What are the Most Common Medical Malpractice Areas?

The negligence of a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional may give rise to a medical malpractice case.  Medical negligence is when a healthcare provider fails to exercise that degree of care, skill, and learning expected under similar circumstances by a reasonably prudent healthcare within this state.  This may be the case when a healthcare provider the standard of care owed to a patient. This negligence may be the result of a delayed diagnosis, missed diagnosis, surgical mistakes, medication error, or failure to timely provide care or refer a patient for additional care.   . 

In 2006, the Harvard School of Public Health identified surgical procedures, “obstetrics, medication and missed or delayed diagnosis” to be the areas that accounted for about 80 percent of medical malpractice claims in the United States. The results of medical negligence can cause death, brain injuries, birth injuries, and permanent injury.  Kevin Loughlin, MD, MBA researched Arizona cases and noted that approximately 24.1 claims were paid per 1,000 Arizona physicians. The average malpractice payment was reported to be $297,332.

Occasionally, the medical negligence may occur even after a patient leaves a hospital or other facility. For example, when prescription drug errors happen, they may adversely affect patients who are at home. A dangerous or defective drug may seriously injure a patient’s organs and endanger the individual’s health – even if the drug is taken as prescribed. Incorrect dosages and erroneously issued medications can occur if illegible prescriptions are provided to pharmacists. 

Under those circumstances, the pharmacist has a duty to verify the drug name and/or dosage with the physician. Conversely, the physician has a responsibility to legibly note the desired prescription data for the pharmacist to fill. Generally, juries decide who is responsible for medical negligence. Medical negligence claims are very intricate and complex; therefore, it is crucial that a potential plaintiff retain experienced trial counsel.

For most personal injury claims in Arizona there is a two year statute of limitations.  If you do not bring your claim within that two year time period, your claim may be forever barred.  There are, however, some exceptions to that general rule. 

Arizona law makes an exception for minors who are injured.   A minor’s statute of limitation does not start running until the minor reaches eighteen.  If your potential claim involves a public, governmental entity or subsidiary, such as a claim against a city, county, or the state, then a Notice of Claim must be filed within 180 days of when the negligence occurred.  If a Notice of Claim is not filed, your claim will likely be barred forever.  Additionally, a lawsuit against a public entity must be filed within one year of the negligence, not the general two year time period.

Sometimes individuals are not aware negligence occurred until years later.  An example would be a patient who had abdomen surgery but had severe pain for years at the surgery site following the procedure.  If later an x-ray is performed which shows a surgical sponge was left inside the patient during surgery, that is when the statute of limitations starts to run.  Or stated another way, that is when the two year clock starts ticking.  That legal theory is called “the discovery rule.”  The discovery rule allows claims outside of the two year statute of limitations to be brought if the negligence is not discovered until later. 


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