When Is A Prescription Error Medical Malpractice?


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Nearly everyone is prescribed medication at some point in their lives. Doctors write prescriptions, nurses administer injections, and pharmacists dispense medications to patients. What happens when one of these professionals make a mistake that harms or kills someone?

Unfortunately, that very thing happens more than you might think. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, between 7,000 and 9,000 deaths occur in the U.S. every year due to medication errors. Additionally, there are hundreds of thousands of other people who experience some adverse reactions or complications that are medication-related. Most of these go unreported. For the victims of medication errors, there is also the physical and psychological pain and suffering that they have to endure as a result of the mistakes.

How Do Prescription Errors Happen?

Medication errors can happen anywhere in the distribution system, from when it is prescribed to when it is dispensed or administered to the patient, and even in the monitoring of the patient afterward.  Staff shortages, fatigue, or poor environmental conditions also elevate the risks.

Some other factors that contribute to medication mistakes include:

  • Poor communication between medical staff members
  • Poor workplace training, techniques, or procedures
  • Inadequate medication knowledge
  • Unclear medication names, medical abbreviations, instructions, or writing
  • Work-related stress of medical staff
  • Lack of standardized protocols
  • Similar drug packaging
  • Carelessness
  • System errors

What Are The Common Types Of Medication Errors?

Medication mistakes can be very severe, as they may deprive patients of medication that they need to treat a serious condition, or they may cause adverse reactions when given the wrong drug or the wrong dosage of the medicine. Negligence related to medication errors may include the following situations:

  • A doctor carelessly prescribes the wrong medication
  • A doctor or nurse gives the patient the wrong dosage
  • A doctor or nurse prescribes or administers an unintended medication
  • A medical professional fails to take a thorough medical history of a patient’s prescription drug use
  • A doctor, nurse, or pharmacist fails to warn a patient of all risks associated with the medication
  • A pharmacist fails to identify possible adverse interactions with other prescribed medications

The above isn’t an exhaustive list. There are different ways that medication errors can occur. It's essential to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to determine whether negligence caused the mistake.

What Is Needed To Prove Malpractice For A Prescription Mistake?

Proving medical malpractice in a medication error case, like other malpractice cases, requires four elements for the victim to win:

  1. A medical relationship exists. It must be proven that the medical professional that is being sued was responsible for the care of the victim patient.
  2. Negligence occurred. Doctors are required to provide a reasonable standard of care. When they violate that standard, it can be considered negligence. It must be proven that the medical professional deviated from or violated the accepted standard of care for the specific case.
  3. The negligence caused harm. It must be proven that the doctor’s negligence caused an injury to the patient.
  4. The harm caused specific damages. The damages that a patient suffered may be monetary (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) or they may be from the physical and mental pain and suffering that the injury caused.

Proving medical malpractice in cases of medication errors can be tricky. That is why patients who have been victims must seek the help of a medical malpractice attorney who knows how to prove the above four points.

How Can A Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help With Prescription Error Cases?

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries due to a prescription medication error, you must consult an experienced attorney to see if your case is medical malpractice. At Ross Feller Casey, we know how to handle these types of situations, and we have a winning track record to prove it. In one case, founding partner Robert Ross reached a $12.95 million settlement for the family of a woman who dies tragically as a result of a medication error.

Not only are our attorneys experienced and knowledgeable about medication errors, but we also have a team of doctors on our staff to review and evaluate medical records and determine if cases are medical malpractice.

All our medication error cases are handled on a contingency basis, so there is no charge to you until there is a financial recovery. Contact our office for a free case review with one of our medication error lawyers.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.