If you or a loved one has suffered due to a medication error in Cherry Hill or the surrounding areas, our experienced team of medication error lawyers is here to provide the dedicated and compassionate legal representation you deserve. With a proven track record in successfully resolving complex medical malpractice cases, we are committed to ensuring that healthcare providers are held accountable for their actions and that you receive the compensation you need to heal and move forward. Trust Cuneo & Leonetti to be your advocate in these trying times; let us navigate the complexities of the legal system on your behalf. Contact us today for your free consultation and start your path to justice.
What are Medication Errors?
Medication errors can happen at various points in the healthcare process, from the moment a physician prescribes a medication to the instant a pharmacist dispenses it or a nurse administers it. Medication errors can include incorrect dosages, administering the wrong drug, failure to account for drug interactions, and errors related to patient allergies, among others. Such mistakes can lead to severe complications, long-term health issues, or even death.
Common Types of Medication Errors
Medication errors can happen at any point in the healthcare system, but some types are more common than others. While the list is not exhaustive, here are some common types of medication errors often encountered in Cherry Hill and surrounding areas:
- Wrong Dosage: Prescribing or administering an incorrect dosage can lead to ineffective treatment or adverse reactions.
- Wrong Medication: Sometimes the drug given is entirely different from what was prescribed, which can result in worsening of the condition or cause additional health issues.
- Wrong Patient: Medication intended for one patient is given to another, potentially causing harm to both individuals.
- Failure to Account for Drug Interactions: Prescribing medications that have dangerous interactions with other drugs the patient is taking can result in severe complications.
- Failure to Consider Allergies: Not checking a patient’s medical history for allergies can result in allergic reactions to certain medications.
- Improper Timing: Administering medication at incorrect times can make the drug less effective and can sometimes be harmful, depending on the medication in question.
- Incorrect Route of Administration: Some drugs need to be given in a specific manner (e.g., orally, intravenously, etc.), and administering them incorrectly can render them ineffective or harmful.
- Miscommunication: Poor handwriting, similar drug names, and poor verbal communication can all lead to medication errors.
- Lack of Information: Failure to adequately inform the patient about proper medication use, storage, and potential side effects can lead to misuse and potential harm.
- Pharmacy Errors: Mistakes made by pharmacists, such as mislabeling bottles, can contribute to medication errors.
- Automated Dispensing Errors: Sometimes, automated systems used to dispense medications can malfunction, leading to incorrect dosages or wrong medications being dispensed.
Common Causes of Medication Errors
Medication errors can occur for a variety of reasons, some of which are systemic while others may be due to human factors. Here are some typical causes:
- Human Error: Fatigue, distraction, or simple mistakes can result in healthcare professionals prescribing, dispensing, or administering the wrong medication or dosage.
- Poor Communication: Miscommunication among healthcare teams—including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists—can result in errors. This can happen through illegible handwriting, unclear verbal orders, or insufficient handoff communication between shifts.
- Systemic Issues: Overcrowded, understaffed, or chaotic healthcare settings can increase the likelihood of medication errors.
- Lack of Training: Inadequate training for healthcare providers in medication management can lead to mistakes.
- Technological Errors: While technology like electronic medical records and automated dispensing machines aim to reduce errors, they can also be a source of mistakes if they malfunction or are used improperly.
- Similar Drug Names: Medications with names that look or sound alike can easily be confused, leading to the wrong drug being prescribed or administered.
- Complicated Regimens: Patients with complex medication schedules are at higher risk of receiving the wrong medication or dosage, particularly if the healthcare providers are not adequately informed about the patient’s complete medication list.
- Inadequate Patient Information: Lack of complete medical history, including allergies and current medications, can result in healthcare providers making uninformed decisions about prescribing medication.
- Rushed Procedures: In high-pressure settings like emergency rooms, the rushed nature of care can lead to mistakes in medication orders.
- Inconsistent Procedures: Varying protocols between different departments within a healthcare setting can also contribute to errors.
- Lack of Oversight: Inadequate supervision or double-checking mechanisms can result in errors going unnoticed until it’s too late.
Affidavit of Merit in Medication Error Claims
In New Jersey, plaintiffs are usually required to submit an “affidavit of merit” from a medical expert in the same field as the defendant, attesting that the healthcare provider deviated from accepted standards of care. This legal document serves as preliminary evidence that the healthcare provider (the defendant) failed to meet the accepted standard of care within their medical specialty. Here’s what Cherry Hill personal injury lawyers think you need to know about it:
- Expert Opinion: The affidavit must be provided by a medical expert who is in the same field or specialty as the healthcare provider being accused of malpractice. This expert should review the medical records and other relevant evidence before making their statement.
- Standard of Care: The affidavit must specifically state that the defendant failed to meet the accepted “standard of care” for their field, leading to the injury or harm suffered by the patient (plaintiff).
- Timeline: New Jersey law typically requires that this Affidavit of Merit be filed within 60 days of the defendant’s answer to the initial complaint. However, this time frame can sometimes be extended by another 60 days under certain conditions.
- Legal Requirement: Failure to provide an Affidavit of Merit within the stipulated timeline can result in the dismissal of the case.
- Specifics of the Case: While the Affidavit of Merit provides a general statement about deviation from the standard of care, it doesn’t typically include the minutiae of how that standard was violated. Those details are usually saved for later stages in the legal process, potentially including expert testimony at trial.
- Starting the Lawsuit: The Affidavit of Merit is not an end in itself but serves to validate that the lawsuit has a factual basis and should proceed to the next stages, which could include discovery, negotiation, and possibly a trial.
Cherry Hill Medication Error Notification and Reporting Requirements
In New Jersey, there are notification and reporting requirements for medication errors in healthcare settings. These requirements are designed to improve patient safety, hold healthcare providers accountable, and help identify systemic issues that lead to errors.
- Immediate Notification: In the event of a medication error, healthcare providers are generally required to inform the patient or the patient’s representative as soon as possible. This includes explaining the nature of the error, its potential consequences, and the corrective measures taken.
- Institutional Reporting: Hospitals and other healthcare facilities typically have internal reporting mechanisms. Healthcare providers are usually required to document and report medication errors to the appropriate department or committee within the organization for review and corrective action.
- State Reporting: Some serious medication errors may need to be reported to state agencies, like the New Jersey Department of Health. This depends on the severity of the error and the potential for harm to the patient.
- Professional Licensing Boards: In some cases, especially those involving gross negligence or repeated errors, the incident may be reported to professional licensing boards such as the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners or the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy. Disciplinary action can range from retraining requirements to license revocation.
- Federal Reporting: In certain situations, particularly those involving controlled substances, medication errors may also need to be reported to federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
- Quality Improvement: Reporting is not just about accountability; it is also designed to help healthcare organizations improve their systems to prevent future errors. Data from reported errors is often analyzed to identify trends and implement preventative measures.
- Transparency and Public Records: Depending on the nature of the event, some information about medication errors may become part of the public record, although patient confidentiality is maintained.
The reporting and documentation of a medication error can play a critical role in any subsequent legal proceedings. The reports can serve as evidence of what occurred and what actions were taken in response. Failure to report medication errors where required can have legal repercussions for both the individual healthcare providers and the institution they work for.
Statute of Limitations for Medication Errors
In Cherry Hill, the general statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases, including medication errors, is typically two (2) years. This means that you usually have two (2) years from the date you discover—or reasonably should have discovered—the injury or harm resulting from a medication error to file a lawsuit.
Here are some additional points to consider:
- Discovery Rule: The statute of limitations often starts from the date when the injury was discovered or should have been discovered with reasonable diligence, rather than the date when the error actually occurred.
- Tolling for Minors: If the victim is a minor, the statute of limitations may be “tolled,” or paused, until the minor reaches the age of majority, which is 18 in New Jersey. However, there may be specific conditions and exceptions to this rule.
- Mental Incapacity: Similarly, if the victim is mentally incapacitated, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the incapacity is lifted.
- Affidavit of Merit: As part of the initial filing, New Jersey law often requires an “Affidavit of Merit” from a qualified medical expert to be submitted within 60 days of the defendant’s response to your complaint. This affidavit serves to confirm that your case has merit and that it adheres to the standards of medical malpractice claims.
- Multiple Defendants: If there are multiple parties involved, such as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, each might have different timelines for when the statute of limitations begins, especially if their involvement in the medication error was discovered at different times.
Contact Our Cherry Hill Medication Error Lawyers Today
Don’t let the complexities of medication error cases leave you overwhelmed and unsure of your next steps. At Cuneo & Leonetti, our Cherry Hill medical malpractice lawyers are committed to helping you navigate the legal landscape with understanding and compassion. With years of experience in medical malpractice law, we understand the intricacies involved in securing the justice and compensation you deserve. Time is of the essence, as strict statutes of limitations apply. Contact us today for a confidential consultation, and let us put our knowledge and resources to work for you.