Analyzing medical death rate data over an eight-year period, Johns Hopkins patient safety experts have calculated that more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error in the U.S. That figure surpasses the CDC’s third leading cause of death — respiratory disease, which kills close to 150,000 people per year.

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional provides a treatment that deviates from accepted standards of care within the medical community, thereby causing injury to a patient. If a doctor, surgeon, hospital, or another party was medically negligent, they may be liable for any ensuing losses.

It’s hard to know precisely just how many deaths occur due to medical error, since “medical malpractice” is not cause of death reported by medical examiners.

For example, if a patient is given the wrong medication and suffers a fatal heart attack, the official cause of death is “myocardial infarction,” even though that needless death could have been prevented with better care and attention on the part of the doctor, nurse or hospital.

Medical negligence refers to a negligent act or omission.  If a victim can demonstrate that the negligent act was directly responsible for their injury, they may be awarded various damages (e.g., medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional suffering).