Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States, and understanding the histories of their doctors and the risks of any procedure before they receive treatment can help keep patients safe. When patients are injured by negligent doctors, they have the right to pursue medical malpractice claims. However, even with financial compensation, the damage done by a negligent physician can last a lifetime.
Shocking Facts About Medical Malpractice in the United States
Nearly 50% of physicians in the United States have been involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit, and nearly 13% have been named as the sole defendant. The riskier the specialty, such as cardiology or oncology, the greater the likelihood that the physician will be involved in a lawsuit. By age 65, nearly 99% of doctors will be involved in at least one medical malpractice lawsuit. Of those, there is a significant likelihood they will be involved in two or more subsequent lawsuits.
Failure to diagnose and misdiagnosis are the most common causes of medical malpractice lawsuits. This is contrary to popular belief that surgical errors are the leading cause. When doctors are sued, most will obfuscate their liability or will fail to apologize for causing the error. When errors are a factor in causing an injury, the most common cause of the error is traced back to physician burnout, which is a growing and alarming problem within the healthcare sector.
Medical Malpractice Claims by Specialty
In 2010, Neurosurgery was the most common specialty cited in medical malpractice lawsuits, but it was the fourth most common injury to result in payment of a claim to plaintiffs. This was followed by cardiovascular-thoracic surgery. The third most common type of injury involved general surgery, which was the leading type of claim with payments made to injured parties. Across all specialties, the mean compensation made to plaintiffs was just under $275,000.
Other specialties that have a high rate of claims include orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, gastroenterology, obstetrics, urology, and pulmonary medicine. Each of these specialties comes with unique risks and potential injuries, thus patients should thoroughly investigate their physician and their “track record” prior to undergoing any form of treatment. These medical specialties carry risks that can result in permanent loss of mobility, loss of organ function, loss of quality of life, and in worst-case scenarios, loss of life.