Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine found that, according to one study, diagnostic errors were the most common medical mistakes physicians made, in addition to being the most serious type of medical mistake a physician could make. The study revealed that while it is not known exactly how many patients experience a diagnostic error, every year 40,000 to 80,000 patients die in hospitals in the U.S., including hospitals in Connecticut, and that some of these deaths may be attributable to misdiagnoses.

Three main types of diagnostic errors accounted for almost 75% of all incidents of “serious harm” studied. They were infections, cancers and vascular events. These conditions have been referred to as the “big three.” More than one-third of misdiagnosis that ended in permanent disability or a fatality were due to cancer. 22% of misdiagnosis were related to vascular issues. 13.5% of misdiagnosis were related to infections.

The study identified 15 specific medical maladies that constituted the “big three.” The top three maladies were lung cancer, stroke and sepsis. It was found that many of these mistakes occurred either in the emergency room or in an outpatient setting. Vascular and infection mistakes usually took place in emergency departments, while cancer mistakes usually took place in outpatient settings.

When fatal acts of medical malpractice, such as diagnostic errors, occur, not only could it lead to an otherwise preventable fatality, but it means that a family must cope with the death of a loved one. Even if a person survives a diagnostic error, they are often left in a worsened condition, and may need a significant amount of medical care in order to recover. This means they will incur many medical bills and usually must take time off work, which is often unpaid. Therefore, when a person is a victim of a diagnostic error that could have been prevented had the physician met his or her duty of care, the victim or his or her family in the case of a fatality will want to determine what options they have for compensation.