A Jury Verdict Research study found that the average verdict in an improper medication case is $3,539,541.
That is a big number. The median, which many consider a more accurate number, is $1.2 million. Verdicts ranged from $2,074 to $35,500,000. But only 28% of medication error plaintiffs recover at trial. I think the problem in many medication error cases where plaintiffs do not prevail is causation because sometimes the medication error compounds a larger pre-existing health condition and it is difficult for the jury and the doctors to sort it out.
Incredibly, 1.5 million people are victims of medication errors every year, according to an Institute of Medicine study from a few years ago. Most of these errors are relatively harmless. We get frequent calls from people who are justifiably angry that such a careless error was made. But, more often than not, they don’t have a case because they were not significantly injured (in the malpractice sense of the word, anyway). Still, more people die annually from medication errors than from on-the-job injuries, according to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, and the extra medical costs incurred from improper medication errors each year is a whopping $3.5 billion.
Five Types of Medication Malpractice Mistakes Our Lawyers See
There are many different types of medication errors. But our Maryland medication error lawyers mostly see five types of medication malpractice:
- Dosage errors: This can include administering too much or too little medication, or administering the medication at the wrong time. This is usually harmless error. But when it is not, the results can be fatal. Dosage errors can happen for several reasons, such as miscalculating the dose, misunderstanding the prescription, or incorrectly measuring or administering the medication. In some cases, patients may receive an incorrect dose due to confusion over medication strength, such as confusing milligrams and micrograms.
- Administration errors: This can include administering the wrong medication or administering the medication through the wrong route (such as administering a medication intended for oral use through a nasal tube). This is often a nurse’s mistake (or the hospital because the nurse is too busy). Often trying to juggle multiple patients in a hosptial setting, nurse administers medication to multiple patients and confuses who get what.
- Prescribing errors: This can include prescribing the wrong medication, prescribing the wrong dose, or prescribing a medication that is contraindicated for the patient. The culprit? Usually doctors in a hurry.
- Drug interactions: There are several combinations of drugs that can cause severe or potentially fatal drug interactions, including the combination of cholesterol drugs and oral antifungals, blood pressure medication and NSAID drugs, SSRIs and triptan drugs, blood thinners and antibiotics or anti-seizure drugs, warfarin and simvastatin, and alcohol with a variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications.
- Dispensing errors: This can include dispensing the wrong medication, dispensing the wrong dose, or dispensing medication to the wrong patient. This happens all of the time and it is usually is not harmful to the patient.
Another problem that our attorneys have seen is doctors getting carried away with free drug samples provided by manufacturers is a common cause of prescription errors. The are sometimes doled out like candy with a lack of proper documentation of the medications’ use by patients. And the “one-off” prescription leads to the neglect of usual drug-interaction checks and counseling, which lead to medication errors.
Medication Error Settlements and Verdicts
Medication errors can have devastating consequences for patients, and in some cases, can lead to medical malpractice lawsuits. Medication errors can occur at any stage of the medication use process, including prescribing, dispensing, and administering medications.
Below are summaries of reported settlements and verdicts from medical malpractice cases involving various types of medication errors.
2022 Florida – $158,000 Verdict: newborn required resuscitation after loss of oxygen during birth, but during that process, instead of obtaining epinephrine from the neonatal crash cart, a nurse obtained and administered ephedrine. Child suffered serious brain injuries. Hospital admitted medication error but contended that it was not the cause of the brain injury.
2021 Washington – $21,476 Verdict: plaintiff claimed that the defendant pharmacy gave her an erroneous prescription for Xanax, which was not the drug prescribed by her doctor, and taking the medication caused her to pass out and collapse.
2021 New Jersey – $21,500 Settlement: an alleged mistake by Rite-Aid Pharmacy in Cape May County, New Jersey resulted in the plaintiff (a minor) being dispensed Clonazepam, a seizure and anxiety medication, instead of Clonidine. Error caused dizziness and trouble walking.
2020 Pennsylvania – $1,150,000 Settlement: 27-year-old male went to hospital for substance abuse treatment. He was given medication that caused depression of his central nervous system and he died. Wrongful death lawsuit claimed that hospital negligent gave medication without referring to his medical history.
2020 Illinois – $600,906 Verdict: doctor prescribed Clarithromycin for infection, which contraindicated with patient’s Simvastatin blood pressure medication, causing her to suffer statin toxicity and rhabdomyolysis.
2019 Texas – $684,000 Verdict: 74-year-old woman suffered an ischemic stroke and died after doctor changed her medication for a-FIB from Pradaxa to Warfarin. Lawsuit alleged that doctor negligently failed to do proper lab work before switching medications.
2019 Pennsylvania – $900,000 Settlement: 50-year-old man died after being administered deadly combination of Morphine, Methadone, Oxycontin, Oxycodone, and Xanax by staff at defendant hospital. Lawsuit claimed that the hospital failed to account for his level of intoxication when meds were given.
2015 Utah – $1,407,211 Verdict: 71-year-old male patient at a rehabilitation and nursing facility died after a nurse mistakenly gave him medication that was intended for a different patient. The medication (morphine) caused an allergic reaction that led to the patient’s death. Verdict was reduced to $914,687 based on comparative negligence.
2014 Idaho – $760,000 Verdict: plaintiff, 39-year-old female, was undergoing routine shoulder arthroscopy at defendant hospital. She was mistakenly given a pre-surgical injection of Epinephrine at a very high concentration instead of the diluted concentration she was supposed to get. The mistake caused her to go into cardiac arrest, resulting in a mild brain injury.
Hiring a Medication Error Lawyer in Maryland
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medication error, it is important to seek legal representation immediately. Our experienced team of Maryland malpractice attorneys is dedicated to fighting for the rights of those who have been harmed due to the negligence of healthcare providers. We understand the complexities of these cases and will work tirelessly to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
Contact ouar lawyers today at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation to discuss your legal options. Let our law firm fight for the compensation and justice you deserve. You can also get a case evaluation online.