You know that accidents take lives. It’s a risk you must face. Maybe you’re a white-knuckle flier who can’t wait for the plane to get back on the ground. Maybe you’re constantly on the lookout for distracted drivers during your daily commute. Maybe you’re worried about dangerous and defective products.

Where would you feel the safest? Maybe people would say that they’re in the best hands in the hospital. You have medical professionals at your side, cutting-edge technology to help and the best care that money can buy.

Ironically, that may actually be where you’re in the greatest danger of a wrongful death.

Researchers in 2016 looked at the leading causes of death in the United States. As you may expect, the first two were heart diseases and cancer. Though heart disease technically ranks first in a country struggling with obesity, the totals from each came in at around 600,000 annual deaths.

Third on the list, with 250,000 deaths per year, were medical mistakes.

For what it’s worth, the fourth-ranked issue was respiratory disease. The study linked it to around 150,000 annual deaths.

You feel safe in the hospital. You trust the doctors. You assume you’d have the best chance of surviving an accident if it happened when you were already at a medical center. However, only two things are more likely to kill you than a mistake made by one of those very same medical professionals.

When the study came out, researchers asked health agencies to look into the risks more intently. They warned that these things often fly under the radar and so people don’t understand the real dangers.

Obviously, medical mistakes can take many forms. Some common issues and factors include:

  • Surgical complications. A surgeon could make an incision at the wrong site, for instance. These are especially problematic if they go unrecognized for a significant amount of time.

  • Mistakes in which doctors give patients the wrong medications. A patient could die either from getting an unneeded drug or from failing to get the necessary drug. There could also be issues with patients accidentally getting medications to which they’re allergic.

  • Mistakes in which patients get too much or too little of the right medication. Dosages must be precise.

  • Communication breakdowns between members of the medical team. Those could lead to the wrong procedures getting carried out or doctors operating on the wrong patients, for instance.

  • Diagnostic errors. You expect the doctor to properly identify the problem, but a mistake at this stage could mean you get no treatment when it’s needed or you get treatment for the wrong issue.

These are just a few examples, but they help to make the risks clear. The numbers are staggering. Those who have lost a loved one must know their legal rights.