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West Virginia residents may be wondering what are the most common reasons for medical malpractice claims. The medical liability insurer Coverys analyzed five years’ worth of closed malpractice claims to find out, and it turns out that surgical errors were the second most common reason, accounting for roughly 25% of claims (the first being diagnostic errors, accounting for 32% of claims).

In all, there were 2,579 surgery-related claims closed with Coverys between 2014 and 2018. The surgical fields that saw the most errors were general surgery (22%), orthopedic surgery (17%) and neurosurgery (8%). In 29% of the claims, the plaintiff had incurred significant permanent injuries. In 9% of claims, the victim had died.

Lack of technical skill on the part of the surgeon (39%) and failures in clinical judgment and/or communication (27%) were the most widely made allegations. Plaintiffs had a foreign body left inside of them in 7% of claims. In 3% of cases, either the wrong patient, side or site was operated on.

The study’s authors say that improvements are necessary at all stages of the surgical process. Patients should be able to participate fully in the decision-making stage, and the actual procedure itself must be performed in a distraction-free environment. This means no conversations, no phones and no visitors or observers.

When patients are injured during surgery, have the wrong procedure done or experience a harmful delay, they may have the grounds for a medical malpractice claim. Before moving forward with one, they may want to hire a lawyer since they will likely face opposition from the other side. The lawyer may have medical experts begin an independent investigation of the matter. Once all the needed proof of negligence has been gathered, the lawyer may negotiate for a settlement or, if the offer is inadequate, take the matter to trial.