Prescription Error Lawyer
A Philadelphia Medication Error Lawyer Can Help You Get Compensation
Every year in the United States, prescription errors harm at least 1.5 million people. These errors can occur for a number of reasons, such as confusion about brand-name medications, illegible handwriting, incorrect or misinterpreted abbreviations, and failure to adjust dosages for pediatric patients.
Among organizations that study and report on prescription errors, a prevailing theme is that these mistakes usually occur not because of one person, but because of a systematic breakdown in processes and communication. In a hospital setting, where most medication errors occur, there may be many events that precede a harmful medication mistake. When prescription errors occur, they can cause serious health complications for patients and result in longer hospital stays, high medical and rehabilitation costs, and, in some instances, lead to death.
If you or a family member was harmed or someone has died because of a prescription error that was the fault of another party, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses through insurance or a lawsuit. However, Pennsylvania injury laws are complicated, and insurance companies are out for profit and will try to deny your claim or get you to settle for the lowest amount possible. Fortunately, you do not have to fight for a fair settlement alone. The experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice and medication error lawyers at Wapner Newman are here to help you navigate through the legal system and get you the compensation you deserve.
Our dedicated legal team has been able to achieve the best possible outcomes for injury victims in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. There are no fees to you unless and until we win your case, so contact Wapner Newman today at (215) 569-0900 for a free consultation.
How Our Medication Error Lawyers Work to Help You
Medication error claims deal with complex issues stemming from Pennsylvania’s laws and the way medications are prescribed and distributed. At Wapner Newman, we know the laws and the system, and we have the experience necessary to determine who is responsible for the error and hold them accountable for the harm they’ve caused our clients.
When you have our medication error lawyers on your side, we will…
- Meet with you to discuss how you feel the error occurred, who you feel is responsible, and determine whether you have a valid case and what it should be worth
- Investigate the circumstances and potential causes of your injury and gather evidence such as from photos and videos, medical records and reports
- Build a case based on our research, Pennsylvania law and similar cases
- Hire expert witnesses to testify as to the harm you received and how it affects your life and family
- Deal firmly and aggressively with healthcare providers, insurance companies and other attorneys, and attempt to negotiate a fair settlement
- Build your case and take your case to trial, if necessary.
We will be there for you throughout the entire process, keeping you informed on the progress of your case and answering any questions you might have.
What Our Lawyers Must Prove in a Medication Error Lawsuit
Not every mistake or problem with medications rises to the level of malpractice. For your case to be successful, our medication error attorneys must show the existence of the following elements:
- Duty – You were owed a duty of care, the standard of care that is expected of all healthcare professionals to do everything possible to provide proper medical care to patients and not cause harm.
- Breach – There was a breach of the standard of care, such as failing to inquire about your medical history or allergies, writing a prescription illegibly, or administering the wrong drug.
- Cause – This negligence was a direct cause of the injury or illness that you suffered.
- Damages – You suffered damages as a result, such as loss of income, additional medical expenses, or pain and suffering.
- The doctor was negligent – To prove negligence, a patient must show a doctor caused injury by acting in a way contrary to how a competent doctor would behave.
Medication errors that cause harm to patients
Medication errors aren’t always due to prescribing the wrong medication. There are many types of medication errors that can have serious consequences for a patient.
Medication errors that may stem from doctor negligence include:
- Prescribing the wrong medication without considering symptoms, allergies, or patient and family medical history
- Prescribing or administering the wrong dosage of a medication
- Failure to warn about risks or side effects of the medication
- Failure to consider interactions between different prescription drugs.
However, be aware that not all medication errors mean the doctor or pharmacist is automatically liable. Sometimes, there may be other reasons for a problem, such as an unknown allergy or underlying health condition.
Damages Awards Our Prescription Error Malpractice Lawyers May Help You Recover
In a successful lawsuit, you can win compensation, called damages, that covers both your economic or monetary losses and your non-economic losses such as pain and suffering. Damage awards in Pennsylvania fall into the following categories:
Compensatory Damages – compensation for both your economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic Damages for your actual costs resulting from the medication error including:
- Medical, rehabilitation, and continuing care expenses
- Lost wages from not being able to work
- Funeral costs, should a death occur
Non-economic Damages – Non-economic damages are awarded to compensate you for losses that do not have a specific dollar value, but negatively affect your life, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional distress, anguish, anxiety, and stress
- Loss of companionship and consortium
- Loss of quality and enjoyment of life
Pennsylvania does not cap compensatory and non-economic damages, so there are no limits to how much a court can award you.
In some rare situations, when the medication error was caused by actions that were willful or wanton misconduct or reckless indifference to your rights, you may also be awarded punitive damages. An example would be a situation where a medical professional wrote a prescription to cause deliberate harm. Pennsylvania law caps punitive damages at 200 percent of compensatory damages if there is no intentional misconduct on the part of the healthcare professional.
In addition, 25 percent of all punitive damages awarded to a patient must go into a special fund known as the MCARE Fund. This fund is to provide payment to patients whose claims exceed the medical malpractice insurance coverage of the healthcare provider.
Amounts of Damage Awards You May Receive
Every case is different, so there is a wide range of damage awards possible. In a successful case, amounts may range from the thousands to the millions of dollars, depending on the circumstances of the case and factors that may include:
- The extent, severity, and permanence of your injury and whether you will need continuing care
- Your age, earning capacity, and family situation
- Whether you will be able to work in the future
- Whether death was involved
- The availability of insurance and personal assets of the defendants
- The individual judge and jury in the case
- The availability of evidence and the skill of your attorneys to prove malpractice.
Our attorneys will evaluate the circumstances of your case and estimate approximately what fair compensation would be and then negotiate aggressively with insurers for a reasonable settlement. Should negotiations fail, we are fully prepared to take your case to trial.
Medication Mistake Lawyer Explains Why Errors Occur
There are many reasons that result in tragically harmful medication errors. Here are some common scenarios:
When Safety Protocols Fail
A system designed to prevent accidents should have several layers, so if safety “falls through a hole” in one layer, the next layer will prevent the problem from advancing. But when safety protocols have serious flaws at every level – mistakes are likely.
The Patient Safety Authority described one such scenario that occurred in a hospital whose pharmacy isn’t open 24 hours. A doctor gave verbal instructions to a nurse to obtain an antibiotic for an infant, and she misheard the dosage as 500 mg instead of 5 mg. The pharmacy was closed, so the nursing supervisor used an override function to get medication from the automated dispensing cabinet. She grabbed the adult dosage, without noticing that the infant dosage was in the same cabinet, and two other nurses handled the vials of medicine before it was erroneously given to the infant. The child survived and did not appear to suffer any long-term impairment of renal function, which has been associated with high dosages of the medication she was given.
Had the pharmacy been open at the time, it’s highly unlikely a pharmacist would have dispensed the wrong medication for the infant – and had the doctor written down the dosage, the nurse probably would have selected the appropriate medication. The Patient Safety Authority says automated dispensing cabinets in hospitals increase the opportunity for serious medication mistakes to occur, because the pharmacist’s review of a prescription is an important part of overall safety protocols.
Lack of Clarity
Many prescription errors occur because of misread or incorrect abbreviations, confusion about brand names, or a misinterpretation of a physician’s handwriting. Even typed abbreviations can be misinterpreted, according to the Food & Drug Administration.
The FDA reports that the abbreviation AZT, which stands for zidovudine, has been misinterpreted to mean azathioprine. Zidovudine is administered to HIV-positive pregnant women to reduce the chance of the infection’s passing on to the baby. Azathioprine is a drug used in kidney transplants, to prevent the body from rejecting a new kidney. It works by suppressing the immune system, so it could be especially harmful if administered to an HIV-positive pregnant woman who has a weak immune system.
Latin apothecary abbreviations also present a risk of misinterpretation. TIW or tiw means “three times a week,” but it may be misinterpreted by pharmacists to mean “three times daily.” Qhs means “at bedtime,” but it has been misread as “every hour.”
Medication names can be highly similar, and easily confused. In Pennsylvania, numerous mix-ups have occurred among the similarly named Humalog R, Humalog, Humalog 75/25, Humulin R, Humulin 70/30, Novolog R, Novolog 70/30 and Novolin R 70/30. All of those medications are forms of insulin which, if misused, could cause dangerous changes in blood sugar levels.
Injection and IV Errors
In Pennsylvania, insulin has been associated with more prescription errors than any other type of drug, accounting for 2,685 reportable events from January 2008 to June 6, 2009. And aside from administering the wrong medication, wrong dosage, or no dosage at all, medical staffers across the country have apparently put thousands of people at risk by misusing equipment.
The FDA issued an advisory in February 2015 about the importance of labeling multi-use diabetes pen devices. The pens contain multiple doses of medication and are intended for use on only one patient, but the FDA learned that many medical personnel had been reusing the pens on multiple patients, exposing them to a risk of bloodborne infection.
One situation that may be highly prone to error is the administration of drugs through an intravenous (IV) tube, especially when patients are connected to several IV lines. In some cases, drugs have been injected into IV lines that weren’t connected to patients, or automated pumps were programmed incorrectly and delivered the wrong amount of medication. In one instance, a new mother asked for a pain reliever, and the medication was injected into the IV of her infant child.
Common Side Effects of Medication Errors
Some side effects of medication errors may be minor, such as drowsiness, mildly increased heart rate, or feeling loopy. However, in many cases, the resulting effects can cause serious injury and result in permanent health problems.
Some of the most common medication reactions and effects include:
- Dangerously high or low blood pressure or heart rate
- Breathing problems
- Internal bleeding
- Allergic reactions
- Drug addiction
- Brain damage, loss of consciousness
- Hallucinations, distorted thinking, suicidal thoughts, depression
- Heart failure, stroke
If someone dies due to medication error, our attorneys can file a lawsuit for wrongful death. According to Pennsylvania law (Title 42, Chapter 83 of the Pennsylvania General Statutes, Section 8301), a wrongful death is one “caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another.” Wrongful death cases may be looked at as a type of personal injury claim made by the representative of the deceased, because the deceased could no longer do so.
Call Our Medication Mistake Lawyer to Determine Accountability
Medication errors can occur in almost any healthcare setting, and often patients may not realize when they’ve been given the wrong medication or wrong dosage. Even for outpatients who are sent home with prescriptions, there may be mistakes in dosage that could cause serious consequences.
If a prescription error has harmed you or a member of your family, we want to help you hold the responsible parties accountable. Tracing these mistakes to their source is a complicated process, but the Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at Wapner Newman have years of experience with such cases.
Don’t delay. There are time limits for filing. According to Pennsylvania law (Consolidated statutes, Title 42 § 5524), the deadline for filing a medical malpractice case is generally two years from the time the prescription error allegedly occurred or when you knew or should have known that you had an injury caused by the prescription error. If you do not file before this deadline, the courts most likely will refuse to hear your case. In addition, it’s best to start a lawsuit as soon as possible while evidence is fresh and witnesses can be found.
Call the skilled medication error lawyers at Wapner Newman today at (215) 569-0900 for your free consultation to examine your situation and see how we can help. Our attorneys help clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.