Answers to your Massachusetts medication error questions

Prescription drug errors fall under the category of medical malpractice. In a 2016 study, Johns Hopkins researchers reported findings that medical errors are third in the leading causes of death in the U.S. These mistakes, which include adverse drug events, represent at least 250,000 fatalities annually.

If you or a loved one becomes ill after a medication error occurs, you may have legal recourse in Massachusetts.

What are the most common types of medication errors?

Medication errors may include the following:

  • Prescribing the wrong medication or dosage
  • Prescribing an unsuitable medication for the patient
  • Prescribing medication without proper monitoring
  • Administering prescribed medication incorrectly
  • Dispensing medication incorrectly, either by the hospital, pharmacy or long-term care facility

How does the court determine medical malpractice?

Both action, such as prescribing the wrong medication, and inaction, such as failure to prescribe a potentially lifesaving medication, constitute legal negligence. If you file a malpractice claim, your lawyer must prove these facts:

  • The health care provider in question acted negligently
  • Those actions led to an injury
  • You suffered financially or otherwise as a result of that injury

In medical malpractice cases, negligence refers to the lack of the minimal standard of care that a responsible health care provider should give a patient. Massachusetts requires testimony from a health care provider in the same field as the defendant. His or her testimony establishes the standard of care.

What is the statute of limitations to file a claim?

As in most states, medical malpractice cases in Massachusetts have a strict statute of limitations. You have three years after the error occurred to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice. If you do not discover the error right away, the statute of limitations extends to seven years.

What damages can you receive?

The court can award financial damages for the following:

  • Past, current and future medical expenses
  • Loss of life or life expectancy
  • Loss of the ability to earn a living, actual lost wages and other economic costs
  • Loss of temporary or permanent body function
  • Mental and physical suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Disfigurement

Many people fail to report medical errors. If this happens to you or a loved one, know that you can seek help.


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