What is Included in Pharmacist Malpractice?

by | Mar 28, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

When a doctor or healthcare professional prescribes a new medication, it’s up to the pharmacist and the pharmacy technicians to fill the prescription accurately. We have reason to trust that these healthcare providers will follow the doctor’s specific instructions about the type of medication, the correct dosage, and whether the new medication will interfere with any other medications we are currently taking. While most pharmacists fill prescriptions safely and accurately, there are times when a pharmacist may make a seemingly minor error that leads to severe injuries or adverse health conditions in a patient. Careless mistakes or other forms of pharmacist negligence can have lasting effects on patients and their families, causing disabilities, birth defects, injuries requiring hospitalization, or even death. In other words, a moment of carelessness or negligence can upend someone’s life for weeks, months, or years to come.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or life-threatening health event because of a medication or pharmacy error, you may have the right to file a medical malpractice claim against the at-fault party to hold them legally and financially liable for their negligence. Consider enlisting the guidance of an experienced and caring Seattle medical malpractice attorney to help you explore your options and determine the most strategic path forward to obtaining a fair and favorable outcome. This post will provide an overview of pharmacist malpractice in Washington State and how you can pursue a medical malpractice claim to recover the compensation you need to support your recovery and the ongoing costs of your injuries.

Recognizing Medication Errors in Washington State

First, it’s helpful to understand what medication errors are and how they occur. According to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, “A medication error is any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient or consumer. Such events may be related to professional practice, health care products, procedures, and systems, including prescribing, order communication, product labeling, packaging, and nomenclature, compounding, dispensing, distribution, administration, education, monitoring, and use.” Essentially, medication errors can happen at any phase of the prescription and dispensing process. Medication errors happen more frequently than most of us realize; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that it receives over 100,000 reports per year that involve suspected medication errors. It’s important to recognize that not every medication error is reported to the FDA, so the actual number of medication errors that occur nationwide is likely much higher. Whether the pharmacist failed to fill the prescription accurately or neglected to inform you of any potential side effects or adverse reactions when taking the prescribed medication, negligence on the part of a pharmacist or healthcare provider may lead to significant injury or negative health outcomes. Reach out to a knowledgeable and empathetic medical malpractice law firm at your earliest convenience to start exploring your options for recovering the compensation you’re owed.

Identifying Common Pharmacist and Medication Errors

The path from a doctor prescribing a medication to the patient using the drug inherently involves multiple steps. This means that there are several opportunities for errors to occur, causing injuries or serious health complications to patients. Below are just a few of the most common types of pharmacy and medication errors that may be grounds for pursuing a medical malpractice claim in Washington state.

Incorrect Medication

Although the FDA has issued several guidelines to help pharmacists avoid errors when filling prescriptions, mistakes still happen. An illegible written prescription may cause the pharmacist to fill the container with the wrong medication, or a pharmacy technician may confuse two medications with similar labeling or branding when filling a prescription. With so many prescriptions to fill every day, a busy pharmacist may make seemingly minor mix-ups or errors in an attempt to keep up with the demands of their job. Unfortunately, providing the wrong medication to a patient can have disastrous and even life-altering consequences that may require ongoing medical care.

Insufficient or Incorrect Instructions or Labeling

When a doctor or nurse practitioner prescribes a new medication for a patient, they must include clear guidelines and instructions as to how often and under what conditions the patient should take the medication. These instructions must be provided to the patient so they understand how often to take the medication and whether it should be consumed with food for better absorption. Sadly, pharmacists may fail to correctly or sufficiently inform patients about how, when, and how much of the medication to take to ensure that they take the medication safely. For example, the pharmacist is obligated to inform the patient of any potential risks, such as the dangers associated with consuming alcohol while using the medication. Several medications are also unsafe to use during pregnancy, and the pharmacist should verbally inform the patient of these risks. Insufficient instructions on the label and incomplete verbal guidelines can both lead to injuries or health complications for patients.

Wrong Medication Dosage

Sometimes, a pharmacist may fill the prescription with the correct medication but provide the wrong dosage. Many medications come in different doses, and physicians must be clear in specifying the dosage they want the patient to use. Unfortunately, a mix-up in the amount of medication can lead to severe health risks. Taking too little or too much of a medication can make symptoms worse, cause intense side effects, or interfere with another medication the patient is already taking. In some cases, a pharmacist who fills the prescription with an incorrect dosage may trigger an overdose, as the patient ingests too much of the medication. It’s essential that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians review dosage instructions carefully before handing the medication to the patient.

Failing to Check for Drug Interactions

Before prescribing a new medication, the doctor should consider any other drugs the patient is currently taking in order to minimize risky drug interactions. Many medications interact poorly, or even dangerously when taken together, so it’s essential that healthcare professionals look out for these interactions before asking the patient to start a new medication. Pharmacists must investigate any allergies the patient may have and warn patients of potential drug interactions that could cause complications or severe side effects. Failing to consider the full scope of the patient’s medication regimen may result in serious (or even life-threatening) consequences. Reach out to Menzer Law Group today to discuss your case with our dedicated and understanding medical malpractice attorneys in Washington state.

Filing a Pharmacy Medical Malpractice Claim in Washington State

Just like doctors and other healthcare professionals, pharmacists in Washington state carry the responsibility of ensuring that their patients receive safe and appropriate care. The state codified the pharmacist’s professional responsibilities in WAC 246-863-075, outlining the duties and obligations that every pharmacist working in Washington should honor and uphold. For instance, a pharmacist must consult with the prescribing physician and the patient regarding the prescription and any information contained in the patient’s medication record. Additionally, pharmacists should conduct an independent review and assessment of the patient’s medication record, including their allergies, chronic health conditions, and potential drug interactions. Any failure on behalf of the pharmacist to uphold these legal and professional obligations may make that pharmacist liable for medical malpractice.

When a patient suffers an injury or adverse health event because of a pharmacist’s error, they may enlist the guidance of a skilled and compassionate medical malpractice lawyer to help them file a pharmacy medical malpractice claim to recover monetary damages from the at-fault party. The individual who files the claim (known as the plaintiff) must prove four elements in order to win their medical malpractice case:

Duty of Care

First, the plaintiff must show that the pharmacist had a legal responsibility or duty to ensure the safety of the patient. Under RCW 7.70.020, a pharmacist is considered a “health care provider” in Washington state, meaning that they have the same duty as a doctor, surgeon, or physician to “do no harm” to their patients. Pharmacists have a duty of care much like doctors have, which also makes them liable for medical malpractice when they fail to meet that duty.

Breach of Care

Once the plaintiff has proven that the pharmacist had the legal responsibility to provide a duty of care to the patient, they must demonstrate that the pharmacist failed to meet the duty or standard of care required of them. For instance, you may show that the pharmacist gave the patient the wrong medication or neglected to warn the patient of the harmful effects of taking the prescribed medication with the other medications they were already taking. Highly qualified medical malpractice attorneys can help to establish that these mistakes constitute a breach of care on the part of the pharmacist.


The plaintiff’s next step is to show how the pharmacist’s breach of the standard of care caused the patient harm or resulted in an injury. In other words, the plaintiff needs to establish a direct connection between the breach of care and the injuries or adverse health outcomes they suffered. For example, they can use medical records and pharmacy receipts as evidence to show how taking the medication (which was incorrectly dosed because of a pharmacist’s error) led to an overdose that caused a brain injury, loss of consciousness, paralysis, or another adverse health event.


The last element of a pharmacist malpractice claim is proving that the patient suffered injuries that the legal system can address by compelling the at-fault party to compensate the victim. Your Seattle medical malpractice attorney can help you quantify the financial, emotional, and physical toll that the pharmacist’s error has taken on your life. You can use these factors to calculate the amount of damages you are seeking to support your recovery and account for the inexcusable and unnecessary suffering you endured because of the pharmacist’s negligence.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or adverse health outcomes because of a pharmacist’s negligence, you can explore your options for filing a medical malpractice claim against the at-fault party. The dedicated team at Menzer Law is here to assist you. Contact our Seattle office today at (206) 752-6223 for a complimentary review of your claim.