The care provided minutes and hours immediately after a stroke are critical. When a doctor misdiagnoses a stroke, the time lost to administer proper treatment can be devastating for a patient. Damage may be permanent and irreversible when a stroke is not identified and treated quickly enough. It may result in brain damage, speech impairments, paralysis, or even a loved one’s unfortunate death. The misdiagnosis of a stroke may be considered medical malpractice when the doctor’s breach of the standard of care results in the stroke patient’s harm.
Strokes are one of the nation’s leading killers of people in the United States. In 2020, 1 in 6 deaths from cardiovascular diseases were from strokes. Around 795,000 people in the United States suffer from a stroke each year. Yet, in emergency rooms across the United States, strokes are commonly misdiagnosed, occurring in about 1 in 10 cases. While not every misdiagnosis is due to medical malpractice, some are.
If you or a loved one suffered a stroke misdiagnosis, you could be entitled to significant compensation for your injuries. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer will know how to handle your case and fight for monetary damages needed to cover short- and long-term care needs.
What Is a Stroke?
A stroke is a type of cerebrovascular accident that occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked in some way. It deprives the brain of necessary oxygen and nutrients carried by blood. Without these nutrients and oxygen, the brain cells begin to die very quickly — even within minutes. Some strokes are caused by sudden bleeding in the brain that may cause damage to the brain cells.
Strokes are medical emergencies that require immediate medical intervention. Doctors and other treatment providers are trained to look for the signs of a stroke, but these are sometimes missed. Missing the signs of a stroke is considered medical malpractice, and victims of stroke misdiagnosis may be owed compensation.
Types of Strokes
There are three primary types of strokes that may occur.
- Ischemic Stroke: This is the most common type of stroke. It occurs when the blood vessels to the brain are narrowed or blocked. The blockage reduces or eliminates blood flow to the brain. It is usually caused by fatty deposits in the blood or blood clots that travel in the bloodstream. An ischemic stroke can cause massive damage to a person’s brain.
- Hemorrhagic Stroke: A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or leaks. The blood in the brain can damage and even kill brain cells. This form of stroke often results from high blood pressure, overtreatment with anticoagulants, trauma in a car accident, or even an ischemic stroke that leads to a hemorrhage.
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): A transient ischemic attack is often referred to as a “mini-stroke.” It is a temporary set of symptoms that is very similar to a stroke. This form of stroke does not cause permanent damage and usually results from a temporary decrease of blood to part of a person’s brain. It may last as little as five minutes, but could last longer. Even a TIA is dangerous and requires immediate medical treatment.
What Are the Warning Signs of a Stroke?
There are many warning signs of stroke. Medical staff are supposed to recognize these symptoms and accurately diagnose a patient experiencing them. Their failure to properly identify these symptoms and diagnose a patient’s stroke may violate an expected standard of care and give rise to a medical malpractice claim.
Warning signs of a stroke include:
- Sudden confusion, trouble understanding, or trouble speaking
- Sudden severe headache with no apparent cause
- Sudden difficulty seeing in either eye or both eyes
- Sudden weakness or numbness in the face, leg, or arm (especially if numbness occurs on one side of the body)
- Sudden loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden dizziness or difficulty walking
If a patient experiences any of these symptoms, they should seek medical attention immediately. The sad truth is, however, that people should be able to expect doctors to recognize these symptoms when they are present.
How Stroke Misdiagnosis Occurs
A speedy stroke diagnosis is critical to preventing some of the worst effects of this medical condition. The problem is, many emergency departments are improperly staffed or ill-trained to recognize stroke symptoms. Doctors may be in a hurry and miss obvious tell-tale signs that could prevent long-term damage from a stroke if caught in time.
Medical malpractice often occurs as a result of actions or inactions such as:
- Failure to take a proper medical history for the patient
- Failure to properly perform a physical examination of an emergency room patient
- Failure to give anti-coagulation or blood-thinning drugs to a patient
- Overuse of anti-coagulation or blood-thinning agents in a stroke patient
- A doctor’s classification of the stroke as another medical condition entirely
- Failure to give a patient tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a clot-busting medication with the ability to stop strokes when given at the proper time
- Improper surgeries or mistakes in surgery, which can lead to hypertension
Even when they should see these symptoms, there are other reasons that a doctor or other medical professional may miss it. Poor training or improper staffing may be factors as well.
How an Attorney Identifies Medical Malpractice
Not every missed stroke diagnosis qualifies as medical malpractice, but many of them do. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor’s or other medical professional’s treatment of a patient falls below the applicable medical standard of care. It is not a mere mistake or missed diagnosis, but rather one that is caused by some error in judgment or failure to act that is below the standard expected of a similar medical professional in the same situation.
The standard of care can differ depending on several factors. In determining whether a doctor’s missed stroke diagnosis qualifies as medical malpractice, an attorney will consider factors such as:
- The doctor’s training, background, and experience
- Whether the doctor received specialized training in the identification and treatment of strokes
- The location of the medical treatment (i.e. emergency room, hospital, local doctor’s office)
- The symptoms the patient exhibited and whether these should have been identified as stroke symptoms
- What circumstances led to the misdiagnosis (i.e., understaffed hospital, emergency setting, how noticeable the symptoms were
Compensation in a Stroke Misdiagnosis Case
A medical malpractice claim seeks compensation for an injured patient. When a medical professional misdiagnoses a stroke, the damage can be severe. When this happens, compensation for those injuries may be substantial. Monetary compensation in medical malpractice cases usually occurs in one of two categories.
Economic Damages for Stroke Misdiagnosis
Economic damages are monetary damages with a readily ascertainable dollar value to them. These typically include compensation such as:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Costs of rehabilitation and ongoing stroke services
- Lost income or lost earning capacity due to a stroke
- Costs of disability services or modifications
Non-Economic Damages for Stroke Misdiagnosis
Non-economic damages are not easily assigned a value, but are more subjective. Despite their subjectivity, they often represent a substantial portion of a stroke misdiagnosis victim’s compensation in a successful medical malpractice claim. These often include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship and support
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Wrongful death damages
The amount of compensation owed in each case will differ based on the unique circumstances of that case. A qualified stroke misdiagnosis attorney can identify potential compensation in a client’s case and fight for the maximum amount possible.
How Rosenblum Law Can Help
Stroke misdiagnosis can lead to severe injuries, steep medical and care costs, loss of income, and emotional trauma. The long-lasting or even permanent effects of a stroke misdiagnosis injury can change a victim’s life forever. When this misdiagnosis results from medical malpractice, the doctor or other healthcare provider should be held financially responsible for their negligence.
Our highly-qualified medical malpractice attorneys at Rosenblum Law understand what a victim and their family are going through. We have the decades of experience needed to handle these complex medical cases. We provide dependable and personalized representation for every client and will pursue the maximum compensation you deserve. Our attorneys have successfully won millions for our clients, and we will put our extensive knowledge of these types of cases to work for you. Contact us online or call 888-815-3649 for a free initial consultation of your case. We are here to help you in this difficult time.