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When Can a Prescription Error Lead to a Lawsuit?

Published on July 20, 2023

We trust our medical professionals to hold our best interests as their highest priority in all of our care, from yearly physicals to surgeries and emergency care. Most of us don’t think twice when we take a medication prescribed to us by our doctor, expecting that the drug will improve our symptoms or help us to get well. But what if the medication actually causes a serious injury or makes an illness worse instead of better because someone made a mistake in the complex process between prescribing and dispensing a medication?

When a prescription error causes a patient to experience a serious injury, can they file a lawsuit for damages?

When Can A Prescription Error Lead To A Lawsuit?

Not All Medication Mistakes are Due to Malpractice

Most medication mistakes occur at home when a patient doesn’t read the directions correctly,  improperly mixes medications, or takes an incorrect dosage. In this type of medication mistake, the patient should immediately seek the help of a medical professional, but the error was due to their own fault so no other party is liable for damages. 

Only when a patient follows the directions as they were given to them, but somewhere in the process of prescribing, ordering, labeling, and dispensing the medication a dangerous mistake occurs, does the patient have the right to file a medical malpractice claim. Taking the wrong medication, an incorrect dosage, or a medication that has a dangerous reaction when taken with another medication can cause serious harm.

Suffering from a medication mistake caused by negligence on the part of the doctor, medical staff, pharmacy, or drug manufacturer can cause serious injury and related financial damages. A personal injury lawsuit for medical malpractice can help injury victims to recover their damages.

How Often Do Prescription Errors Occur?

As many as 9,000 people die each year from medication mistakes in the U.S., and hundreds of thousands of people experience serious injuries. The U.S. spends an estimated $30 billion per year addressing the consequences of medication mistakes. The most common causes of dangerous prescription errors include:

  • Miscommunication when providers make drug orders for their patient
  • Illegible handwriting
  • Mistaken selections from computer drop-down menus
  • Confusion between medications with similar names
  • Mixing up drugs with similar packaging
  • Mistakes in dosage calculations
  • Mislabeling medications
  • Printing the wrong directions for dose frequency on the package
  • Incomplete patient medical history leading to a prescription that’s contraindicated for the patient due to drug interactions or allergies

There are many steps between a doctor choosing a medication to treat a patient, and the patient taking the medication. When an error occurs somewhere in the process of ordering, dosing, labeling, or dispensing the medication and it causes the patient serious harm, the patient can file a medical malpractice claim.

Is a Medical Malpractice Claim a Lawsuit?

Most medical malpractice claims—including those for prescription errors—are settled out of court without the need for a lawsuit. Once a malpractice victim’s attorney investigates the medication error and identifies the liable party, they can use the evidence to demonstrate the following points of liability:

  • That the provider owed a duty of care to treat the patient to the industry-accepted standards and take reasonable measures to prevent injury
  • That they breached this special duty of care through an act of negligence
  • That the breach directly caused the patient’s injury
  • That the patient suffered significant damage from the injury

Only when a provider’s medical malpractice insurance uses bad faith practices and refuses to pay an acceptable settlement on a valid claim for an injury does the case proceed to a lawsuit in court.

Common damages in prescription error claims include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. An experienced Phoenix medical malpractice attorney can help maximize the compensation the victim of a medication error recovers in their claim or lawsuit.

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The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona, at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.