While debilitating illnesses can be devastating, advancing medical and scientific breakthroughs offer hope for affected individuals and their families. So it can be all the more heart-wrenching when medical errors turn routine procedures into dangerous – and even deadly – conditions.

Some of the most common medical errors are related to prescription drugs. Often the errors are as simple as a mistake by the pharmacy due to illegible handwriting on a prescription form, resulting in the wrong dosage, or even the wrong drug. Other common prescription errors stem from combining prescription drugs that have similar effect on the body (such as drugs that work as sedatives) or drugs that have similar side-effects (like drugs that may affect blood pressure). Taken alone, the effects of these drugs are generally well-understood by doctors. But in combination, their cumulative effects can be deadly.

Problems related to prescription drugs can often be prevented if doctors, patients, and pharmacists take the time to fully discuss the drug’s side effects, proper dosage, and the patient’s current prescriptions. But some of the most dangerous (and ultimately expensive) medical errors happen when doctors delay diagnosis or treatment.

An article published by a medical insurance clearinghouse recently detailed the ten most expensive medical errors, and the doctor who authored the article noted that all of the errors stemmed from delays in diagnosis or treatment. Seven of the ten medical errors listed result in brain injury, which can be particularly difficult on the victim’s family, who may face decades of providing long-term care.

Because so many of the most serious medical injuries involve delays in treatment or diagnosis, it can be difficult to pinpoint at what stage mistakes were made. Often the victim is incapacitated and unable to give details about the treatment he or she received, leaving the family searching for answers as to what went wrong. For some families, it can seem wrong to question the actions of the medical professionals who presumably did everything they could to help their loved one.

But anyone dealing with a possible case of medical error – and the very real expenses that accompany it – needs the expertise and resources of an attorney working on their behalf. Talking to an experienced personal injury attorney will ensure that the legal rights of the patient are protected, and is often the first step to uncovering what went wrong in cases of medical error.