Six Common Types of Medical Malpractice Claims to Be Aware Of

April 30, 2024 | - News & Insights

In the personal injury law realm, medical malpractice claims are among the most serious. Negative medical outcomes can have lifelong consequences for patients, in some cases significantly affecting their quality of life and ability to earn a living. A jury verdict finding malpractice — or even an allegation of malpractice — can take a serious toll on a doctor’s reputation and ability to practice. Doctors and other healthcare professionals should familiarize themselves with the most common types of medical malpractice claims so that they can assist in their defense. Our North Carolina medical malpractice defense attorneys can help.  

Failure to Obtain Informed Consent 

Informed consent is the communication process between doctors and patients wherein the doctor educates the patients about the risks and benefits of a particular medical course of action. It requires the practitioner to provide information about: 

  • The diagnosis (if known) 
  • The nature and purpose of the recommended intervention
  • The burdens, risks, and expected benefits of all the patient’s options, including declining treatment 

Failure to obtain informed consent can expose healthcare professionals to malpractice claims. Consent obtained in writing is presumed to meet the standards of informed consent under North Carolina law. However, a plaintiff can rebut that presumption by showing that the consent was obtained by fraud, deception, or misrepresenting a material fact. 

Diagnosis-Related Claims 

Modern medicine makes diagnosing a medical condition as exact a science as possible, but no system is perfect. Doctors must exercise professional judgment when arriving at a diagnosis, and no doctor gets it right 100% of the time. While diagnosis errors are not necessarily malpractice, they can provide the basis for an allegation of malpractice. 


Misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor incorrectly diagnoses a patient’s condition. It can occur in various ways, such as when the doctor misses or fails to correctly interpret the patient’s symptoms, fails to order the correct diagnostic tests, or fails to refer the patient to a specialist when necessary. It can also arise through logistical mistakes, such as miscommunications and lost or mislabeled test results.

Delayed Diagnosis 

Delayed diagnosis occurs when the healthcare professional makes the correct diagnosis but arrives at it too late. Whether a diagnosis is “late” in any particular case is an intensely fact-specific inquiry, but generally, a diagnosis is late when a healthcare professional in similar circumstances would have made the diagnosis sooner based on the standard of care expected for the particular condition. Delayed diagnosis can result in significantly diminished healthcare outcomes because delayed diagnosis leads to delayed medical care, which, in turn, leads to the progression of the patient’s condition. 

Failure to Diagnose 

While misdiagnosis occurs where the doctor incorrectly diagnoses the condition and delayed diagnosis occurs where the doctor arrives at the correct diagnosis too late, failure to diagnose occurs where the doctor fails to diagnose the patient’s condition at all. It could happen, for example, where a doctor misinterprets chest pain and shortness of breath as a panic attack when, in reality, the patient is having a heart attack. If you have been accused of making a diagnosis-related error, you should consider speaking with a North Carolina medical malpractice defense attorney to avoid reputational harm. 

Failure to Treat 

Failure to treat is typically a corollary of diagnosis-related medical malpractice claims. If a doctor misdiagnoses or fails to diagnose a patient’s condition, then it follows that they also will fail to provide the appropriate medical treatment. Like with diagnosis-related claims, failure to treat can result in diminished outcomes because it often causes the patient’s condition to progress further than it would have with the appropriate treatment. 

Medication Errors 

Prescribing medications comes with its own set of risks for doctors. While all FDA-approved medications have been deemed to be safe and effective, that does not mean that they are safe or effective for everyone. Patients with similar conditions can have wildly different reactions to the same medication.

Some examples of medication errors include: 

  • Prescribing the wrong medication 
  • Prescribing the incorrect dosage of a medication 
  • Prescribing the patient a medication they are allergic to 
  • Prescribing a medication that is contraindicated with another medication the patient is taking 
  • Failing to inform patients of potential side effects 
  • Giving the patient inadequate instructions on how to take the medication 

Medication errors like these can lead to accusations of medical malpractice, which is why you should contact a North Carolina medical malpractice defense attorney if you have been accused of making one of the errors above. 

Surgical Errors 

Many surgeries are life-and-death situations, which greatly increases the pressure on the doctors performing them. Surgery is also highly complex, and there are many things that can go wrong even under the best of circumstances. Some examples of surgical errors include: 

  • Operating at the wrong site
  • Performing the wrong procedure on the patient
  • Performing the procedure on the wrong patient 
  • Failure to follow hygiene protocols 
  • Causing internal damage (e.g., nerve damage, excessive bleeding, etc.) 
  • Leaving a surgical inside a patient’s body 

Anesthesia Errors 

Anesthesia is one of the many miracles of modern medicine, but doctors must thread the needle carefully. Too little anesthesia can cause the patient excruciating pain, while too much anesthesia can cause strokes, heart attacks, brain damage, and worse. Anesthetizing a patient is also not a “set it and forget” endeavor; the patient must be continually monitored to ensure that the anesthesia is having the desired effect and that the patient is not having negative reactions to it. 

Defeat Allegations of Medical Malpractice With Help From a North Carolina Medical Malpractice Defense Attorney 

Medical malpractice claims are serious business. Doctors and other professionals in the healthcare industry who are facing such claims need to mount an aggressive defense to preserve their reputations and livelihoods, and the best way to do that is with the assistance of an experienced attorney. For more information, please contact a North Carolina medical malpractice defense attorney at Harris, Creech, Ward & Blackerby by calling 252-638-6666 or using our online contact form.

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Harris, Creech, Ward & Blackerby, P.A.

325 Pollock Street, PO Drawer 1168,
New Bern, NC 28563

Tel: 252-638-6666
Fax: 252-638-3542

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