Every July, new doctors-in-training begin their residencies. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, this may have something to do with the 10 percent annual spike in fatalities recorded every July in teaching hospitals.

Doctor inexperience is one threat facing patients. But there are many others. If you’re getting care in a hospital, or if you suspect you’ve already been injured by medical negligence, there are some common dangers you should be aware of.

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Medication Errors, Communication Snafus and Communicable Infections

According to a well-respected study from the Institute of Medicine, as many as 98,000 Americans die every year as the result of medical errors made in hospitals. While you can’t always keep your doctors from making a mistake, there are some things you can take into consideration to help make your hospital visit a safer prospect.

Medication errors are one of the most prevalent (and most easily prevented) threats to patients. Doctors or nurses may not thoroughly review charts, may not be aware of patient allergies or could fail to recognize harmful drug interactions. Ultimately, you’ll probably take your doctor’s advice when told which pills to take – but you can help inform medication decisions by coming to the hospital with every drug you’re currently taking, a full list of allergies and a friend or relative to speak up on your behalf should you become unable to do so.

Communication problems within your healthcare team often lead to things being missed; these issues are more common at certain times, like weekends, Friday afternoons and at shift changes (A recent study from the University of Toronto found that stroke patients treated on weekends were 16 percent more likely to die than those treated on weekdays). Obviously, you cannot always control when you need emergency care. However, if you’re receiving treatment at a high risk time, you should be proactive about asking questions and being an active participant in the process, which helps keep everyone up to speed.

Infections transmitted within hospitals kill 31,000 patients a year. Most of these deaths are preventable. You can avoid germs yourself by using a tissue or another barrier to handle publically used knobs and buttons within a hospital, and by washing your hands frequently. You should also ask everyone who touches you to wash their hand before doing so, and ask that frequently touched areas in your room be disinfected periodically if you will be staying for a few days.

Harmed By a Health Care Provider’s Error? Get the Compensation You Need and Deserve

No matter how many precautions you take, sometimes a health care provider simply makes a mistake. Perhaps a little more caution on their part, and it could have been prevented – only it wasn’t.

If such an error has affected you, or has taken a loved one from you, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. It is always prudent to take steps to protect yourself from medical negligence; when these steps fail, it is just as prudent to pursue the fair compensation you are owed. Talk to a medical malpractice attorney today if you suspect that a hospital error is to blame for a health problem in your life.