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What Are the Most Common Causes of Medical Malpractice in the U.S.?


Medical mistakes can occur in just about any area of healthcare. In the United States, medical malpractice is one of the leading causes of death and injury, with 1.5 million injuries and nearly 100,000 deaths each year. Some areas of healthcare are more commonly associated with medical errors, and several causes that are seen more frequently than others.  Common causes of medical malpractice in the U.S. include:


Diagnosis plays an important role with patients and medical staff. Because of its importance, it can be harmful if there are any errors in that diagnosis. In fact, diagnoses are the most common type of medical error, leading to medical malpractice lawsuits. In a new study, about 1 in 18 patients get the wrong diagnosis in U.S. emergency rooms. Types of diagnostic errors include:

  • Medical staff providing the wrong diagnosis
  • Taking too long to diagnose the correct condition or disease


Having a baby should be a joyous time for parents, but when an error occurs during the birthing process, it can lead to traumatic consequences for the mother, baby, and family. In fact, birth injuries occur in 7 per 1,000 births. Types of errors that can occur are:

  • Poor prenatal care, including the failure to perform proper tests during pregnancy
  • Failure to recognize or treat a distressed fetus
  • Improper administration of pregnancy-related medications
  • Failure to perform a necessary c-section
  • Improper use of forceps, vacuums, and other birthing tools
  • Waiting too long to cut the umbilical cord or cutting it before the newborn can receive oxygen-rich blood


Every year, 7,000-9,000 Americans die as a result of medication errors. Patients who need specific medication put their confidence in the medical staff by trusting they prescribed the correct medication. Medication errors can also happen outside of the hospital, including your home, pharmacy, or in perioperative settings. The type of errors that can occur are:

  • Wrong medication
  • Incorrect dosage
  • Improper route of administration
  • Mistaken frequency
  • Defective medication
  • Contaminated drugs
  • Lack of patient monitoring
  • Drug name confusion
  • Bad handwriting


Sometimes surgery is unavoidable and something that should not be taken lightly. One significant complication after surgery is infections. Bacteria and viruses do not have the same deadly effect they do when they’re inside the body, which is why any surgical environment and tools must be sterile. Other surgical errors that can occur are:

  • Foreign objects left behind in the patient’s body
  • Wrong-side surgical error
  • Wrong-site surgical error
  • Incision location errors
  • Nerve damage
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Incorrect patient surgery
  • Lack of informed consent


While anesthesia errors are surgical errors, it’s essential to highlight that they are the most common mistake. If medical staff fail to review a patient’s records, allergic reactions or death can occur. Other types of errors that come with anesthesia include:

  • Administering improper dosage or wrong medication
  • Improper administration because of inexperience
  • Unlabeled or mislabeled syringes
  • Misuse of the pump


According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, injuries from defective medical devices are on the rise. These defective devices can fail at critical times, leading to misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment, resulting in injury or death. While the product manufacturer might have some liability for the faulty device, doctors may also face legal issues. Some items that could be defective include:

  • Heart monitors
  • Defibrillators
  • Ventilators
  • And other critical medical equipment

Contact Elk + Elk

If you believe that a loved one has suffered injury or death due to medical malpractice, it’s best to contact an Ohio medical malpractice attorney to see if you have a viable claim for a lawsuit. Let Elk + Elk review your anesthesia malpractice claim by calling 1-800-ELK-OHIO for a no-cost consultation or by filling out our free, no-obligation online contact form.