Every year, thousands of Georgia residents put their trust in pharmacies and doctors to treat their illnesses, whether physical or psychological, with prescription drugs. Unfortunately, whether due to negligence or recklessness, many healthcare professionals betray this trust and prescribe or fill the wrong medications, which can have life-threatening consequences for their patients. Injuries caused by medication errors can be both painful and expensive to treat, so if you were injured as a result of the negligent prescribing or filling of a medication, it is important to retain the services of an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney who can help explain your legal options.
Types of Medication Errors
The number of Americans who suffer from health complications as a result of medication errors is on the rise. This is in large part due to the fact that medication errors can occur in a number of different settings and can be committed by a variety of different health care professionals. The most common types of medication errors involve one of the following situations:
- Filling a prescription with the wrong medication or dosage;
- Prescribing an incorrect dosage or medication;
- Giving incorrect medical advice when prescribing or distributing medication;
- Failing to recognize a patient’s allergies or a conflict between medications;
- Entering a patient’s drug history and current medications incorrectly;
- Failing to manage a dosage to reflect a patient’s changing condition;
- Failing to take a patient’s history;
- Using the wrong prescription label;
- Illegible handwriting on prescriptions;
- Medication computer system errors;
- Failing to advise a patient about possible side effects; or
- Communication errors between pharmacists and doctors.
There are a number of explanations for these actions. However, some of the most common explanations for medication errors involve a lack of pharmacist supervision and a failure to train employees and pharmacy technicians.
Another reason behind many medication errors is the failure of drug manufacturers to properly design and mark their products. In an effort to help eliminate these types of errors, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that drug manufacturers implement the following suggestions:
- Manufacturing tablets with scoring that is consistent with the recommended dosage;
- Using different imprint codes to differentiate between multiple products within product lines;
- Manufacturing tablets with a letter or number in the imprint code;
- Avoiding manufacturing products that look similar to candy;
- Refraining from using lines or symbols on tablets that should not be split;
- Ensuring that drug product strength and dosing are consistent; and
- Utilizing metric units on dosage devices used to deliver oral medications.
Injuries caused by a medication error can be extremely serious and in some cases may result in permanent disability or even death. Other common reactions to medication errors include:
- Allergic reactions;
- Heart failure;
- Organ failure; and
- Birth defects.
Many of these health problems become immediately evident. For example, allergic reactions often occur quickly and manifest as hives, restricted air flow, and even anaphylactic shock. Birth defects, on the other hand, may remain undiscovered until a child’s birth or even years down the road.
Liability and Potential Damages
While many pharmacists, physicians, and drug manufacturers across the country have implemented specific procedures and are careful to make sure that all patients receive the correct type and amount of medication, errors still can and do occur. These errors are not only painful, frightening, and potentially life-threatening, but also expensive to treat. However, if an injured party is able to establish that someone else’s negligence led to the injury, he or she may be able to collect compensation from the responsible parties who may include:
- A pharmacist who incorrectly filled a prescription;
- A physician if he or she negligently prescribed the medication;
- A drug’s manufacturer if it performed inadequate testing or failed to warn doctors of dangerous side effects; and
- A nurse or doctor who administered the wrong medication.
Collecting compensation is especially important in medication error cases because treatment can be so expensive. For example, a person who suffered an overdose as a result of an incorrectly filled prescription may be forced to pay for emergency transport, a hospital stay, doctor’s appointments, and additional treatment. Injured parties may also be required to take time off from work, which can be financially devastating for families who are supported by a single income. Fortunately, if a patient can establish another party’s negligence, he or she can collect the following types of damages:
- Medical expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future income;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Emotional distress.
To collect these expenses, a plaintiff will need to provide evidence that:
- The defendant owed the injured party a duty to act reasonably;
- The defendant failed to meet that duty of care; and
- The defendant’s failure led to the plaintiff’s injury.
Establishing a defendant’s liability may require that medical expert testify as to what a reasonable medical professional would have done in the same situation. If the breach was significant enough, the court may even award the injured party punitive damages to punish the defendant and prevent similar behavior by others in the future. Additionally, if the error led to a patient’s death, his or her family can collect damages through a wrongful death claim. Finally, it is important to remember that in Georgia, plaintiffs only have two years from the date of the injury to bring a claim in court (although in some cases the time limit can be extended to five years). If an injured party fails to bring the claim within this time period, he or she risks the case being barred by the court.
Contact an Experienced Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Medical professionals are required to use reasonable care in treating patients. Whether due to a failure to adequately train or supervise employees, negligent manufacturing or packaging, or a breakdown in communications between pharmacists and physicians, medication errors can be devastating to victims and their families. If you live in Atlanta and were injured as a result of a medication error, please contact the law firm of Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. by completing one of our standard contact forms and we will help you schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Atlanta personal injury attorney who will aggressively represent your interests and help you collect the compensation you deserve.