How Medication Errors Can Lead to Lawsuits

Wednesday May 18, 2022

According to a study by Johns Hopkins, roughly 10% of all deaths in the U.S. are due to medical errors. They're the third most common cause of death in the country.

When you visit a healthcare facility or a medical professional, you trust the doctors and pharmacists to safely prescribe and administer the drugs you need. Regrettably, sometimes you may place your trust in the wrong hands. Every year, thousands of patients receive the wrong medication for their injuries and illnesses.

Medication errors can happen in various settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, doctor's offices, surgical centers, and clinics. This form of medical malpractice can result in serious injury or death.

What Are Medication Errors?

The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCCMERP) defines a medication error as "any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer." The council explains that medication errors may be related to healthcare products, systems, procedures, or professional medical practice.

According to the NCCMERP, medication errors may happen during:

  • Prescribing
  • Product labeling
  • Order communication
  • Dispensing
  • Administration
  • Education
  • Packaging
  • Distribution
  • Monitoring
  • Use

Medication errors should never happen, in Connecticut or elsewhere in the U.S. Unfortunately, these preventable mistakes in drug prescription and administration happen every day and can cost patients their lives.

Here are the various types of medication errors that patients may experience. 

Types of Medication Errors

Prescribing the Wrong Medication

Doctors have an obligation to diagnose your illness as accurately as possible with the information available and prescribe the right medicine. Unfortunately, a lack of medical experience or training on the doctor's part may lead them to prescribe you the wrong medication. A doctor may accurately diagnose the illness but prescribe a drug that causes temporary or permanent injury.

Pharmacists may also be liable for your injuries when they dispense the wrong medication. A pharmacist should accurately interpret the doctor's prescription and dispense the right drugs. If they give you the wrong medication, a medication error attorney can help establish who is to blame for drug errors in your medical malpractice case.

Giving a Patient the Wrong Dose

Certain actions — like missing or transposing a decimal point when writing or interpreting a prescription — can lead to the over- or underprescription of a drug. Giving a patient the wrong dosage can be extremely dangerous and may have deadly consequences.

Underprescribing is the failure to appropriately prescribe a drug by prescribing doses that are too low. Fear of adverse reactions and doubts about the efficacy of a drug are two of the reasons for underprescribing. Overprescribing happens when too high of a dose is prescribed or when your doctor has you continue a treatment for longer than necessary.

Errors in Drug Administration

Drug administration is a critical part of the treatment process. Medical professionals should always use the most appropriate and effective drug administration techniques that deliver the best results. However, a doctor may choose an incorrect drug administration route, for example by administering medication intravenously when it should be given orally.

Errors in drug administration can also happen in inpatient settings when a doctor gives a drug to the wrong patient. This can have adverse effects, such as organ failure or death.

Doctors and nurses may also be liable for drug administration to the wrong part of the body because this type of mistake is preventable.

Inadequate Monitoring and Patient Care

Monitoring and follow-ups after drug administration can help patients recover from injury and illness. Healthcare providers should make time to check on you after they give you medication in case you experience severe drug interactions or side effects that could lead to serious injuries or death.

A medical professional should always follow up to find out whether their patient requires further medical attention. This reduces the risk of medication errors in inpatient settings.

Documentation Errors

When you visit a hospital, medical professionals should find out everything they possibly can about your condition. You should also reveal as much information as possible about your condition.

Doctors and nurses should never disregard what a patient has to say. They should note whether you have any allergies or preexisting conditions. If you've experienced severe drug interactions in the past, this should be clearly documented to avoid similar reactions.

Documentation errors may also occur when medical professionals fail to properly document procedures that have been performed. They may fail to indicate that they administered certain drugs. Such errors may result in extra doses or incorrect rates of drug administration.

Adverse Drug Events and Patient Harm Can Lead to Lawsuits

If you experience injuries or lose a loved one as a result of medication errors, you may have the right to file a Connecticut medical error lawsuit. However, not every medical mistake warrants legal action. An experienced medication error lawyer should prove that the medical provider's negligence was directly responsible for your injury in order for you to have a valid medical error claim.

In a negligence lawsuit, you — the plaintiff — must prove these four elements:

Duty of Care

All medical professionals have an obligation to their patients to act in the same way a qualified doctor would in similar circumstances. When prescribing and administering medications, it's the healthcare provider's obligation to be aware of the patient's history, allergies, and whether they're taking any other medications.

Breach of Duty

When a doctor fails to live up to the required medical standards, they breach their duty of care. For instance, a doctor or pharmacist who fails to inquire about or blatantly ignores your medical history and allergies can be liable for your injuries.

Causation

A healthcare provider's negligence must be directly responsible for your injuries in order for you to have a valid medication error lawsuit. Receiving the wrong medication doesn't warrant a lawsuit if you don't sustain injuries.

Damages

The final element in a medical error case that can lead to a lawsuit is economic and/or non-economic damages. Economic damages include lost wages and medical bills. Some non-economic damages are pain and suffering, disability, and loss of reputation.

If you or someone you care about has been injured by a medication error in Connecticut, you may be entitled to compensation. At Kennedy, Johnson, Schwab & Roberge, our legal team is ready to discuss your legal options and guide you through your lawsuit.

Contact our medication error lawyers in New Haven, CT, to book your free case review.

Get in Touch

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation

At Kennedy, Johnson, Schwab & Roberge, L.L.C., we handle all cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that we do not get paid unless and until you receive a settlement or a jury award.

Schedule a free, confidential consultation with a skilled Connecticut personal injury lawyer today.

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