7 Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice in the U.S. June 14, 2024.

7 Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice in the U.S.

Countless patients trust their medical providers to provide them with accurate diagnoses, effective treatment, and attentive care. But, the reality is that even the best doctors can make mistakes that lead to serious consequences for the patient. 

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical provider is negligent and makes errors that harm their patient. This negligence can stem from several factors, such as miscommunication, fatigue, or lack of experience. 

Medical malpractice can occur in any area of healthcare, which means that any medical provider can be held liable, regardless of their speciality.

How Common is Medical Malpractice in the United States?

Medical malpractice is a significant problem, even in 2024. According to one study, 400,000 patients are harmed each year by preventable medical errors. 

The most common types of medical malpractice in the United States are:

  1. Misdiagnosis

  2. Surgical errors

  3. Birth Injuries

  4. Medication errors

  5. Anesthesia errors

  6. Failure to obtain informed consent

  7. Failure to prevent and treat infections


Misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor incorrectly diagnoses a patient. Notably, 34% of medical malpractice claims that resulted in serious injuries were caused by misdiagnosis. The three medical conditions that are most commonly misdiagnosed are cancers, infections, and vascular events. 

Medical conditions are often misdiagnosed due to:

  • The medical provider misdiagnoses their patient’s symptoms for a different medical condition.

  • The medical provider lacks experience.

  • The medical provider misinterprets the data from the testing.

  • There are errors in the patient’s medical records.

When patients experience misdiagnosis for months or even years, their treatment options may become more limited. Treatments are usually more aggressive as well. As certain conditions progress, the patient's prognosis usually worsens. 

For instance, if colon cancer is found early, the survival rate is 91%. However, if it is caught late once it has spread throughout the body, the survival rate is only 11%.

Surgical Errors

Surgical errors are referred to as “never events”. This means that these errors are 100% identifiable and preventable, so they should never happen. However, blatant negligence and a disregard for patient safety cause these errors to continue to occur. 

Even though surgical errors are preventable, these errors are far from rare. According to a recent study, these errors account for around 25% of medical malpractice claims in the United States.

Common errors during surgery include:

  • Leaving a foreign object in the body (ie. surgical tool, sponge, etc)

  • Puncturing organs or arteries

  • Performing surgery on the wrong limb

  • Performing the wrong surgical procedure

  • Causing nerve damage 

Surgical errors can lead to long-lasting complications for the patient, including permanent paralysis, severe disfigurement, chronic pain, or death.

Birth Injuries

Birth injuries are injuries that occur before, during, or after birth. These injuries affect around 3 newborns every hour in the United States. 

Birth injuries can occur when:

  • The baby is not properly monitored..

  • Forceps or vacuums are used to assist during the delivery.

  • The doctors fail to recognize that the baby is not receiving enough oxygen.

  • The doctors use excessive force during the delivery.

Some birth injuries are temporary, like bruising, but other birth injuries can affect the child for their entire life. Birth injuries can cause conditions like spinal damage, cerebral palsy, brain damage, fractured skull, and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.

Medication Errors

A medication error occurs when a medical provider incorrectly prescribes, dispenses, or administers medications. The Food and Drug Administration receives over 100,000 reports of these errors annually.

Not all of these complaints caused injuries, however many of them can have serious consequences if they are not corrected immediately.

Common medication errors include:

  • Incorrect dosage

  • Incorrect medication 

  • Failure to recognize allergies

  • Incorrect patient

  • Incorrect administration rate

  • Failure to recognize drug interactions 

The severity of medication errors varies from mild to severe. Minor errors may cause discomfort, but the side effects will likely go away once they stop taking the medication. However, serious errors can lead to organ damage, skin disfigurement, or even death.

Anesthesia Errors

Annually, in the U.S. more than 40 million people are put under anesthesia for various medical procedures. Anesthesia is relatively safe for most people. However if the dosage is wrong, or the patient is not monitored throughout the procedure, then it can be extremely dangerous.

Common anesthesia mistakes include:

  • Too much anesthesia

  • Failure to monitor the patient

  • Prolonged sedition

  • Intubation error

  • Spinal cord injuries

Anesthesia errors can potentially have severe complications for the patient. Consequences of anesthesia errors can lead to brain injury, stroke, respiratory issues, heart attack, and death.

Lack of Informed Consent

Informed consent is essential to ensure that patients have control over their healthcare decisions. 

Before any procedure, the doctor has to make sure the patient

  • Knows the risks, benefits, and facts.

  • Does not have any questions regarding treatment.

  • Voluntary agrees to the procedure.

  • Has decision-making capacity.

If the doctor does not obtain informed consent, and the patient sustains severe injuries, then the doctor could face legal action.


However, during emergencies, medical professionals may not obtain informed consent because they need to perform life-saving measures. In these situations, doctors have the duty to carry out any procedures that could save the patient’s life.

Failure to Prevent and Treat Infections

Healthcare facilities are supposed to be sterile and clean, but this is not always the case. Many hospitals and clinics fail to maintain a clean environment for their patients. This makes some facilities a breeding ground for infections. 

To prevent infections all healthcare facilities should have protocols in place such as:

  • Staff have to wash hands before and after contact with patients.

  • Keep wounds cleaned and regularly change bandages.

  • Keep catheter and medical tube sites clean.

Without these protocols in place, patients are at a higher risk for healthcare-acquired infections (HAI). The most common HAIs are surgical site infections, pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and urinary tract infections.

Infections are bad enough as is, but they can cause more problems if they are not properly treated. Untreated infections can spread to other parts of the body, which can turn deadly. 

Contact The Mellino Law Firm

If you suspect that you or a loved one suffered injuries due to medical malpractice, we encourage you to contact our Cleveland medical malpractice attorneys. With extensive experience in handling medical malpractice cases, our attorneys have secured settlements and verdicts against every hospital organization in the Cleveland area.

For more information about medical malpractice, download our free e-book “Was It a Mistake? Your Ohio Medical Malpractice Questions Answered”.

Contact The Mellino Law Firm today by dialing (440) 333-3800 or filling out our quick contact form. We will get back to you as soon as possible to set up a free initial consultation.