Guide To Medical Malpractice

Nobody’s perfect, and mistakes can occur within any professional industry. But when they happen in healthcare, the damage can be devastating and even life-threatening to patients who put their well-being in the hands of doctors and medical professionals they trust. Medical malpractice and medical negligence can cause undue and unendingsuering, leaving victims and their families feeling helpless and with countless questions as they try to recover and rebuild their lives. This informational guide aims to answer common questions concerning medical malpractice and negligence, leveraging the legal insight of professionals highly experienced in these complex, nuanced cases.


Medical malpractice and medical negligence are heavily related concepts within the healthcare context, but the two have some key differences. They each involve instances of healthcare professionals failing to provide an appropriate standard of care, resulting in harm to a patient. The breaches of duty in negligence cases are defined more by carelessness and simple mistakes versus knowledgeable intent underlying many malpractice cases.

Medical negligence refers to a breach of duty in the care owed by healthcare professionals to a patient that occurs when a provider fails to meet the standard of care that reasonably prudent and competent peers in the same field would or should have provided under similar circumstances. These breaches can be accidental or intentional acts or omissions during a patient’s diagnosis, treatment, or recovery process.

Medical malpractice involves more than just a simple mistake. Essentially, medical malpractice is a subset of medical negligence—all medical malpractice cases involve medical negligence, but not every negligence case necessarily amounts to medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice includes cases where a healthcare provider’s actions or omissions were so negligent or reckless that they could be deemed a breach of the provider’s duty of care, and the harm caused was reasonably foreseeable.

Although healthcare professionals often do not intend to harm a patient directly, acts of negligence are generally accidents born out of carelessness. Meanwhile, malpractice includes a conscious choice to deviate from understood standards of care.

LEARN MORE: What is the Difference Between Medical Malpractice & Negligence? 


Negligence can occur within every area and subset of healthcare, leading to many different types of medical malpractice cases. The following are among the most common examples resulting in medical negligence and malpractice cases:

Medical Misdiagnosis

Medical misdiagnosis is a significant issue in healthcare and occurs when a healthcare provider fails to identify a patient’s medical condition correctly or provides an inaccurate diagnosis. Misdiagnosis can result in delayed or incorrect treatment, unnecessary procedures, and potentially serious harm to the patient. Misdiagnosis can happen in various medical settings, including primary care, emergency departments, and specialty clinics.

Treatment for every injury or condition must begin with an accurate diagnosis and can go wrong as early as the x-ray or imaging. Failure at this crucial initial stage can quickly lead to further complications, and instances of medical misdiagnosis have become one of the most common causes of negligent acts and cases of malpractice.

The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine estimates that diagnostic errors affect 12 million Americans yearly, causing more harm than all other medical errors combined and leading to 40,000-80,000 deaths in US hospitals alone.

The consequences of medical misdiagnosis can be significant and vary depending on the severity of the misdiagnosed condition and the delay in appropriate treatment. Some potential consequences include:

  • Delayed Treatment. A misdiagnosis can lead to delays in receiving proper treatment, potentially allowing the underlying condition to worsen or progress to a more advanced stage.
  • Unnecessary Treatment. Patients may undergo unnecessary medical procedures, medications, or surgeries based on incorrect diagnoses, exposing them to potential risks and side effects.
  • Physical and Emotional Harm. Patients may experience physical harm and emotional distress due to the consequences of misdiagnosis, including prolonged suffering and anxiety.
  • Worsening Condition. A misdiagnosis may lead to a lack of appropriate management, causing the patient’s condition to deteriorate or become irreversible.
  • Financial Burden. Misdiagnosis can result in unnecessary healthcare expenses, as patients may incur costs for treatments and procedures that are irrelevant to their condition.

LEARN MORE: Medical Misdiagnosis & Failure to Diagnose

Surgical Errors

Surgical errors occur when mistakes are made during a surgical procedure, leading to adverse outcomes for the patient. Every surgical procedure carries some level of inherent risk, and there are many ways that operation errors can impact patients. From complications involving site preparation and anesthesia to post-surgical monitoring and infections, mistakes before and after a procedure are more common than those made on the operating table. A scalpel slipping by just a millimeter or two can cause major nerve damage or other adverse effects, leading to ongoing complications and suffering.

In addition to fatigue and lack of experience or training, causes of surgical errors include:

  • Communication breakdown may occur among surgical team members, including surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists.
  • Due to time constraints and a heavy workload, the surgical staff may not have adequate time to prepare for surgery or may rush through procedures.
  • Inadequate preoperative planning, including failure to thoroughly review patient medical history, conduct proper preoperative assessments, and obtain informed consent.

LEARN MORE: Surgical Negligence & Common Operation Errors

Childbirth Injuries

The birth of a child should be one of the most exciting and happiest moments in a mother’s life. Unfortunately for too many parents and families, preventable childbirth injuries during prenatal, delivery, and neonatal care can carry life-altering consequences. Failure by professionals to monitor and promptly respond to signs of distress, infection, oxygen deprivation, or other trauma can lead to physical or cognitive disabilities and infant fatalities.

While some childbirth complications, such as broken bones, will be immediately apparent, brain damage that can lead to cerebral palsy or other developmental disabilities is unlikely to be discovered immediately. It may take years to uncover that damage was caused during childbirth due to medical negligence or malpractice.

Childbirth injuries in medical malpractice cases are a distressing and complex issue that can have lifelong consequences for both the mother and the child. Medical malpractice occurs when healthcare providers deviate from the accepted standard of care during childbirth, harming the mother or the baby. Childbirth injuries can range from minor complications to severe and permanent disabilities. Understanding the common causes, types of childbirth injuries, and the legal aspects of these cases is essential for seeking justice and improving maternal and neonatal care.

Some common types of childbirth injuries include:

  • Birth Trauma. Birth trauma refers to injuries during birthing, such as fractures, nerve damage, and soft tissue injuries.
  • Brachial Plexus Injuries. Brachial plexus injuries can happen when the nerves in the baby’s shoulder and arm are damaged during delivery, leading to conditions like Erb’s palsy or Klumpke’s palsy.
  • Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral palsy is a group of neurological disorders that can result from brain damage during childbirth. It leads to motor impairments and may be caused by oxygen deprivation or trauma during delivery.
  • Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). HIE is a type of brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation during childbirth. It can result in severe and permanent neurological deficits.
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage. Postpartum hemorrhage occurs when the mother experiences excessive bleeding after childbirth, which can be life-threatening if not promptly treated.
  • Uterine Rupture. Uterine rupture is a rare but severe complication where the uterus tears during labor, potentially leading to life-threatening complications for both the mother and the baby.

Childbirth injuries can result from various factors, including:

  • Failure to Monitor. Inadequate monitoring during labor and delivery can lead to delayed recognition of distress signs in the mother or the baby, resulting in preventable injuries.
  • Miscommunication. Poor communication among healthcare team members can lead to missing critical information or misunderstandings leading to medical errors.
  • Delayed or Improper Interventions. Failure to perform timely and appropriate interventions, such as a cesarean section (C-section) when indicated, can result in birth injuries.
  • Inadequate Staffing and Training. Insufficient staffing levels or inadequate training of healthcare providers can impact the quality of care provided during childbirth.
  • Misuse of Medical Instruments. Improper use of forceps, vacuum extractors, or other medical instruments during delivery can cause trauma to the baby.
  • Medication Errors. Errors in administering medication, such as epidural anesthesia, can have adverse effects on both the mother and the baby.

LEARN MORE: How Long After a Birth Injury Can You Sue?

Medication Errors

Medication errors in medical malpractice cases are a serious and concerning issue that can have significant consequences for patients and healthcare providers alike. A medication error occurs when there is a mistake in the prescribing, dispensing, or administering of medication, leading to adverse effects on the patient’s health. Nearly half of all fatalities linked to medication errors stem from improper dosage levels. Prescribing or providing the incorrect medication or incorrect routes of administration—orally rather than intravenously, for example—are other negligent errors that can lead to harm for many patients. In medical malpractice, medication errors can form the basis of a claim if they result from negligence or substandard care.

Medication errors encompass a wide range of incidents, such as administering the wrong medication, incorrect dosage, drug interactions, and failure to monitor a patient’s response to medication. These errors can occur in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and pharmacies. The consequences of medication errors can be severe, ranging from minor adverse effects to life-threatening complications or even death.

In medical malpractice cases involving medication errors, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, who must demonstrate that the healthcare provider’s actions deviated from the accepted standard of care and that this deviation directly caused harm to the patient. Proving medication errors in a medical malpractice claim can be complex and may require expert testimony to establish the causal relationship between the error and the resulting harm.

Healthcare providers have a duty to exercise reasonable care and adhere to established protocols when prescribing, dispensing, and administering medications. They are responsible for accurately assessing a patient’s medical history, allergies, and potential drug interactions before prescribing or administering any medication. Failure to take these precautions may constitute negligence in the eyes of the law.

Medication errors can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Communication Errors. Inadequate communication among healthcare providers, such as misinterpreting handwritten prescriptions or failing to communicate changes in medication orders, can lead to errors.
  • Lack of Standardization. Inconsistent medication protocols and a lack of standardization in medication administration can increase the risk of errors.
  • Fatigue and Overwork. Healthcare providers working long hours and being fatigued are more prone to making errors in medication orders and administration.
  • Inadequate Training and Education. Healthcare providers who lack proper training and knowledge in medication management may be more likely to make mistakes.
  • Distractions and Interruptions. Frequent interruptions and distractions in a busy healthcare environment can contribute to medication errors.
  • Electronic Health Record (EHR) Issues. Technical glitches or errors in EHR systems can lead to incorrect medication orders or missed drug interactions.
  • Drug Labeling and Packaging. Confusing drug names, similar packaging, and unclear labeling can contribute to medication errors.

LEARN MORE: Prescription Mistakes & Medication Errors


Medical malpractice and negligence are complex, often-complicated legal pursuits with a heavy burden of proof on the victimized plaintiff. There are instances, however, when family members may file a lawsuit on a loved one’s behalf:

  • Parents or legal guardians may pursue medical malpractice litigation if their child is a victim under 18.
  • Family members granted power of attorney are authorized to make any legal decisions for relatives who are malpractice victims if they’ve been incapacitated without the physical or cognitive ability to do so on their own.
  • For instances of medical malpractice that result in the wrongful death of the victim, the personal representative of their estate may file the case. Indiana state law then specifies that the deceased’s spouse, children, parents, or legal guardians can stand to receive compensation and damages from any ensuing settlement.

LEARN MORE:  Can Family Members Sue for Medical Malpractice?


The most important step in beginning to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit is meeting with an experienced attorney familiar with the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act and its unique complexities. Additional helpful steps and parts of the process include:

Keep a written record and journal of all information about the events leading up to, during, and following the potentially negligent event and instances of perceived malpractice. A reliable timeline of conversations, interactions, and injuries will help an attorney with discovery in your case.

Find another doctor and request all medical records. You’re legally entitled to your medical records, which can help your attorneys build your case and prove what led to your injuries. They’ll also need to obtain an affidavit from your new physician or another healthcare expert confirming your condition or injury is related to medical malpractice.
Before filing in court, alleged malpractice victims and their legal team must file a complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance, which will notify the accused medical provider and their insurance carrier. In most cases, an impartial medical review panel will review the complaint’s validity and issue an opinion that isn’t legally binding but will hold considerable sway if the case moves forward to trial instead of settling.

LEARN MORE: How to Begin a Medical Malpractice Claim


With most injury claims, including medical malpractice and negligence, lawsuits must be filed within a limited time window. The time limits vary by state, with most set between two and four years.

In Indiana, medical malpractice claims face a two-year statute of limitations from the date the injury or negligence occurred—or when it should have been reasonably discovered in cases with delayed noticeable symptoms.

Any claims filed following the expiration of the statute of limitations will be dismissed, preventing victims or their families from ever recovering compensation for their losses or suffering. A shorter, two-year statute encourages victims to move forward with legal proceedings as soon as possible following acts of potential negligence or malpractice. Memories can fade, evidence can be misplaced over time, and shorter statutes of limitations deter other medical conditions from being incorrectly blamed on an innocent healthcare provider long after the fact.

There are, however, a small handful of exceptions to Indiana’s two-year statute, in addition to delayed discovery, involving children under the age of 6 and cases requiring approval from a medical review panel.

LEARN MORE: What is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice?


If a medical malpractice or negligence claim is successful, victims and their families may be entitled to monetary compensation, including coverage of medical expenses, lost wages from missing work, pain and suffering, disability or disfigurement, and other related damages.

The amount of compensation awarded depends on the specific circumstances of each case. For cases of malpractice occurring after July 1, 2019, Indiana law caps the amount of compensation available at $1.8 million.

LEARN MORE: How Much Can You Get From a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?


With more than 40 years of experience handling medical malpractice cases across Indiana, Montross Miller has developed a reputation for handling complex cases and getting deserved results.

We’re committed to serving those who have experienced devastating negligence and medical malpractice, making your story heard, answering your questions, and helping you find a path forward. We aggressively pursue life-rebuilding compensation for our clients and their families and look forward to helping you recover in every way we can. Reach out to our team and get strength today for security tomorrow.