‘Medical Errors’ Are the Third Leading Cause of Death
The British Medical Journal recently published a study that revealed “medical errors” are now the third-largest contributor to death in the5 United States, behind only heart disease and cancer, respectively. According to the research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks the leading causes of death, but there are no direct reports of deaths resulting from medical errors. For instance, upon the completion of a death certificate, there is no category provided for “medical error” as the cause of death. Because of this, the researchers used other data sources to find out that there were 251,454 reported deaths related to medical errors.
What Is a Medical Error?
A “medical error” was defined in the study as:
“[A]n unintended act (either of omission or commission) or one that does not achieve its intended outcome, the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended (an error of execution), the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim (an error of planning), or a deviation from the process of care that may or may not cause harm to the patient.”
There are more than a quarter-million documented cases, meaning medical errors have outpaced other causes of death by more than 100,000 fatalities. This included respiratory disease, accidents, suicide, and others. The researchers called for more standardized reporting requirements for these kinds of death because the current reporting methods can lead to medical errors being miscategorized into another cause. For instance, a prescription error leading to a heart attack would instead be listed as a cardiac event.
Medical Errors & Lawsuits
The law in New Jersey recognizes a legal cause of action for victims of medical errors. In cases of medical malpractice, the victims and their families are able to recover lost compensation for any injuries resulting from physician treatment. This usually means providing evidence that there was a lapse in care and proof of damages resulting from this negligence.
At Brady Reilly & Cardoso, LLC, medical errors are a serious matter. We have an experienced team of New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers specializing in these types of complicated cases. Whether your injuries are due to a surgical error, failure to diagnose, or a drug error, our team handles these cases professionally throughout the entire process.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to medical malpractice, you need to understand how the law operates to increase your chances of a successful claim. These cases require very sophisticated litigation and come with unique rules. Let’s look at what medical malpractice victims in New Jersey need to know when pursuing a case.
The New Jersey Statute of Limitations
If you suffer from medical malpractice, there is a limited timeframe to take legal action against the party responsible. If you wait too long, New Jersey state law will bar you from ever being able to file a lawsuit for your deserved compensation. There are some exceptions to the rule, but its often in very complex situations. Your attorney can help you determine if you still have time to file a medical malpractice claim.
When Someone Else Is Liable for Your Injuries
Delivering medical services can involve multiple parties. For instance, if you had surgery, the possible defendants would include the surgeon, anesthesiologist, hospital, laboratory, pathology, or radiologist, and other involved parties. In the event that something goes wrong, these parties will often place blame on the other. It can be difficult to determine whose mistake caused your injuries.
When the Plaintiff Is Partially at Fault
New Jersey implements a model of comparative fault, meaning that you can be partially liable and still be able to pursue financial compensation for your damages as long as your own fault is 50 percent or less. The court will ultimately assess each party’s degree of fault and apportion compensation based on these proportions.
Consider if you had an adverse reaction to a medication prescribed by your physician. You were found party liable because you failed to tell your physician about a similar reaction you had to another drug in the past. The physician is also partially at fault because other information included in your medical chart should have alerted the doctor to your proclivity to have issues with the medication.
The judge then calculates your losses at $250,000 and assigns 25 percent of the fault to you and 75 percent to your physician. Your 25 percent liability would reduce your financial compensation by 25 percent, meaning you would get $187,500 instead of the full $250,000. If the judge found you 51 percent or more at fault, you would receive nothing.
When the Defendant Is Immune from Liability
Under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, injured individuals are able to file suit against the state, county, or other political entities, but there are some exceptions. The following are some situations in which public entities cannot be found liable:
- Decisions about whether to act in the interests of the community’s public health
- Providing adequate facilities, personnel, or equipment in a medical or mental health facility
- The terms and conditions of confinement for drug addiction or mental illness
Because those exceptions only apply to public entities, you are still able to sue private healthcare professionals and facilities.
Medical Malpractice Injuries in New Jersey
We all would like to think we would never be harmed by a trusted medical professional. However, these facilities and their workers are often overworked, creating the potential for grave errors and other mistakes. Sadly, less than 2.9 percent of medical malpractice victims ultimately pursue a lawsuit for their damages.