Are prescription drug errors medical malpractice?

Last updated on: August 30, 2021

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Did you know that medication errors account for 9% of avoidable costs in healthcare? Your doctor should not get away with negligently giving you an incorrect prescription. This article will help you navigate some important next steps if you are questioning whether your doctor made a prescription error. Namely, it will help you determine whether you should enlist the help of medical malpractice lawyers.

If you or a loved one were prescribed the wrong prescription, speak with a medical malpractice lawyer at Zinda Law Group to receive a free case evaluation. Call (800) 863-5312 and explain your situation to a personal injury lawyer.

How do I know if the doctor made a prescription drug error?

A prescription drug error occurs when a healthcare provider incorrectly proscribes medication. Doctors are notorious for their bad handwriting; if you have ever seen a doctor’s signature, you might be able to confirm this stereotype. This is never an excuse for committing medical malpractice, though. If that same doctor or a pharmacist misreads the prescription and you end up taking the wrong medication for your ailment, you may have a negligence claim.

Another scenario in which there could be a medication error is if a hospital patient receives the wrong medication because of a patient or package identity mix-up. Sometimes the packaging of the medicine is similar enough to another one that the prescription medication can pass through the doctors, nurses, administrative staff, and pharmacists who handle it without their noticing the mistake. At any of these stages, this mix-up may have been avoided had the proper patient safety measures been taken.

In another scenario, if your doctor misdiagnosed you, he or she will have likely given you the wrong prescription. Facilities that do not take measures to protect patients—such as ensuring that the patient’s name matches his or her prescription at each step from the moment the doctor diagnoses the patient to the moment the patient picks up the prescription at the pharmacy—may have been negligent in their practices. If you think one of these scenarios may have happened with your prescription, you can talk to a medical malpractice attorney to see whether you should pursue your claim.

more ways doctors can prescribe the wrong prescription

As you may have deduced, there are many steps between your doctor’s diagnosis of your condition and your eventual ingestion of the medication, so there are plenty of ways that things can go wrong in between those two points. Some of those will allow you to recover under a legal theory of negligence, but others will not. In addition to misdiagnosis, prescription errors can arise from miscalculated dosages, issues with drug devices, and poor communication.

For example, errors might occur from patients having similar names or certain drugs having similar names—especially when this prescription information is given verbally. The following are some more examples of how you might have had a medication or prescription drug error:

  • Your drug regimen was complicated, or the directions were otherwise unclear.
  • Physicians who are trying new medications might have inadequate documentation of the drugs and their utilizations.
  • Your prescription is missing information about other medications you are taking.
  • Your physician did not look carefully enough at your history with previously prescribed dosages.
  • Your physician did not take into account your allergies.
  • Your healthcare provider failed to send your prescription to the pharmacy.

How to know if a doctor committed medical negligence

While any lay person can commit negligence under common law, healthcare providers in the course of their profession can commit medical negligence, also called medical malpractice. There are countless ways a physician could commit medical malpractice, and that includes many of the prescription errors we have described in this article. If you wish to pursue your prescription drug error case, find a medical malpractice lawyer who is familiar with the steps you must take to prove your case.

  • First, you must show that your doctor had a duty to provide you with a certain standard of care comparable to other doctors who practice in that geographic and medical area.
  • Then, prove that your doctor acted in such a way that breached the duty of care your doctor owed you.
  • Next, you will have needed to be injured in such a way that you can recover under the law (most physical injuries will suffice).
  • Finally, it must have been your doctor’s breach of duty to uphold the standard of care that caused your injury.

You must meet all of these steps in order to prove your medical malpractice case, and there are things you should know about each of the steps to help you make your case acceptable to the insurance companies involved in your settlement.

The standard of the duty of care

As you now know, the first step of a medical malpractice case is proving that your doctor owed you a standard of care. If it is common for healthcare providers in your location to use safeguards to prevent errors with prescriptions, then there was probably a standard for your provider to do the same.

An expert witness can help you establish a standard of care. Your medical malpractice lawyer will have the resources necessary to find a physician similarly situated to yours (in the same area of practice in a geographically close region) who can testify about the common procedures involved in protecting the patient’s safety when it comes to prescription medication errors.

Breaching the Standard of Care

It may be difficult to ascertain what went awry with your prescription. A prescription injury attorney could investigate this matter for you to help put the pieces of your story together. Once you and your attorney can determine what went wrong, you will have a better idea of where the negligence happened and who may be liable.

The injury

In order to meet the final two elements of your medical malpractice claim, you will be required to show that you can be compensated for your injury under the law and that it was your doctor’s breach of the standard of care that caused your injury. If you have the original prescription, keep it in a safe place, especially if it happens to be a written one. You should also keep track of any subsequent injuries you received as a result of the medication error, including bills and missed wages from time off work.

As someone who has been a victim of medical malpractice, you could potentially receive both economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are meant to cover measurable injuries such as your medical expenses from the injury and missed wages from time off work. Noneconomic damages are meant to cover the pain and suffering you experienced as a result of the injury.

Ways the patient can prevent Medication errors

Doctors are not the only ones who can fail to prevent a medication error. Whether you have already been prescribed the wrong prescription or you want to avoid finding yourself in that situation, it will benefit you to know some preventative actions you can take to stop yourself from becoming a victim of medical malpractice. While it is still up to your doctor to educate you about your healthcare needs, you should be an active participant in your medical decisions.

Staying educated about your medication will make you less susceptible to incorrect prescriptions. Know what medications you are taking, including their names, what condition they are meant to treat, how they work to treat it, their side effects and warnings, and how the medications interact with each other. Store your drugs properly, keeping them out of the reach of children; finally, check the expiration date of your drugs and ensure that you have properly disposed of expired drugs.

Zinda Law Group’s medical malpractice lawyers want to hear your story

A doctor who has given you a prescription for a condition you do not have has also taken valuable time away from your receiving the correct treatment. As a victim of malpractice, you could be entitled to compensation under the law. Allow Zinda Law Group to help you recover for the injuries your doctor negligently caused; our skilled medical malpractice lawyers want to hear your side of the story.

Your prescription was supposed to help you get better. You could not have expected it to be for the wrong medication and for it to make the discomfort of your condition even worse. A medical malpractice lawyer can help you through the steps of proving your claim and could help you get the settlement you deserve.

If you or a loved one has experienced an injury from having your correct prescription delayed or from taking the incorrect medication for your condition, call a Zinda Law Group personal injury attorney at (800) 863-5312 to schedule your free consultation. Our firm’s No Win, No Fee Guarantee offers you confidence that you will not need to pay us unless we win your case for you.

Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.