Medical malpractice makes the news occasionally, but it’s actually strikingly common. Errors caused by medical practitioners are the third leading cause of death among Americans, behind cancer and heart disease.

Despite its prevalence—it’s responsible for around 225,000 reported deaths every year, and likely many more that go unreported—only a small percentage of victims file legal claims for medical malpractice compensation.

What counts as medical malpractice?

There are numerous causes of medical errors that result in complications or death. The following are some of the most common mistakes physicians and healthcare providers make:

  1. Incorrect or delayed diagnosis. This is the number one error doctors make. It can stall proper treatment, or even result in the wrong type of treatment, which can cause additional harm. Unnecessary surgeries can cause life-threatening complications, as can incorrect medication prescriptions. In some cases, a doctor may overlook a medical issue and fail to diagnose it at all, leaving the condition to potentially worsen.
  2. Lack of coordination among healthcare providers. Sometimes, you’ll end up seeing multiple different physicians during the course of diagnosing and treating a condition or illness. If they don’t coordinate information related to tests, medications, and other notes, you can end up with a discrepancy in your treatment that results in an error. Furthermore, discharging patients from a hospital too soon or without adequate follow-up information can be harmful.
  3. Negligence or accidents. Whether it’s a mistake during surgery, a lack of proper sanitation, or an oversight from a nurse or physician, some forms of negligence can be deadly. There are cases of surgeons accidentally leaving operating tools inside of an incision, patients contracting infections from the hospital they’re in due to cross-contamination, and possible malfunctions due to a faulty medical device, all of which can result in injury, additional complications, or death.

If you’ve survived an incident of medical malpractice, or have lost a loved one to it, it’s important to find an attorney to represent you. The more that people report and bring medical malpractice suits to court, the more statistics can be compiled to work toward future improvements.