The U.S. is a society driven by media. Gruesome often brings in viewers and readers. Medical malpractice stories involving surgery on the wrong body part or leaving behind a tool in a patient are undoubtedly horrifying. Maybe that is why the public tends to think of such cases when presented with the topic of hospital negligence.

The truth according to research, however, is that another type of medical mistake is most commonly leading to patients’ avoidable injuries and deaths. It isn’t surgical errors. It isn’t medication errors. It is missed diagnoses or failed diagnoses.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University evaluated more than 350,000 medical malpractice cases and found that 28.6 percent of the claims involved diagnostic errors. Diagnostic errors are very dangerous to a patient’s health because they can allow a medical condition to get worse without its needed treatment. Early diagnosis in such illnesses such as cancer can be the difference between life and death.

Cases of diagnostic errors weren’t only the most common in the study, but they were the most likely to lead to serious injury and death. It is crucial, therefore, for the public as well as the medical community to focus on how to improve the diagnostic process within hospitals. Commonly missed diagnoses include cancer, heart attack, stroke and staph infections. Failing to identify the problem early on or failing to identify the problem ever takes away a patient’s chance of getting better and surviving.

Whether a person’s illness was diagnosed too late, diagnosed inaccurately or never diagnosed, he might have legal options. A medical malpractice attorney can evaluate the situation and help determine the appropriate course of action.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Diagnostic Errors More Common In Medical Malpractice Claims Than Surgical, Medication Errors: Study,” April 24, 2013