Can You Sue for Misdiagnosis of Stroke?

In Illinois, a misdiagnosis of stroke and other medical conditions may be considered medical negligence and grounds for a lawsuit against the patient’s physician. Patients who have serious health conditions and are misdiagnosed are prevented from getting the proper medical treatments they need to improve. As a result, these patients can face worsening health conditions that lead to permanent injuries, disabilities, and death.

Female doctor holding a purple stethoscope

Understanding Misdiagnosis of Stroke

When you’re suffering from a medical condition, you usually visit your doctor and look for him or her to diagnose your condition and provide proper medical care. But, if misdiagnosis happens, you need to know what to do if you have been misdiagnosed. In reality, these mistakes happen quite frequently within the medical profession in Illinois and other states. A study of clinical negligence claims in the United States over a 25-year period found diagnostic errors, misdiagnoses, and failure to diagnose patient conditions to be the most common, most dangerous, and most costly types of medical mistakes. The most common misdiagnosed medical conditions include:

  • Cancer
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA)
  • Heart attack / Stroke
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolism

Common Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke

A stroke is considered a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment to prevent brain damage and other health complications. When an ischemic stroke occurs, the normal blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting essential nutrients and oxygen. This can cause brain cells to begin dying within a few minutes.

Common Signs and Symptoms of a stroke include:

  • Dizziness or loss of balance and coordination
  • Blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes
  • Slurred speech and difficulty understanding speech
  • Sudden, severe headache or altered consciousness
  • Numbness or paralysis of the face, arms, or legs
  • Mouth drooping when you try to smile

There are two main causes of stroke: 1- Ischemic Stroke, caused when the brain’s blood vessels become blocked or narrowed, and 2 – Hemorrhagic Stroke, caused when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures.

The Importance of Early and Accurate Stroke Diagnosis

Whether you’re having an ischemic stroke or a hemorrhagic stroke, early diagnosis and treatment are imperative to stop bleeding in the brain and restore normal blood flow. Treatment of an ischemic stroke must be given quickly, usually within 4 to 5 hours, to restore blood flow to the brain. Lack of timely treatment can lead to continued bleeding in the brain, blood clots, brain damage, permanent physical and mental disabilities, and death.

Consequences of Misdiagnosis

Stroke victims can suffer a variety of both physical and mental medical complications and long-term health problems, especially without a fast, efficient diagnosis and treatment plan to prevent further damage. In some cases, stroke victims require immediate emergency measures to prevent blood clots and bleeding in the brain. Surgery may be necessary to stop bleeding and relieve pressure on the brain. A misdiagnosis of stroke can mean permanent disabilities and even death for some victims.

Physical Damage Suffered by Patients

If stroke symptoms are ignored or misdiagnosed, there’s a high probability of physical damage to a patient. Physical damage caused by a stroke varies from person to person, and depends on the severity of the stroke. However, some level of physical limitation or disability is common in about 75% of stroke victims. Common physical damage includes loss of feeling in a limb, difficulty walking, speech problems, vision problems, and chronic pain. The healing process for physical stroke symptoms commonly includes physical therapy and recreational therapy, which includes the use of art, dance, games, non-impact sports, and swimming activities to improve movement.

Increased Risk of Disability or Death Due to Delayed Treatment

Any time there’s a misdiagnosis of stroke and proper treatment is delayed, the patient has an increased risk of disability and death. The degree of disability or risk of death depends on the severity of the stroke and which part of the brain it occurs in: 1- the Cerebrum, the left and right sides of the brain; 2- the Cerebellum, the top and front of the brain; or 3- the Brain stem, the base of the brain.

1.      The Cerebrum – Injuries to the left cerebrum often cause right-sided weakness or paralysis, while injuries to the right cerebrum cause left-sided weakness or paralysis. Both sides may cause impairments and disabilities with bowel and bladder control, cognitive skills, eating and swallowing, self-care ability, vision, and speech.

2.      The Cerebellum – Strokes are less common in the cerebellum, but when they occur, the effects can be severe. The cerebellum receives sensory information through the spinal cord, so it helps with balance and coordination, muscle action and control, and fine movements. Delayed treatment may cause chronic dizziness, headaches, and the inability to walk normally.

3.      The Brain Stem – The brain stem controls many of the body’s vital “life-support functions” including breathing, blood pressure, heartbeat, chewing, swallowing, and eye movement. Brain stem injuries require immediate medical treatment. Delayed treatment and misdiagnosis of stroke in the brain stem can lead to death and medical malpractice.

Impact on the Patient’s Quality of Life

Following a stroke, the impact on the patient’s quality of life can be permanent. In addition to suffering physical and mental impairments and disabilities, a stroke victim may no longer be able to work or earn a living without financial support from family members or organizations who provide support. Physical and mental disabilities may require the use of aids like canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and daily caretakers to cook meals, provide baths, and handle everyday chores.

Can You Sue for Misdiagnosis of Stroke in Illinois?

Can you sue your doctor for misdiagnosis of stroke or failure to diagnose a medical condition in Illinois? If you suffer harm because of the delayed diagnosis of these conditions, an Illinois medical malpractice lawyer can file a lawsuit against the doctor or medical professional who caused you harm. If you think you have a claim, contact a Chicago lawyer who handles medical malpractice and personal injury cases to talk about your circumstances. Many lawyers offer free consultations to review the details of the case.

Criteria for a Valid Medical Malpractice Claim

If you are injured by a doctor or medical professional because of a misdiagnosis or delayed treatment, you may need to learn how to sue a doctor for misdiagnosis. In Illinois, medical malpractice claims can be filed against healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, and surgeons when negligent actions cause an injury. Medical malpractice lawsuits are filed in civil court by a lawyer who handles these types of cases. Examples of medical malpractice may include anesthesia errors, diagnostic errors, medical errors, and surgical errors.

To file a valid medical malpractice lawsuit in court, you must prove the 4 D’s of medical negligence:

  • The medical professional owed a duty of care through a doctor-patient relationship that existed at the time of the malpractice
  • The doctor or liable party breached the duty of care
  • The breach of duty caused injuries to the patient
  • The patient suffered damages because of his or her injuries

Steps to Take if You Have a Misdiagnosis Claim

If you think you have a misdiagnosis claim, you must take certain steps before you file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Your medical malpractice lawyer can help you with important necessary steps before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in civil court.

Gather Necessary Evidence to Prove Your Case

You will need to gather evidence to prove your case in court. Essential evidence includes medical records that show the dates of doctor visits, physical exams, medical treatments, test results from X-rays, MRIs, and ultrasounds, prescription medications, and referrals to other doctors and specialists. You should also gather your bills for medical expenses, receipts for medications, and witness statements from other patients or medical professionals who can testify on your behalf.

Establish Compensation for Damages

In medical malpractice lawsuits, patients often recover economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover tangible expenses that can be measured, such as medical expenses and lost income due to time away from work. Non-economic damages cover intangible expenses that are difficult to measure in monetary value. These include pain and suffering (current and future), disfigurement, permanent disabilities, and loss of enjoyment of life. Your medical malpractice lawyer can help you identify and calculate both types of damages.

File a Timely Claim

In Illinois, all medical malpractice and personal injury claims must be filed within the statute of limitations, which is two years from the date the injury occurred or was recognized by the victim. If the victim dies due to negligent actions such as misdiagnosis of stroke or failure to diagnose the condition and provide proper treatment, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by family members on behalf of the deceased.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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