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What is Medical Malpractice?

In the relatively low but serious number of legitimate medical malpractice claims, certain types of medical errors tend to be more frequent than others. Medical malpractice occurs when a health-care provider deviates from the recognized “standard of care” in the treatment of a patient. In Florida, medical malpractice is legally defined as such:

“Medical negligence or professional negligence by act or omission by a health care provider in which the treatment provided falls below the accepted standard of practice in the medical community and causes injury or death to the patient.”

Like any other professional discipline, basic mistakes sometimes occur and medical negligence can be to blame in certain instances. Medical malpractice is a very serious matter that has the potential to end a medical career. If a doctor or other medical professional makes a minor error, or if a patient simply feels unsatisfied with a doctor’s bedside manner, the appropriate definition of medical malpractice is not likely to have been met.

Medical Malpractice Statistics

The following medical malpractice statistics have been gathered by a few different medical and insurance organizations throughout the US:

  • From 2005 to 2009, the average compensation for medical malpractice that occurred in the inpatient setting was close to $363,000, while the average award for healthcare mistakes in the outpatient setting was near $290,000.
  • In 2012, more than $3 billion was spent in the US on medical malpractice payouts, averaging one payout every 43 minutes.
  • Obstetrician-gynecologists (OBGYNs) are named as defendants in 19% of medical malpractice cases.
  • General surgeons are named defendants in 17% of cases.
  • Primary care physicians are named defendants in 16% of cases.
  • Of plaintiff patients, the 60% were female, with a median age of 38 years old. Roughly 1 in 5 plaintiffs were newborns/infants and approximately 12% were over age 65.
  • On average, medical errors kill roughly 200,000 patients in the U.S. each year.
  • Only 15% of the personal-injury lawsuits filed annually involve medical-malpractice claims, while roughly 80% of those lawsuits end with zero payment to the injured patient or their survivor.

Medical Malpractice Claims Highest in the Area of Obstetrics

A medical discipline with a notably high malpractice rate is obstetrics – doctors who specialize in pregnancy and childbirth. During the prenatal period malpractice issues sometimes include a failure to detect birth defects or a failure to timely diagnose dangerous health conditions in the mother.  Malpractice associated with childbirth can also involve a failure to order a timely cesarean delivery or the negligent use of forceps or vacuum. During labor and delivery, a newborn could suffer a number of physical injuries, including damage to the cranial nerve, brain, spinal cord, bones, muscles, ligaments or intra-abdominal injuries.

If the obstetrician or medical professional is not prepared to act or make a quick decision, simple childbirth complications can quickly develop into catastrophic issues. If the risks are too great, the obstetrician must determine whether a cesarean delivery should be performed. Some common causes of birth injuries sometimes linked to medical malpractice lawsuits include:

  • Excessive force used during delivery
  • A failure to timely recognize fetal distress
  • A failure to prepare/plan for a likely cesarean birth
  • Untreated post-birth seizures resulting in brain damage and subsequent cerebral palsy 


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