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Bringing Suit Over Medication Errors

Medicine, Gavel and MoneyMedical malpractice comes in many forms. However, one of the most common is medication errors. There are multiple reasons that medical professionals may make these kinds of mistakes, but only some of them are actionable. Before you waste your time trying to bring a suit that may not have a sufficient cause of action, it is important to research the legal ramifications of medical errors and the injuries they cause.

Definition and Examples

The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCC-MERP) defines a medication error as any “preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient or consumer.” California’s definition significantly mirrors this one, though it goes into even more detail, citing the specific types of facilities in which a patient may experience actionable medication-related error. Most people think of a medication error as a doctor simply prescribing the wrong medicine, but in truth there are several scenarios that might be labeled as errors relating to medication. Some include:

  • A doctor prescribing the correct medication, but at the wrong dosage;
  • A medical professional administering the wrong dosage or the wrong medication;
  • Equipment designed to deliver medication (such as an IV drip) malfunctioning and administering an overdose, or administering no medication at all;
  • A doctor misdiagnosing a patient, then prescribing the medication for the misdiagnosed condition (and not the real, underlying problem);
  • A medical professional negligently failing to warn a patient of potential side effects; and
  • A medical professional negligently failing to ensure that the patient has no allergies to the medication, or is not predisposed to experience a negative reaction.
The Question of Liability

Medication errors can be relatively insignificant, or they can be fatal; unfortunately, too much depends on luck. That said, if the unthinkable does happen to a loved one or family member, it is important for you to know the exact definition being used with regard to “medication error” in that situation, because an expanded definition may give rise to expanded liability (or, conversely, a very narrow definition might limit liability). Except in unusual cases, almost anyone involved in a situation where a medication error occurs may be held liable for its effects, and sometimes, even those not directly involved may find themselves on the wrong end of a malpractice verdict.

If, for example, a patient is given the incorrect dosage of the correct medication, the person to hold liable is the medical professional who administered it. However, California subscribes to a doctrine referred to as vicarious liability or respondeat superior, which means that an employer may be held liable for the negligent acts of its employees if committed on the job. Depending on the arrangements in the office, the doctor may be held liable for the person’s misconduct, or even the hospital, if the administering medical professional is a direct employee. If not specifically indicated otherwise, it is generally a good idea to name a hospital or medical center in a medication error lawsuit, because many more doctors nowadays are hospital employees, instead of sole practitioners.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

Very often, it requires a competent legal professional to cut through the mess of procedural red tape. The dedicated San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. have many years of experience with medication error cases, and understand the value of an attorney who keeps you in the loop, instead of ignoring your calls. Contact our offices today to discuss your options. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of Alameda, Monterey, Santa Clara, San Benito and San Mateo.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.