Common Reasons Why Medical Malpractice Cases Are Filed

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider’s negligence leads to harm or injury to a patient. These cases can be complex and emotionally taxing, often necessitating legal action to seek compensation for the damages incurred. Understanding the common reasons why medical malpractice cases are filed can shed light on the prevalence and types of negligence that patients may encounter.

1. Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is one of the most common reasons for medical malpractice claims. When a healthcare provider fails to diagnose a condition accurately or in a timely manner, it can lead to delayed treatment or incorrect treatment, worsening the patient’s condition.

  • Example: A patient presents with symptoms of a heart attack, but the emergency room physician misdiagnoses it as indigestion. As a result, the patient does not receive timely treatment and suffers a more severe heart injury.

2. Surgical Errors

Surgical errors encompass a wide range of mistakes made during surgical procedures. These errors can include performing the wrong procedure, operating on the wrong body part, damaging surrounding organs or tissues, or leaving surgical instruments inside the patient.

  • Example: During a routine surgery, a surgeon accidentally operates on the wrong knee of a patient, requiring corrective surgery and causing additional complications.

3. Medication Errors

Medication errors occur when healthcare providers administer the wrong medication, incorrect dosage, or fail to consider drug interactions or allergies. These errors can lead to adverse reactions, worsening of the patient’s condition, or even death in severe cases.

  • Example: A nurse administers a medication to a patient without checking their medical records, causing a severe allergic reaction that requires emergency intervention.

4. Birth Injuries

Birth injuries occur when medical professionals fail to provide adequate care during childbirth, leading to harm to the mother or baby. These injuries can range from minor bruises to severe conditions such as cerebral palsy or Erb’s palsy.

  • Example: Improper use of forceps during delivery results in nerve damage to the baby’s shoulder, leading to Erb’s palsy and lifelong disability.

5. Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia errors involve mistakes in administering anesthesia before, during, or after surgery. These errors can include administering too much or too little anesthesia, failing to monitor the patient’s vital signs, or not considering the patient’s medical history.

  • Example: An anesthesiologist administers an incorrect dosage of anesthesia to a patient, causing them to wake up during surgery and experience pain and psychological trauma.

6. Failure to Obtain Informed Consent

Patients have the right to be informed about the risks, benefits, and alternatives of any medical procedure or treatment before giving their consent. Failure to obtain informed consent can lead to legal claims if the patient suffers harm that they were not adequately warned about.

  • Example: A surgeon performs a procedure on a patient without explaining the potential risks, resulting in complications that could have been avoided if the patient had been fully informed.

7. Failure to Follow Standard Protocols

Medical professionals are expected to follow established protocols and standards of care when treating patients. Deviating from these protocols without valid reasons can constitute medical negligence.

  • Example: A nurse fails to change a patient’s wound dressing according to hospital protocols, leading to infection and prolonged hospitalization.

8. Lack of Supervision or Training

In some cases, medical malpractice may occur due to inadequate supervision or training of healthcare providers. This can result in errors or negligent actions that harm patients.

  • Example: A newly graduated physician performs a complex surgical procedure without adequate supervision, leading to complications for the patient.

9. Failure to Recognize Symptoms

Healthcare providers must be diligent in recognizing and responding to symptoms that indicate a serious medical condition. Failure to do so can delay treatment and worsen the patient’s prognosis.

  • Example: A primary care physician dismisses persistent chest pain in a patient as anxiety-related, failing to diagnose a heart condition that leads to a heart attack.

10. Discharge Against Medical Advice

When patients leave medical facilities against medical advice (AMA), healthcare providers must ensure they understand the risks and consequences of leaving. Failing to provide adequate information or follow protocols for AMA discharge can lead to legal liability if the patient suffers harm.

  • Example: A hospital discharges a patient AMA without assessing their readiness to leave, resulting in complications that require readmission.

Seeking Legal Guidance

Navigating a medical malpractice case requires expertise and experience in healthcare law. If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to medical negligence in San Diego, seeking the counsel of a knowledgeable San Diego medical malpractice lawyer is crucial. They can provide the legal guidance needed to evaluate your case, gather evidence, and pursue fair compensation for the damages incurred.


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  2. Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Medical Malpractice Overview. Retrieved from
  3. Medical Malpractice Center. (n.d.). Common Causes of Medical Malpractice. Retrieved from
  4. National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Medical Malpractice Claims: Reasons and Consequences. Retrieved from