The family of a 16-year-old boy pursued legal action against his school nurse, alleging that her failure to inform his family of a potential concussion resulted in serious brain damage.
His Football Injury
The plaintiff, who had recently joined his high school football team, was sitting on the sidelines without his helmet when a few teammates began to throw footballs at him. A few of the footballs hit him in the head.
Shortly after this incident he went to see the school nurse. He informed her that he had been hit in the head with more than one football and that he now had a headache and double vision. He mentioned to her that he was worried that he had a concussion. She made one attempt to reach his grandmother, the family member with whom he lives, but was unable to contact her.
After this first visit to the nurse, he continued to go to practice over the next two weeks. He also returned to the nurse on multiple occasions, complaining once again that he was suffering from headaches and double vision. She apparently did contact his grandmother but only discussed the fact that he had pinkeye.
Several days after the phone call, the boy was at home with his grandmother and began to complain of head pain, neck pain, and issues with his vision and balance. She rushed him to the emergency room where doctors saw a large mass on the images that they took of his head.
The ER doctors transferred him immediately to another hospital where doctors found what is known as a cavernous malformation.
A cavernous malformation is a type of vascular malformation. Blood vessels end up with large “caverns” due to dilated vessels that fill with blood slowly. These lesions have a tendency to leak because of the malformation. In this case, a blood clot formed near the boy’s brain stem.
His doctors were forced to perform brain surgery to remove the clot. Due to a combination of the bleeding and the surgery, he suffered from brain damage which required extensive rehabilitation therapy and impacted his ability to walk. He currently needs to use a wheelchair or a walker, although his physical therapists and doctors are hopeful that with time he may be able to walk with just a cane.
The Pursuit Of Justice
The boy and his family filed a lawsuit against the school nurse, alleging that if she had informed his grandmother of the symptoms that he was experiencing and the possibility of a concussion, he would have seen a doctor at an earlier date. They believe that if he had been evaluated immediately, doctors would have food the bleeding, preventing the clot and the brain damage. They further alleged that she had also failed to inform his football coaches of his condition which allowed him to experienced additional blows to the head.
After presenting their arguments at trial, a jury found that the nurse’s failure to inform the family and football coaches resulted in the bleeding and damage to the boy’s brain. They awarded him $991,800 in compensation for his losses.
Medical malpractice is when a medical professional either fails to do something or does something which results in harm to a patient. It isn’t just doctors who can perform medical malpractice, any medical professional with a licenses such as a nurse, physical therapist, EMT, or technician can be held liable for the choices they make.
The most common forms of medical malpractice include:
If a doctor fails to determine what is really causing the patient’s symptoms, they may recommend a treatment that can do more harm than good and delay the proper treatment.
A Failure To Diagnose
Time and time again patients report going to their physician with a set of symptoms only to be told that there is nothing wrong. Failing to diagnose a condition in time can be a deadly mistake. Cancer is one of the most common conditions which physicians fail to diagnosis.
Prescription Medication Errors
Giving the wrong combination of medications or the incorrect dose can cause lasting damage to a patient’s body.
Anesthesia doesn’t apply to just the act of putting a patient to sleep during surgery. Anesthesiologists also perform nerve blocks and epidurals. These procedures are delicate and a simple mistake can leave a patient with lifelong nerve pain or paralysis.
Surgical errors include performing surgery on the incorrect body part, leaving inanimate object inside of the body cavity, or performing an incorrect procedure.
In order for the plaintiff to show that medical malpractice actually occurred, they must prove:
- That a medical-professional – patient relationship did, in fact, exist.
- The medical professional behaved in a negligent manner.
- The doctor’s negligence resulted in some harm to the patient.
- The the injury or harm resulted in a loss.
What Is Informed Consent?
The term informed consent basically means that a medical professional must inform their patients of all of the potential risks, side effects, and benefits of a procedure, medication, or treatment. They must also inform the patient of any alternative treatments. If they fail to do so, they may be held liable for any injury to the patient.
If I Signed A Consent Form Do I Still Have a Case?
It is possible that you may still have a case even if you did sign a consent form. This form does not release the medical professional from any negligent decisions or acts that they make.
How Do I Know If My Doctor Was Negligent?
If you aren’t sure if your doctor was negligent, the first thing you should do is contact a medical malpractice attorney. They can review your case and help you determine if you are eligible to pursue legal action.
In many cases, an attorney will recommend that you seek a consultation with another doctor, an expert. This expert will examine the patient and review prior medical records to determine if they can provide a “certificate of merit”. This certificate certifies that the expert has reviewed the available information and has determined that the medical professional who treated them did, in fact, deviate from the generally accepted standard of care.
How Long Do I Have To File A Claim?
In New York, plaintiffs have two and a half years to determine if they want to pursue legal action. There is an exception to this rule – if a foreign body is found years after a surgery, the plaintiff has one year from the date that the object was found to file a lawsuit.
It is important to note these dates, because once the statute of limitations has passed, your chance to obtain compensation will be lost.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
Every case is different and there is no accurate way to determine exactly how much a case may be worth.
The majority of medical malpractice cases settle before they go to trial. An attorney can help you negotiate a settlement that is appropriate, or, if the case goes to trial, represent you and fight on your behalf. Any damages awarded by the jury will take into consideration the past and future medical expenses of the plaintiff, any lost wages, the physical pain and suffering they may have endured, and any emotional trauma.