Medical malpractice happens when a doctor, hospital, nurse or other health professional fails to provide the quality of care we expect in our community. While complications and unexpected results can occur with appropriate medical care, if a health provider negligently causes or contributes to an injury, they may be held liable. The law provides for the recovery of damages when medical providers fail to provide reasonable and appropriate care.
Medical Malpractice Types
Birth Injuries: One of the most tragic events a new parent can face is being told their child has suffered a birth injury. This news becomes even more traumatic when the parents learn their child’s injury could have been prevented. A birth injury can occur at many different times throughout the birthing process. Birth injuries can vary from being very minor to catastrophic and can even result in death. Some birth injuries may not be diagnosed for months or years after birth. Parents are often left with the belief that their child’s injury was genetic, when in fact many of these birth defects could have been prevented. Most parents have no way of knowing what happened to their child and many do not know where to begin to search for answers. We are here to help. Two common types of birth injury are Cerebral Palsy and Erbs Palsy.
Emergency Room Negligence: Although emergency rooms ("ER’s") are the most stressful environment in the healthcare field, there are still rules and procedures and a standard of care the staff is required to follow. If a doctor or other hospital employee is careless, did not have the proper skills or just simply ignored the rules and procedures, the hospital may be held responsible for a patient’s injuries. It is sad, but true that errors in hospital emergency rooms are a common occurrence. How quickly a medical provider responds to someone’s injury is tremendously important. Understaffed hospitals or badly equipped emergency rooms can lead to fatal mistakes. An ER is not expected to completely treat a patient. The ER is required to make a proper diagnosis and then refer the patient to an appropriate expert. When there is a misdiagnosis, the hospital may be help liable for your injuries.
Nursing Home Negligence: Health care providers in nursing home facilities have a professional responsibility to prevent the injury and suffering of their patients. Nursing home abuse can occur when a patient does not receive the care necessary for a good quality of life. It is often difficult for a loved one to express when they have been physically or emotionally abused. Many feel they will be putting a burden on the family member, so too often, they choose to deal with the abuse.
There are signs to look for that may indicate nursing home neglect:
Unexplained accidents or injuries,
Extreme changes in your loved one’s condition in a short period of time,
Signs of dehydration or malnutrition,
Daily living needs not met,
Slip and fall accidents,
Any other signs of physical or mental suffering.
Laws now exist to protect patients from nursing home neglect and abuse.
Prescription Errors: The use of prescription drugs is very common and the number of people taking multiple prescription drugs is staggering. Doctors and pharmacists have a great responsibility to their patients to ensure an error does not happen. Medical professionals must understand the chemical effects of each drug they prescribe as well as the possible side effects when taken with other prescribed and over-the-counter drugs. We all have a responsibility to be forthcoming with any and all over-the-counter medication we may be taking, even if you find it embarrassing. If you are taking a diet pill, please advise your doctor so he is aware and it is placed in your chart. Diet medication may interact with other prescription medication and the outcome could be deadly.
Anesthesia Mistakes: Anesthesia mistakes are most often thought of as occurring in an operating room, however they can occur during labor and delivery, in pre-op and recovery rooms, during dental procedures, and during numerous out-patient procedures in clinics and doctor’s offices.
Anesthesia malpractice may not be limited to anesthesiologists alone. Many medical providers administer sedatives and anesthetics. Dental offices and cosmetic surgery clinics account for many medical malpractice claims, due to improperly trained staff administering the anesthesia. One way to reduce the risk to the patient is to make sure there has been proper specialty training and certification by the doctor administering the anesthesia. It is acceptable to ask for their credentials. Make sure the person administering the anesthesia has experience performing this procedure.
Pulmonary Embolism: Studies have shown that one of the leading causes of preventable deaths during hospitalization is due to a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that becomes lodged in the blood vessels of the lungs. In most cases, a blood clot starts in the large veins of the leg. When the clot becomes dislodged, it travels up into the lungs and either entirely or partially blocks an artery. The symptoms of a pulmonary embolism are very clear. They range from shortness of breath to sharp chest pain, rapid pulse, intense sweating, anxiety and more. Death and brain damage can occur sometimes within 30 minutes of symptoms. It is critical to recognize the signs of a pulmonary embolism and treat it immediately. Medical providers are trained professionals and there are many stages at which a pulmonary embolism should be recognized. When the symptoms of the condition are misunderstand or minimized by medical staff as stress or a less serious condition, the delay can be deadly.
Strokes & Heart Attack: Strokes and heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States. With the number of cardiovascular diseases consuming our country, medical providers have an obligation to watch for and monitor warning signs. High blood pressure, smoking, poor nutrition, obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes are all warning signs and there are many drugs and treatments now available to prevent or slow the disease's progression. When a medical provider fails to consider all possibilities, provides services below professional standards of care, or makes an error in procedure or treatment, negligence may have occurred.
What is a Stroke? - A stroke occurs when there is an interruption of the blood flow to the brain. The lack of oxygen due to this interruption causes brain tissue to die, which causes that part of the brain to be unable to function. Strokes can be caused by either a blood clot plugging a blood vessel in the brain, or by bleeding in the brain. A stroke can result in partial paralysis, memory loss and/or dementia.
Symptoms of a Stroke - The symptoms of a stroke can vary depending on the extent of damage to the brain and which part of the brain is affected, but in general the symptoms include:
- severe headache
- numbness in the face or extremities
- slurring or loss of speech
- rapid heart beat or hypertension
- loss of balance
- paralysis on one side
In addition, a patient may experience a warning sign called a transient ischemic attack (or TIA) before an actual stroke. A TIA, or mini-strokes is caused by blood supply to the brain being cut off for a short time, without causing any permanent damage. It is the health care professional’s job to recognize the symptoms of a TIA and develop a treatment plan to try to prevent a full-scale stroke.
Aneurysms – An aneurysm is the bulging of a blood vessel in the brain. Although they may burst without warning, malpractice may occur if a doctor does not heed the warning sign of a blinding headache in an at-risk patient, or does not perform corrective surgery properly.
Brain Damage and Traumatic Brain Injuries: Brain damage or traumatic brain injuries can be caused by medical mistakes made by doctors, hospitals, nurses or other medical providers. The majority of traumatic brain injuries are caused during childbirth, either by a delay in performing a necessary c-section, complications with a vaginal birth, or an error causing a traumatic delivery. It is unfortunate, but true, that a brain injury can occur even with the best possible medical care. In many cases, there is nothing that should have or could have been done to prevent a brain injury. There are other circumstances, however, in which a brain injury could have been avoided or at least made less severe if appropriate measures had been taken. These mistakes are considered medical malpractice.