For many people in the United States, the holidays can be a busy and stressful time. From making travel arrangements to coordinating family dinners, major holidays can throw a considerable number of challenges in our path. Although we always hope to leave the holiday season as healthy as we entered it, it’s an unfortunate fact that there is an uptick in injuries corresponding to major holidays. Car crashes, cooking accidents, seasonal weather, and other factors can lead to a wide range of injuries, from minor scrapes and bruises to potentially life-threatening wounds.

While it is certainly ideal to avoid scheduling routine checkups or non-urgent medical procedures around the holidays, sometimes we are unable to choose when we need to visit a medical practitioner or emergency room. Although the quality of care you receive at your doctor’s office or a hospital should always be adequate at the very least, the holidays also see an increase in the number of medical mistakes made. The days leading up to and following Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s in particular see an abnormally high number of medical errors. In this article, we discuss seasonal medical malpractice and its causes.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice can be defined as an incident where a doctor or other medical practitioner causes injury to a patient through actions “below the appropriate standard of care.” It would be unreasonable to expect a doctor to immediately recognize the symptoms of and cure any illness or injury, but they are expected to follow proper procedures to protect the wellbeing of patients.

Following procedures may include ordering diagnostic testing, referring patients to other medical specialists, or providing a timely and accurate diagnosis, depending on the situation. When a doctor or other medical practitioner fails to follow standard protocols and a patient suffers harm as a direct result of their actions (or lack thereof), there may be the foundation of a medical malpractice claim.

Common types of medical malpractice include:

  • Diagnostic errors
  • Hospital discharge mistakes
  • Failure to regard patient history
  • Unnecessary surgical procedures
  • Medication errors

Why Would Medical Malpractice Be More Likely During the Holidays?

Medical mistakes may be more likely to occur during or near major U.S. holidays for multiple reasons, including:

  • Reduced hospital staffing: Many members of a hospital’s medical staff will likely attempt to take some time off for major holidays. Although this is perfectly reasonable, the resulting decrease in working medical professionals over a period of days or weeks can increase the workload for remaining staff and increase the risk of mistakes being made.
  • Higher volume of patients: At the same time as hospitals may be reducing staffing due to callouts or pre-arranged time off requests, patient admissions tend to rise. People may require medical care after suffering injuries while traveling or for harm sustained during the holiday festivities. This can stretch a hospital’s available resources and personnel to a dangerous extent.
  • More temporary or inexperienced staffers: Many of the doctors and medical practitioners that are able to successfully secure time off during the holidays tend to be the most senior, experienced members of the hospital staff. The staffers left working may have less experience or have been brought in temporarily to increase the number of available practitioners for a short length of time.
  • Reduced personnel at teaching hospitals: Hospitals with an associated medical school may see a drastic decrease in available personnel. Interns, residents, and other medical providers may take time off in alignment with the medical school’s holiday break, reducing the hospital’s ability to address a surge of injuries or illnesses.
  • Limited diagnostic services: Many hospitals reduce the scale of their diagnostic services or close them outright over the holidays. Without diagnostic services, it takes patients substantially longer to receive testing and results, which can delay life-saving treatments in the most serious of cases.

What to Do if You’re a Victim of Holiday Medical Malpractice

It can be difficult to determine whether your injuries were caused by medical malpractice or unfortunate circumstances, particularly if you don’t have a background in the legal field. If your injuries were caused by the negligent acts of a doctor, surgeon, nurse, or other medical practitioner, you may have a valid medical malpractice case.

To determine whether or not you can proceed with a legal action against the provider or institution responsible for your injury, consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your state. A local attorney that specializes in cases dealing with medical mistakes will have a strong understanding of the applicable laws and how they may impact your case. If you do have the foundation of a successful medical malpractice lawsuit, you may be able to recover damages for costs of medical care, lost wages, and even emotional trauma and suffering.

We hope that this article helps you and your loved ones enjoy stress-free and relaxing holidays this year. Stay safe and plan your travels well in advance!