Medication errors harm millions of people each year in the US. Whether it is from the physician’s office, pharmacy, or in a hospital, these errors can not only cost hundreds of thousands in medical costs but also lead to numerous unnecessary deaths each year.
Patients go to their physician or local hospital for treatment. They want to feel better, and they trust that the medical professional taking care of them will do that. Equally, when they pick up medication from their pharmacist, they assume they are given a safe drug and the right medication. When medication errors occur, patients suffer serious consequences and these consequences can be long-lasting.
In instances of medication errors, it is not always clear who is liable. Sometimes it is the physician. But at other times, it might be a pharmacy technician. Determining liability in these cases is best left to an attorney with experience in medical malpractice.
Common Instances of Medication Errors in Louisville
Medication errors take many forms. Therefore, to understand how liability is determined, you must first understand how these errors happen.
Some commonly seen instances of medication errors in the United States include:
- Wrong Medication Prescribed – The wrong medication is prescribed, or the pharmacy fills the prescription with the wrong medication (such as one with a similar name).
- Incorrect Dosage – The dosage instructions are too potent or too little, making the treatment either ineffective or causing severe side effects (including an overdose).
- Drug Interactions – Without finding out the patient’s history or other medications they take (including over the counter medications), a drug is dispensed and the patient suffers a severe interaction between the two medications.
- Incorrect Dosage Information – Sometimes, the dosage amount is correct but the instructions for taking the medication are not. For example, the correct dosage is given but the patient is told to take the drug twice a day instead of once a day.
- Allergic Reaction – Some medications can cause an allergic reaction if a patient is allergic to a specific substance in that drug. Physicians and pharmacists must consult with the patient, review their medical history, and ensure they will not have a reaction to the medication prescribed.
Parties That Might Be Liable for a Medication Error
Now that you understand how these medication errors occur, the next stage is to understand who could be liable for the accidents.
Multiple parties or a single party could be liable for any injuries from medication errors, but it will depend on the circumstances of the case.
Potential defendants include:
Typically, the first target in a medication error case is the physician who prescribed the medication or the nurse who administered it. Doctors and nurses must not only ensure they prescribe the right medication but also administer the proper dose and medication.
A doctor must take precautions when prescribing, ensuring they are writing the right medication, dosage, and instructions so the pharmacy prints the proper information on the patient’s label.
A nurse, when administering medications prescribed by a doctor, must verify that the information is correct and that they are giving the right medication and dose as prescribed. Nurses are a secondary defense too. A nurse should question a physician’s order any time they are concerned that the prescription was miswritten.
Furthermore, if a patient is given a drug in the office or at the hospital, the staff on duty must watch the patient and observe for any adverse reactions. Failing to monitor the patient, even with the right medication given, is still negligence.
Pharmacists and Pharmacy Staff
Pharmacists and their technicians are also liable when medication errors happen in their stage of the distribution chain. Not only do they have a duty to ensure they fill a patient’s prescription with the right medication and dosage, but they also must double check any time there is a question about a prescription given to them.
Medical institutions, clinics, outpatient centers, and pharmacies can be liable for the actions of their employees. These organizations are sometimes the better target because they have the insurance and assets to pay out a claim for what it is worth. They owe the patient a duty of care by ensuring that they hire trained staff and that they continually monitor to ensure errors do not occur in their facility.
Because they are employers of the negligent worker, they can be held liable through vicarious liability.
There is an exception to this, however. If the hospital or facility does not employ the individual as an actual employee but instead as an independent contractor, they may escape liability.
Sometimes, the medication error occurs on the manufacturer’s side. They may fill a medication bottle with the wrong medication entirely, make a medicine too potent or not potent enough, or a medication could become contaminated. In this case, the manufacturer could be liable for any injuries caused by their neglect.
In rare instances, another third party may be liable. For example, the warehouse or shipper handling the medications stored them improperly, making them defective. In this case, they may be liable if a medication error occurs as a result.
Injured by a Medication Error? Speak with an Attorney Today
If a medication error injured you or a loved one, you have the right to seek compensation from the liable party. Sometimes, it is hard to tell who is responsible for your medication injuries – but an experienced attorney can help.
Attorney Seth Gladstein can help you with your medication error case. Whether you suspect the doctor, nurse, or hospital of causing your injuries, meet with him to discuss your situation and see what compensation you might qualify for.
Schedule a free consultation today by calling 502-791-9000 or schedule a free, confidential consultation online.