According to some estimates, there may be up to 2.8 million medication errors in the United States every year, and while most of these errors are relatively harmless, they also cause between 7,000 and 9,000 deaths annually. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has also reported that it receives over 100,000 annual claims of suspected medication error, defined as a preventable event that “may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm.”
In some cases, victims of medication error could have grounds to bring a lawsuit against a negligent pharmacist or doctor. For this blog post, our attorneys at Kershaw Talley Barlow will explain the basic principles of medication error lawsuits – and how to identify when you have a claim.
Defining Medication Error
Because medical professionals deal with matters of life and death, they have an unusually strict duty to stay informed within their fields and adhere to widely-accepted guidelines. In legal terms, physicians, pharmacists, and other medical care providers must know how to apply the correct “standard of care” with all of their patients.
The standard of care can be best understood as the level of care that another reasonably competent medical professional would apply in similar circumstances, and it applies to both prescribing medications and filling prescriptions. When physicians and pharmacists do not meet the standard of care with their prescriptions, their patients may be at risk for serious medication error injuries.
Some common medication errors include:
- Mislabeling or incorrectly storing a medication
- Giving a patient the wrong dosage of a medication
- Giving a patient the wrong type of medication
- Applying too much or too little anesthesia during surgical procedures
- Failing to provide warnings about known side effects
- Ignoring known patient allergies and reactions
- Failing to notice a dangerous drug interaction with the patient’s existing medication
When Do You Have a Lawsuit?
In most cases, medication error will not lead to a permanent or “catastrophic” injury. Even if the error does cause some unpleasant side effects or complications, it may not be enough to justify bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the provider, as these cases can be both complex and costly. When assessing if you have a medication error lawsuit, it’s important to make sure that your claim meets certain conditions.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you suspect that you or a loved one have been hurt because of a medication error:
- You must be able to show substantive damages. To have a lawsuit, you must be able to show that you experienced concrete physical and financial losses after taking a medication. For example, if you are given aggressive cancer drugs when you do not have cancer, you may suffer lasting kidney damage.
- You must be able to prove that your injuries came from physician error. Some prescription errors may be more subtle and difficult to prove. If you think that negligence played a role in your injuries, make sure to document exactly how and when you took the medication in question: You will need to show that you were using it exactly as recommended by your physician or pharmacist.
- You need to work with a skilled attorney. Medical malpractice lawsuits are exceptionally complex and require a deep understanding of the care standards and legal statutes in your state. It’s imperative that you speak with a qualified lawyer who has the resources, experience, and network to build a strong medication error lawsuit.
Combining over a century of experience in defective medical device and dangerous drug lawsuits, the attorneys at Kershaw Talley Barlow are here to offer counsel if you believe that you have a prescription error claim. Given the recent reports of errors at the nation’s largest pharmacy chains, we are also actively investigating claims about errors at CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and other pharmaceutical providers. When you need answers, our team can help you determine if you have a case.
Contact us at (916) 520-6639 for a free consultation with our team.