Are Medical Errors Considered Malpractice?

The Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at the Wieand Law Firm are frequently asked to explain the difference between a medical error and medical malpractice. Many times, an injury suffered during medical treatment or a failure to aptly diagnoses and treat a condition can be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, not every error is grounds for a malpractice claim against the provider. Medical malpractice claims require a high standard proof and are one of the more challenging personal injury lawsuits to tackle. The Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at our firm will explain when medical errors may be grounds for a malpractice claim and outline the legal concepts a plaintiff needs to prove for a successful malpractice case.

What is a Medical Error?

The Institute of Medicine defines a medical error as “the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended, or the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim. While most medical errors do not result in harm, some errors cause injury to the patient, or cause an injury to be worse than if another action had been taken. Medical errors can include a wrong diagnosis or a wrong treatment after a diagnosis.

Medical errors can occur in any clinical setting. According to a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, intensive care units, operating rooms and emergency departments are associated with a higher rate of serious medical errors than other settings. The 2013 Institute of Medicine Study of Medical errors suggests that medical errors are responsible for 210,000 to 440,000 deaths annually.

Examples of Medical Errors

  • Surgery on wrong site
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a medical condition
  • Failure to treat child-birth related conditions
  • Medication administration mistakes
  • Neglecting to monitor patient post-procedure
  • Failure to inform patient of potential risks and benefits of treatment

When Is a Medical Error Considered Malpractice?

When a medical error is the result of a doctor or medical professional who fails to meet the standard of care for the patient’s condition and the result is patient injury, the medical error may be malpractice. A Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers frequently see claims that fall into one of these categories.

Diagnosis Errors – malpractice claims for diagnosis errors include failures to provide the right diagnosis for a patient’s condition resulting in the condition progressing and threatening the patient’s health. These claims may be the result of a wrong diagnosis, or a correct diagnosis that is unreasonably delayed.

Surgical Errors – malpractice from surgical errors may include surgery on the wrong patient or wrong body part, leaving surgical instruments inside a patient’s body cavity, or a surgeon causing harm based on surgical technique that is subpar from what a peer surgeon would perform.

Gross Negligence – physicians who treat patients while intoxicated is an example of malpractice from gross negligence. Another example is a nurse who becomes distracted and administers the wrong medication that results in patient harm.

Consent Errors – medical professionals are required to inform a patient about the risks and benefits of a treatment plan. Failure to fully inform a patient prior to initiating treatment may be grounds for medical malpractice.

What Is Required to Prove Medical Malpractice?

A viable medical malpractice claim requires the plaintiff to meet certain standards. These standards include:

Standard of Care Violation

Medical professionals must maintain an adequate level of knowledge and skill. This includes staying informed on modern standards of care and keeping up with industry knowledge. When a medical provider does not exercise a similar level of skill that a peer in his profession would use, there may be violation in the standard of care. Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers typically seek out expert opinions from physicians to corroborate whether a standard of care was upheld or violated. These experts can provide a certificate of merit, or documentation that verifies that an expert in that field believes that that the medical provider’s care fell outside professional standards.


In addition to proving that a standard of care was violated, the plaintiff must also demonstrate that the care violation was the reason that the patient suffered harm or an increased risk of harm.

For example:

  • A surgical center has a policy that all surgeons must mark the surgical site of a patient with a red pen prior to surgery. The surgeon does not follow this policy, and as a result operates on the wrong part of the body.
  • A patient has multiple appointments with their primary care doctor for headaches. During these appointments, the physician fails to order diagnostic testing. The patient finally seeks a second opinion after a year of headaches and is diagnosed with an advanced stage brain tumor. Because of the treatment delay, the patient’s risk of death is much higher than it would have been if the tumor was diagnosed and treated a year a year ago.


Finally, a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer knows that a plaintiff must have suffered damages as the result of the malpractice. These damages may include past and future medical expenses, lost wages and future earnings, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.

What Should I Do If I Suspect Medical Malpractice?

If you suspect medical malpractice, it’s important to take action. First and foremost, seek out care from a new physician or medical provider. You should consider selecting a physician who is board certified in their field. Next, make a request for your medical records. If you decide that you want to file a malpractice claim, medical records will be needed to ascertain if your claim is viable. Many clients find it helpful to start a journal or file to maintain important documents and keep notes about important dates, outcomes of medical appointments, and medical expenses. Most importantly, consider contacting an attorney to represent you. A qualified attorney with experience in medical malpractice can help investigate your claim and pursue the highest possible compensation for your injuries.

Is There Anything That I Should Avoid Doing If I Suspect Medical Malpractice?

Avoid contacting the defendants in any manner if you suspect malpractice. Funneling communication through an attorney will help assure that you don’t say something that could compromise your case. Do not attempt to discuss settlement options. It’s recommended to allow an attorney who is seasoned in these types of cases to handle negotiations so that you are not low-balled by the defendant or their insurance carrier. The Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at our firm strongly encourage you not to sign any documents about the incident without review by an attorney. Finally, it’s a good idea to keep all information about the case off social media.

Contact the Wieand Law Firm, LLC Today!

The Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers on the legal team at Wieand Law Firm, LLC represent clients who have suffered serious injuries from medical mistakes. Call 215-666-7777 today for a free consultation to learn more about your legal options and our firm’s history of success in these types of cases.

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