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Medical Mistakes: Who Pays?

December 20, 2016

Medical mistakes, or medical errors, are a preventable adverse result from care provided by a medical professional. This could include a doctor misdiagnosing your condition, a pharmacist incorrectly filling a prescription, a surgeon accidentally causing an injury during a surgery, etc.

When you begin to explore the scope of medical errors, it can become overwhelming as you start to think about what all could go wrong when seeking care. Imagine going into a surgery for your 3rd vertebrae and come out of surgery to find out that the attending surgeon operated on your 4th vertebrae instead. You then go back into surgery to operate on the correct vertebrae, only to find out months later that you are billed for both operations.

Another example: you’re in for a routine colonoscopy when the doctor nicks the side of your colon. An emergency surgery is required to fix the problem. During that surgery, you almost die on the operating table because of an existing heart issue. You’re only 55 years old, but after the surgery you find out that many of your favorite activities are no longer an option for you. Meanwhile, the hospital bills you for both surgeries and all of the related follow-up care. Life as you know it is forever changed.

These scenarios sound extreme, but patients throughout the United States find themselves in similar situations each year due to medical mistakes and errors. Because these tragic breakdowns in medical care can happen to anyone, it’s important to be aware of them and what you should do in the event you or someone you love is affected.

Medical Mistakes – A Too-Common Occurrence

A 2013 report from The Journal of Patient Safety estimates that more than 400,000 people die each year because of preventable medical errors. In addition, the report roughly estimates that medical errors (and the subsequent care) create costs equal to $19.5 billion annually.

Sometimes a hospital or physician error can be obvious in its negligence — such as when a surgery operates on the wrong body part or region of the body. Such cases tend to be more straightforward when it comes to establishing fault and receiving compensation for damages.

Some medical mistakes, though, are less clear at first in terms of whether the medical professional bears the liability. In these instances, it’s much easier for hospitals to deny culpability and charge patients for rendered services. They frequently make the argument that all medical treatment has some risk associated with it, and this argument can be difficult to fight without any experience handling medical mistake litigation.

In many states, hospitals and other healthcare providers must tell a patient (or their family) immediately if something goes wrong during a medical procedure and why this happened. When those rules are in place, the provider must give follow-up care that results from the medical error at no charge to the patient. Some existing research supports the notion that if hospitals are transparent about medical mistakes and the follow-up care involved, the affected patients are less likely to pursue litigation.

Unfortunately, it often proves difficult to get healthcare providers to waive the cost for additional care after a medical mistake, as they may be worried about admitting fault by doing so. This can leave the victims of medical mistakes in a very difficult spot.

Document Medical Mistakes 

If you’ve been the victim of a medical mistake, it’s important to document everything that you can associated with the error. Appropriate documentation should include:

  • Medical records
  • Hospital bills
  • Written correspondence between the hospitals and physicians and you
  • Photos of the injuries or other physical adverse effects
  • Written statements on how your life has been negatively impacted
  • A log of every time you spoke with the hospital (including the date, time, and what was said in each conversation)

The more thoroughly you document what happened during and after the medical error that affected you, the better the position you’ll be in if you decide to seek compensation for the error and the ways in which it has negatively affected your daily life.

We’ll Fight for You

Medical errors can be difficult to resolve through the legal process unless you have the training and experience to handle these cases. That’s why it’s important to seek out an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to evaluate your case. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a medical mistake, contact the Law Office of William D. Cook. We are a family firm, committed to defending your rights and providing you with excellent legal representation. Call us now at 1-800-757-7757 for a free initial consultation. We look forward to serving you.


Aleccia, J. (2008, February 29). Patients still stuck with bill for medical errors. NBC News. Retrieved from

Luthra, S. (2015, November 9). A medical mistake happens. Who pays the bill? The Washington Post. Retrieved from


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