Can Heart Attack Victims Sue for Medical Malpractice?
July 28, 2021
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack. If a heart attack is not treated quickly, a patient can suffer from permanent damage or even pass away. Heart attack victims may be able to sue for medical malpractice if their physician misdiagnoses their condition, neglects to order standard tests, or otherwise fails to provide an acceptable level of care.
During a heart attack, a blockage stops the flow of blood to the heart. The blockage may be a blood clot that traveled from a different part of the body or one that formed around a buildup of fat and cholesterol in an artery. In either case, permanent brain damage and scarring of heart tissue may result if a heart attack is not treated within one hour of the onset of symptoms. For that reason, misdiagnosing a heart attack or any other delay in treatment can be fatal.
What are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?
The classic symptoms of a heart attack include the following:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Intense pressure, squeezing, or pain in chest and the arms
- Sweating and fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Indigestion or upset stomach
However, heart attack symptoms are often different for women, and as a result, they are much more likely to be misdiagnosed. Heart attack symptoms that are more common in women include but are not limited to the following:
- Sudden weakness
- Body aches
- Discomfort in the back, chest, arm, neck, or jaw
- Sleep disturbance
The fatality rates for women admitted to the hospital for a heart attack are higher than those for men. Women also have a 50 percent higher probability of receiving an incorrect initial diagnosis for heart disease, even after suffering a heart attack, according to WebMD.
Why are Heart Attacks Sometimes Misdiagnosed?
Heart attacks are sometimes misdiagnosed because the symptoms they present may be similar to less serious medical conditions, including heart burn, acid reflux, and muscle spasms. Physicians who are in a hurry or are otherwise distracted from fulfilling their duty of care may jump to conclusions and assume an incorrect diagnosis without ordering standard tests. They may also arrive at a misdiagnosis by failing to take the time to carefully review the test results they have obtained. They may misread lab results and fail to order additional tests to confirm their diagnosis.
Heart attacks can be correctly diagnosed by using a standard combination of tests, including but not limited to the following:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG): This test checks the electrical activity of the heart to detect abnormal rhythms, blood flow, and other indicators of heart trouble.
- Blood tests: These tests are typically performed to detect levels of cardiac enzymes and troponins that indicate damage to the heart.
- Echocardiogram: This test uses ultrasound technology to reveal the heart’s movement and structure to help determine if any valves have been damaged.
Cardiac computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonant imaging (MRI) tests can also help physicians make an accurate diagnosis of certain heart conditions. All of these tests are well-known and performed routinely by doctors and hospital staff. However, mistakes sometimes occur, causing unnecessary harm to patients.
Studies have documented numerous examples of negligence pertaining to lab tests, particularly EKGs, including the following:
- EKG technicians enter the wrong medical record number.
- EKG technicians fail to clear the results of the previous EKG.
- Electrodes are misplaced on the patient, producing an inaccurate readout.
- Doctors misread EKGs and fail to notice evidence of heart trouble.
An EKG is just one tool in a physician’s arsenal when it comes to diagnosing a heart attack. That is why standard practice calls for following up an EKG with blood tests and an echocardiogram and possibly CT and MRI scans if there is any question at all about a patient’s condition. Consultation with other cardiologists can also help prevent medical mistakes.
When can Heart Attack Victims Sue for Medical Malpractice?
Heart attack victims may be able to sue for medical malpractice if they suffered injury due to a delay in treatment arising from negligence on the part of their health care providers. Examples of negligence including misreading an EKG or other lab results or failing to order tests in the first place. In addition to misdiagnosing a patient, doctors may be sued for medical malpractice if they neglect to follow up on lab tests and prescribe or deliver treatment in a timely manner, thereby causing the patient unnecessary harm.
It is the responsibility of every medical professional to evaluate their patients’ symptoms carefully and follow standard, acceptable practices for delivering care. Failure to do so may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
How can a Lawyer Assist With a Medical Malpractice Claim?
A qualified lawyer can assist a heart attack victim with a medical malpractice claim by first determining whether or not the injury they suffered was indeed a result of medical malpractice. The process will require a careful investigation involving the collection of evidence, which may include the following:
- A timeline of the onset of symptoms.
- Notes of conversations with doctors and hospital staff.
- Medical records describing the initial diagnosis and tests ordered.
- Test results and the interpretation of those results.
- Testimonies from medical experts.
To prove medical malpractice, a lawyer will need to show that a doctor’s failure to provide an acceptable level of care resulted in unnecessary and serious harm to the patient. Then, the lawyer will estimate the financial cost of damages incurred by the injury, which may include medical expenses, loss of past or future income, and pain and suffering.
How can Galfand Berger LLP Help Me?
Heart attack victims or their surviving family members may be able to obtain compensation from a medical malpractice claim. However, each case is different and must be carefully evaluated by a skilled lawyer. When a person has a heart attack, it does not necessarily mean that a doctor was negligent. Medical malpractice occurs when patients suffer unnecessarily because a health care provider failed follow accepted professional standards. Over the years, Galfand Berger LLP has successfully advocated for such patients who have filed malpractice claims, including the following examples:
The legal team at Galfand Berger LLP work diligently to provide financial assistance to injured heart attack victims and their families. The firm is deeply committed to seeking justice by holding negligent doctors accountable for their actions and helping to deter harmful negligent actions in the future.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Bring Skill and Experience to Helping Heart Attack Victims With Medical Malpractice Claims
Misdiagnosis of heart failure is one of the most common examples of medical malpractice. The Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP are skilled at protecting the rights of medical malpractice victims. If you have an injury because of a misdiagnosed heart attack, contact us online or call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) to arrange a free initial consultation. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.