives clear and organized information.

Negligent acts during childbirth

If healthcare providers have a duty to deliver the highest quality care possible during childbirth, the consequences can be life-threatening. Medical negligence during childbirth can cause a variety of injuries to a mother and her baby, ranging from brain damage to lifelong disabilities. A family who has been hurt by medical negligence can file a claim for medical malpractice and get money as a result.

While going through labor can be challenging, many parents hope that their medical team is well-prepared to handle any situation that arises. They rely on the team to be diligent, follow protocols, and have a game plan that can be easily executed. A negligent medical team, however, can result in serious harm to a newborn and their family. A fetal distress case, for instance, can have devastating results for the newborn.

Diagnostic errors

Almost 1 in every 9 emergency room patients has been misdiagnosed by their physician. These errors can lead to further health complications or unnecessary procedures. This type of mistake can even cause fatalities. There are a variety of factors that lead to this error, and the doctor’s knowledge may not be enough to prevent it.

Recent research has shown that diagnostic errors can be a major cause of medical malpractice. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine analyzed more than 55,000 malpractice claims between 2006 and 2015. This study found that diagnostic errors account for 28.7% of malpractice claims, and that patients can file a claim if the errors lead to significant harm. These studies also identified common patterns of misdiagnosis.

Failure to meet a reasonable standard of care

Medical malpractice can occur when a physician fails to meet the reasonable standard of care for his or her patient. This standard of care is determined by the professional’s conduct or opinion. This standard is based on the doctor’s past and current training and is based on evidence from the medical community.

To prove medical malpractice, an expert witness must testify that the medical professional violated the standard of care. Typically, the standard of care is the care a similarly-situated healthcare professional would provide to a patient. A doctor’s actions that fall below this standard are often considered to be medical malpractice.