Failure To Diagnose Stroke: Medical Malpractice?
As an Orlando medical malpractice lawyer, I want to explain what happens when a doctor fails to diagnose a stroke, in legal terms. The most promising stroke treatments must be administered very quickly, within 3-6 hours. Of course, doctors cannot prevent all strokes, as sickness is an unfortunate part of all of our lives. However, in certain cases, the doctor, hospital, nurse, or other medical professional, definitely may have caused the stroke, by failure to administer proper and timely care, or failure to diagnose stroke.
How Do Florida Lawyers Prove Failure to Diagnose Stroke Medical Malpractice?
In Florida, medical malpractice claims require malpractice lawyers to prove that the medical professional failed to comply with the “standard of care,” and that failure caused the patient’s injuries or death. Typically, we prove that a physician failed to comply with the standard of care by testimony from other physician experts. So, for example, in a stroke misdiagnosis case, our expert might conclude that the hospital should have administered known treatment within 3 hours, or should have referred the patient to a different facility with doctors who specialize in stroke care. If the treating physician overlooked symptoms that should have triggered further evaluation or treatment for a stroke, then that doctor definitely could be liable for the monetary damages suffered by the patient, or his or her family, if the patient did not survive.
What Is A Stroke?
A stroke is literally a partial death of the brain, due to a lack of oxygen. This lack of oxygen is often caused by a blood clot, or rupture of an artery in the brain. Strokes are the leading cause of disability, and the fifth leading cause of death in this country. But they more often cause extremely debilitating injuries, and ongoing life care requirements.
Symptoms of Stroke
Stroke symptoms can mimic many other much less serious conditions, which is one of the big reasons that doctors often misdiagnose strokes. However, doctors have a duty to fully evaluate anyone with sufficient concerning symptoms, to make sure that the patient is not having a stroke. Checking a patient’s vital signs, and sending them home with a suggestion to come back if they feel worse, is not adequate treatment for those experiencing a stroke, or TIA.
Stroke symptoms often include:
- Weak or numb feelings, especially on one side of the body
- Tingling in arms or legs
- Sudden loss of leg strength
- Extreme headache
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Inability to speak or communicate
- Inability to understand others
- Vision changes, such as blurred or double vision
- Loss of Vision
What Are The Potential Lasting Effects Of A Stroke?
Strokes can range in severity from mild to very severe, including death.
Stroke victims often struggle to regain normal life functioning, for months, years, or even the rest of their lives. Sometimes they cannot talk, walk, eat, bathe themselves, or use the bathroom. Strokes can cause permanent brain damage. As a result, those most severely injured may need a lifetime of round the clock in-home nursing care, or may need to move into an assisted living facility, or nursing home. They may also need extensive physical or occupational therapy, and someone to support them, financially and otherwise, for many years, or the rest of their lives.
This type of intensive treatment is very expensive, which is why it is critically important for those who have suffered a stroke caused by a medical professional, try to obtain compensation for the loss.
What Is A TIA? And Why Do They Matter To Florida Medical Malpractice Cases?
A TIA is short-hand for “transient ischemic attack,” otherwise known as a “mini-stroke.” TIAs are temporary strokes, which happen when the blood supply to the brain is temporarily stopped. The symptoms of a TIA are similar to a stroke. But they do not last as long (usually less than 24 hours, and often only 10 to 20 minutes). But TIAs are very important because they are really more like a warning siren that a full-blown stroke may be coming soon. Over half of all strokes are preceded by a TIA. For this reason, it is extremely important that doctors recognize TIAs, and administer the proper testing, referrals to specialists, and treatment, to try to avoid a much more debilitating severe and permanent stroke.
Many failure to diagnose stroke cases are brought against medical professionals who failed to recognize the signs of a TIA, or other early warning signs of a stroke, then failed to take the necessary steps to give the patient the best chance of avoiding a stroke.
What Are A Doctor’s Duties Regarding Potential Stroke Evaluation & Treatment?
Sometimes a doctor can prevent a stroke by proper medical treatment, including quick treatment. Doctors are obligated to:
- Recognize stroke warning signs, including those of a TIA (“transient ischemic attack”)
- Recognize the signs of a stroke, as prompt treatment can stop the damage from getting worse, or even reverse the damage.
- Perform a thorough physical exam
- Take a thorough medical history
- Diagnose strokes and TIAs in a timely manner
- Properly read lab results (labs can make errors, too)
- Consider stroke possibility in younger and/or healthier people
- Follow testing, evaluation & treatment protocols
- Refer the patient to a neurological specialist or specialized hospital, in a timely manner
- If indicated, perform an angiogram or ultrasound of the carotid arteries
- Administer proper treatment, such as blood thinners, alteplace, or thrombectomy, or surgery.
What Are Your Legal Options After A Stroke Misdiagnosis?
If a doctor or hospital either caused a stroke, or contributed to the worsening of the condition, then there definitely may be a high value case of medical malpractice against the professional. Victims of medical malpractice are entitled to recover:
- Life or nursing care expenses
- Costs of rehabilitation therapy or other treatment
- Value for a lifetime of pain and suffering
- Lost wages, going into the future
- Associated medical bills, going into the future
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Certain family members (usually spouse or children under 25) who have lost a loved one, due to medical negligence, may recover for loss of companionship, pain and suffering, lost income benefits, and burial expenses.
Is There A Deadline For Filing Medical Malpractice Cases?
Yes, there is a strict deadline, and many cases need to be investigated and evaluated long before the deadline expires. The law is complex so you should contact us IMMEDIATELY if you think that you might have a wrongful diagnosis of stroke medical malpractice case.
What Is The Settlement or Verdict Value of Failure to Diagnose Stroke or TIA?
Strokes can cause extremely severe injuries or death. For this reason, failure to diagnose stroke or TIA can be a very high value medical malpractice case. Below we have listed some sample reported verdicts and settlements involving doctors’ failure to properly diagnose or treat a stroke. Of course, all cases are different, and slightly different facts can change everything. The best way to proceed is to contact us ASAP to evaluate your serious injury or death wrongful diagnosis case.
- Gomez-Mccallum vs. Marquez. $7.9 million. Orlando, Florida. A 72 year old woman had been taking Coumadin, as a result of cardiomyopathy and chronic atrial fibrillation. The Coumadin was to help prevent blood clot formation and avoid an ischemic stroke. Two cardiologists were treating her. They decided to stop her Coumadin therapy, because they concluded she was no longer experiencing atrial fibrillation. But their finding was contradicted by the data downloaded from her implanted cardiac defibrillator. Several months later, the plaintiff suffered a stroke, as a result of a clot that went to her brain. The plaintiff’s expert blamed the doctors who stopped the Coumadin. As a result of her stroke, the left side of her body was paralyzed, and she experienced mental deficits. She now requires 24 hour care to help with almost every aspect of her daily life. She produced a “day in the life” video to show how she gets through every day. Both doctors were found liable, and the jury awarded $7.9 million between the two.
- Dion vs. Schamis, 1 million dollar insurance policy limits, Winter Park, Florida. A 35 year old man with a history of hypertension went to the chiropractor, for severe headaches. The chiro didn’t take his vital signs and performed chiropractic manipulations. The chiro testified that he didn’t realize that he needed to check vital signs when someone presented with a headache, or that chiro manipulations can cause stroke in those who have high blood pressure. One hour after the chiropractic session, the man suffered a massive stroke, which left him paralyzed on his left side, and with the mental capacity of a seven year old. The man had been an attorney. The plaintiff argued that the chiro treatment was below the accepted standard of care. Before trial, the defendant chiropractor offered to settle for the maximum insurance policy limits, which was 1 million dollars.
- Kathleen Leer and Gary Leer v. Medical Center Inc. $3.8 million. Orange County, Florida. A disabled woman in her 50s was being released from a medical center, and the nurse was pulling an intravenous line that dispensed medication, from her back. Her attorney argued that the nurse made a mistake because the line shouldn’t have been pulled with her in the seated position, which caused an air embolism, which caused a stroke, and left her paralyzed on her left side. She incurred $720,000 in medical bills before the trial. The plaintiff had an expert life care planner, who testified during her trial. He said that she would need 24 hour nursing care. She also had an expert economist testify, who said that her life care plan would cost between $1.5 and 5 million, depending on her life expectancy. The jury awarded $3.8 million for her damages,
- Alma Sanchez v. Roberto Reyna, M.D. $5.7 million. Dr. Phillips, Florida. A woman in her 50s who was an interior designer with three adult children, underwent heart surgery. During the 12 hour surgery, she suffered a stroke, caused by a blood clot that traveled to her brain. She now has trouble speaking, will never be able to work again, and requires 24 hour attendant care. Her lawyers argued that her stroke was caused by the doctors taking too long during the surgery, and not giving enough anti-coagulation (clotting) medication. The jury blamed the doctors and awarded her $5.7 million, to cover her life care, future medical costs, and pain and suffering.
- Lopez v. Defendant. $2.5 million. Orange County, Florida. The plaintiff was a 57 year old woman, who claimed that her primary care doctor, and the hospital doctors, all missed the signs of pre-stroke, so failed to perform a proper stroke work up. She presented with headaches and right arm weakness. Although her primary care referred her to a specialist, he didn’t follow up in a timely manner, and delayed ordering a CT scan. And the ER delayed one day in having a consult with a neurological expert. As a result, plaintiff claimed that the doctors failed to recognize and avoid the worsening of her condition. She suffered right side paralysis and an inability to communicate. The jury awarded $2.5 million.
- Earlene Strinko, as personal representative of the estate of Thomas Strinko, deceased, v. Defendant Hospital. $1.5 million. Maitland, Florida. Wrongful death in Central Florida. This man’s wife brought this wrongful death lawsuit, claiming that the man’s treating physicians failed to recognize the symptoms of ischemic stroke, and failed to give proper treatment. She claimed the hospital was negligent for not having a written protocol to give anticoagulant therapy to stroke patients. His wife sued for pain and suffering, and loss of companionship. The jury awarded her and his estate $1.5 million.
- Charles Carnes v. John D. Caruso M.D.and Trisha Ahner P.A.-C. $6.2 million. Central Florida. The plaintiff was a 69 year old very active hunter, fisherman, and gardener, who formerly traveled often with his wife, and went dancing every weekend. He underwent prostate surgery, and had been treated for high blood pressure for the nine years prior. His doctor only prescribed one dose of high blood pressure medication after the surgery, despite his blood pressure steadily rising over 4 days. The doctor also released the plaintiff from the hospital without checking his blood pressure. And the plaintiff alleged that the doctor had failed to control his blood pressure for the preceding 9 years. The day after he was released from the hospital, the plaintiff suffered a massive stroke. The plaintiff is now confined to a wheelchair, cannot stand on his own, or be left alone, and has left side paralysis. His wife must stay with him 24 hours a day, and expected that to continue for the rest of his life. The jury decided that the doctor was negligent, and awarded $6.2 million.
If you have questions about your or your family member’s doctor’s failure to diagnose a stroke, please contact us anytime for your free injury case evaluation. We have several high value, award winning Orlando personal injury lawyers on our team, who have recovered many millions for their clients.