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In the United States, stroke affects over 700K people each year, about 500K of which are first-time strokes, while the remaining 200K are recurrent stroke attacks. Stroke is the leading cause of disability among American adults and kills someone in Florida every 3.3 seconds. Over 4 million Americans have survived a stroke and are living with the effects. About 14% of them will have another one within a year, and 25% will have another episode within five years. Strokes can and do occur at any age and they are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer. Death and disability can be reduced by 30% if the signs of stroke are immediately recognized and treated.
One afternoon while on his lunch break, a young man began suffering an onslaught of disturbing symptoms. He was unable to speak clearly, had difficulty walking and had a major headache, all classic symptoms of a stroke. He was taken by ambulance to a local hospital in Miami. The treating physicians diagnosed him with food poisoning as he had been eating a piece of chocolate cake when the symptoms presented themselves. Although he was still unable to walk or talk coherently, hospital doctors discharged him and sent him home. With the stroke undiagnosed and untreated, the patient sustained permanent brain damage. He has been unable to return to work due to cognitive impairment, the inability to multi-task and memory loss.
The victim, 60-year-old Navy veteran, sought help from the VA after experiencing partial blindness and headaches. A physician ordered the patient to be transferred to a facility capable of higher-level stroke care after testing confirmed a stroke had likely occurred, but the doctor canceled the move amid confusion about the best course of action. The physician never consulted a cardiologist or neurologist, both of which were available at the clinic. Instead, he discharged the patient and instructed him to take two baby aspirin a day, in addition to arranging for staff to call him and schedule a cardiology appointment. The patient showed up at the clinic a month later for a routine visit. His primary-care physician was never aware that he had previously suffered a stroke, according to the doctor’s deposition. One day later, he was found unresponsive in his home after a second stroke. He suffered a massive stroke that left him with “locked-in syndrome,” meaning he remains fully conscious and able to feel pain but controls only minor movements of his eyes and head.
A healthy young woman complained of severe headaches, and a friend speeded her to hospital. Numbness, garbled speech and dizziness soon added to the pain. Then, two days later, the patient suffered a massive stroke that destroyed the critical tissue of her upper spinal cord and lower brain stem, leaving her paralyzed from the neck down. The doctor who first looked after her misdiagnosed the tell-tale symptoms, delayed the treatment she desperately needed and took steps which actually hastened that brain attack.
A woman went to the hospital after suffering from a severe and persistent headache. The woman was given a CT scan after she began showing some neurological effects and slurred speech. The radiologist who (mis)interpreted the CT scan concluded that there was no evidence of acute hemorrhage, mass lesion, mass effect, acute ischemia, or extra-axial fluid collections. The radiologist also noted that there appeared to be some abnormalities in the scan, but determined that they were of doubtful clinical significance. The woman’s condition then worsened, and she was flown to a larger hospital, where she was given another CT scan. This time, the scan was read correctly, and it confirmed that the woman had, in fact, suffered a stroke. Unfortunately, due to the delay in diagnosis, the window to treat her had already closed. The woman eventually had brain surgery and survived, but she suffered severe brain damage that requires her to undergo intensive therapies and rehabilitation to relearn how to perform daily activities.
The patient, aged 87, was admitted to a hospital in Miami because he started showing signs of confusion. When being admitted, he was in a relatively good state. He was not diagnosed with any serious, life-threatening illness. However, on the fifth day of his admission while receiving combinations of anticoagulant medication he suddenly died. He had a sudden brain hemorrhage within 15-20 hours after receiving an increased dosage and passed away less than 12 hours after the hemorrhagic stroke. As an inpatient, he was first treated by a neurologist who never seemed to care for or follow up on this patient, and she just let an osteopathic physician care for his stroke. He was for several days under the improper care of the osteopathic physician and negligent nurses. He was receiving anticoagulant medication continuously at the wrong time.
The patient, aged 13, visited a neurologist for numbing sensations she was experiencing in her limbs. The neurologist informed the family that she had a rare form of migraine that caused numbing sensations instead of headaches and prescribed the drug Zomig. Sure of his diagnosis, he refused to order an MRI. A few days later, the patient suffered a massive stroke, as a direct result of the Zomig. After the stroke, she was diagnosed with MoyaMoya, a disease which causes occlusion of the carotid arteries. The numbing sensations she was experiencing were not migraines, but mini-strokes. Zomig, caused constriction of the arteries, turning her mini-strokes into one catastrophic one. The stroke left her with massive damage to her brain and major deficits.
This medical malpractice case involves a delay in the diagnosis of carotid stenosis, resulting in a stroke. The patient was on a business trip when he experienced an acute onset of lightheadedness, vertigo, and nausea. The patient also experienced numbness and tingling in his left arm for approximately one minute. He called 911, and he was taken to the ER via ambulance. He was seen in the ER by a doctor who ordered testing, including a brain CT scan. The patient was discharged with the diagnosis of benign transient labyrinthitis versus transient ischemic attack (TIA). He was told to have close follow up with his primary care physician when he returned home. As instructed, the patient telephoned the office of his family practice physician and explained to the receptionist what occurred in the ER, including that there was a question of a TIA. The employee of the office scheduled an appointment four days later. Two days later, the patient’s wife noted a left facial droop and left-sided weakness. The patient was sent urgently to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a right MCA stroke. Testing showed infarction of his brain. By the time of discharge, the patient required a straight cane to walk and was subsequently noted to have a chronic pain syndrome as a result of his stroke.
The patient, a 58-year-old African American man with a past medical history that included obesity, smoking, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and atherosclerotic vascular disease presented to the doctor's office with complaints of lightheadedness and nausea. Without any testing, the doctor diagnosed him with an otitis media (middle ear infection) and prescribed medication. The patient returned to the office after having completed the previously prescribed course of antibiotic therapy. On this date, he informed the doctor that he continued to experience lightheadedness and nausea and was now also experiencing double vision as well. The doctor ordered no testing on this date but rather sent him to see an ENT physician. He was evaluated two weeks later by the ENT who was unable to come to a definitive cause for the dizziness and double vision. Over the next several weeks, the patient continued to suffer from double vision and dizziness. One morning he phoned the doctor’s office to report severe lightheadedness and double vision. Instead of sending him to an emergency room, the doctor scheduled an appointment for that afternoon. The patient left his home later that morning and was heading to the office, but he never arrived. He was found unresponsive in his car at the side of the road. On arrival to an emergency department, the patient was noted to be unresponsive to all but painful stimuli. A CT scan was performed and showed an old, small, prefrontal lacunar infarct. Today, the patient resides in a nursing home, is a quadriplegic and is only able to communicate by blinking his eyes in response to questions.
The patient sought care from the primary care physician regarding ongoing dizziness and underwent tests which showed abnormalities in her brain. This information was communicated to the doctor on more than one occasion, but she never discussed the clinical significance of these findings with her patient. A year later, the patient sought ongoing care from her primary care physician regarding her ongoing dizziness, but also in order to facilitate a referral for repeat MRI and CTA. Once again, the imaging studies revealed a large venous varix and an aneurysm. This information was communicated to the doctor. Two years later the patient became pregnant. She received her prenatal care through an OB/GYN group. According to the records, the OB/GYN care providers checked for problems but were not alerted as to the presence of the brain abnormalities. Consequently, she was allowed to labor and deliver her daughter vaginally. The physical stress of the second stage of labor caused a clot to form. As a result, the patient suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke and lost function in all of her extremities except for her right arm. Following the birth of her daughter, the patient spent a total of 18 months in hospitals and rehabilitation programs.
The patient presented to his primary care physician with complaints of left-hand numbness, decreased grip strength, increased blood pressure, and a family history of coronary artery disease. The doctor’s impression was that the symptoms were due to trauma or a neurologic etiology, and he referred him to a hand surgeon for further evaluation. After a negative exam, he was referred to a neurologist who performed non-diagnostic tests. Despite his symptoms, the doctor did not order any further work-up or testing. Instead, he recommended follow-up in three months. He did not communicate with the primary care physician about test results. Twenty days later, the patient suffered an acute cerebral vascular accident. Upon arrival to the ER with slurred speech and leg weakness, deficits worsened, and he was transferred to a tertiary care center where he received medication for an embolic stroke secondary. He was discharged to a rehabilitation facility, where he remained for a month. He currently suffers significant, lasting neurological impairment.
One of the biggest payouts for a medical malpractice suit centered around a stroke victim. In a case that resulted in a $217 million verdict, a patient went into a Pennsylvania hospital ED with confusion, dizziness, headache, nausea, and double vision. He had elevated cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, and a family history of stroke. A mid-level provider tended to him and ordered blood tests and two CT scans and read both as being negative for stroke. The patient received a diagnosis of headache and sinusitis, approved by the ED physician, and was sent home. The physician just went along with the mid-level diagnosis and did not stop to examine the patient personally, consider his medical and family history or conduct a neurological assessment.
The next morning, as his symptoms had gotten worse, the man returned to the ED. The stroke was confirmed, but his treatment fell short of what was required. The man spent three months in a coma and another six months in care facilities.
In the end, the patient suffered a permanent paraplegic state, sustaining mental disabilities as well as paralysis. In the lawsuit that followed, it was asserted that the patient should have been treated by the original ED physician for his stroke symptoms as soon as he came in. Later, the patient’s attorney discovered that the mid-level provider did not have a license and had failed the licensing Physician Assistant test four times.
In a stroke malpractice case, the hospital is rarely liable, as doctors are usually independent practitioners. Medical malpractice claims should be made against the attending doctor or other attending medical staff, by showing that the defendant’s actions caused injury to the patient.View full answer
In Florida, the statute of limitations for filing a stroke medical malpractice claim is 2 years from when the patient either knew or should have known that the injury exists and there is a plausible probability that it was caused by medical malpractice. Simple and clear-cut cases take up to 6 months to conclude, while complex ones can take up to 5 years for damages to be paid.View full answer
In all medical malpractice cases, you need to first show the existence of a doctor-patient relationship; demonstrate that the doctor failed to provide a reasonable standard level of care through negligence; and show causation between that negligence and your injury.View full answer
Stroke medical malpractice occurs when the stroke was caused directly by the doctor’s action or inaction, through negligence (such as surgical error leading to stroke), or when the doctor has failed to provide the proper level of care (e.g. not providing appropriate medication in high-risk patients).View full answer
Damages for expenses incurred, as well as pain and suffering, are capped in several states. However, some caps were overturned in court. Contact a specialized attorney to find out what to expect.View full answer