It is the rare neurological injury or illness that does not potentially have grave consequences.
There is no question that many neurological injuries get worse through no fault of the doctor. It is also true that neurologists, as a class, are among the best and brightest doctors we have. But the reality is that we have too many neurologists and neurosurgeons that are poorly trained, hurried, or inexperienced that cause injuries to or kill their patents. There are also other doctors who are missing signs and symptoms of nuerological injuries that should have led to a referral to a competent neurologist.
Most Common Types of Neurology Malpractice Claims
The most common types of neurological injury malpractice claims are:
- Failure to make the referral (usually to a neurologist who would have properly diagnosed the problem)
- Failure to recognize and treat a complication
- Improperly preformed procedures
- Diagnostic errors
- Failure to monitor the patient
- Failure to properly instruct the patients
The Value of Neurological Injuries
The average sum paid out in a neurological malpractice claim is over $300,000. That statistic is not particularly helpful because neurological injuries run the gambit from claims that are worth tens of millions and claims that are worth less than $100,000.
Below we provide some example settlements and verdicts in Maryland and around the nation in neurological malpractice injury cases. These verdicts are illustrative on some level and give you a real feel for how juries are looking at cases where they believe an award is warranted. But please do not use these results to infer a value on your specific case. There are just too many factors that go into these cases, including the quality of the lawyers involved, the jurisdiction, the state’s damage cap if applicable, and a variety of other variables that make prior results a poor predictor of the outcome of an individual claim.
That said, here are some results in these cases:
- March 2014, New York: $ 4,873,703 Verdict: A 40 year-old man had been experiencing recurrent falls. He went to a neurologist who believed the man had myasthenia gravis – a condition that causes fatigue and muscle weakness. The doctor prescribed a medication to stimulate the nerves. Two years later, at the neurologist’s suggestion, the man underwent removal of his thymus. He was then prescribed additional medication and biweekly sessions for removal and replacement of blood plasma. To more years went by and the man saw another neurologist who found that the falls were a product of cataplexy. The man sued the original neurologist for medical malpractice, claiming that he had misdiagnosed his condition which resulted in years of unnecessary treatment and stress (including intense moments of depression that ultimately led his wife divorcing him). Plaintiff’s expert neurologist claimed that myasthenia gravis was not shown in the initial test results and that the misdiagnosis constituted a departure from the standard of care. A New York jury found in favor of the Plaintiff and awarded he and his ex-wife (who sought recovery for loss of companionship) in the amount of $4,873,703.
- November 2013, New York: $750,000 Settlement: A 56 year-old hospital administrator underwent a scheduled endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography – a surgical exploration of the gastrointestinal tract’s biliary ducts – at Beth Israel Medical Center. After the surgery she began to experience drastic changes in her mental status such as slurred speech and cognitive impairment. A neurologist opined that the woman had suffered a stroke during the procedure, resulting in her mental injuries. The woman sued the performing gastroenterologist, neurologist and Beth Israel Medical Center for medical malpractice. Plaintiff’s expert gastroenterologist claimed that the Defendant gastroenterologist could have safely addressed the Plaintiff’s condition through radiological studies and did not properly provide informed consent to the Plaintiff by not suggesting an alternative and less invasive procedure. Plaintiff also claimed that the Defendant neurologist did not properly treat her stroke. The parties agreed on a $750,000 settlement while the jury was deliberating.
- November 2013, New York: $1,300,000 Settlement: A 45 year-old special education teacher was referred to an orthopedic doctor after she complained that her right foot was dragging while she was walking. The orthopedist in turn referred her to a neurologist. He suspected multiple sclerosis, but MRI tests of the brain, and cervical and thoracic spine did not show multiple sclerosis. The MRIs did indicate a herniated disc that unfortunately was not discovered by a radiologist at that time. The woman’s condition only worsened and she soon began to have bladder and bowel incontinence. She visited a second neurologist who was unable to confirm multiple sclerosis, but did order additional testing after noticing the woman’s herniated disc. No testing related to the suspected herniation was performed, however, additional brain MRIs were. Like before, the tests did not indicate multiple sclerosis. It was not until two years after her initial visit that the herniated disc was properly observed and addressed. She saw some improvement, but was left requiring a walker to get around, as well as was left with bladder and bowel incontinence. She sued both the radiologist and first neurologist for failing to timely diagnose the herniated disc. Defendant radiologist maintained that the MRIs were read properly while Defendant neurologist denied that there was any deviation from the standard of care. After two mediations, the case settled for $1,300,000.
- October 2013, Texas: $4,239,464 Verdict: A 46 year-old man arrived at a local hospital’s emergency room with concerns of consistent headaches, slurred speech, and confusion over an eight month period. He was admitted to intensive care where, after a CT-scan and MRI were conducted, the attending neurosurgeon and neurologist found an indication of hydrocephalus. They planned to place a shunt, or drain the fluid the following morning. However the neurosurgeon, after reviewing results from a 24 hour intracranial pressure reading, determined that the man did not have hydrocephalus. He was discharged and instructed to schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist, and to avoid stress. Two months later, the man was found dead in his bedroom by his 12 year-old daughter. His wife sued the hospital, neurologist, and neurosurgeon for medical malpractice. Plaintiff claimed that the Defendants failed to diagnose and treat her husband’s hydrocephalus. Defendants denied all allegations and claimed that, because the tests administered were inconclusive, they would not place a shunt or drain fluid without being sure. A Harris County jury found the Defendant neurologist and Defendant neurosurgeon negligent and awarded the Plaintiff $4,239,464.
- September 2000, Maryland: $ 2,000,000 Settlement: A 34 year-old satellite technician had been visiting her primary care phys
ician for three years for treatment of chronic back and hip pain, as well as leg weakness and balance problems. The physicians did not elect to conduct any neurological testing. After finding herself unable to walk, she visited a local emergency room where a large, benign spinal cord tumor was discovered and removed. Unfortunately, since its removal, the woman is severely disabled. She sued the primary care physicians for failing to timely diagnose her tumor, and claimed that had they done so, she would have been able to lead a normal life. Defendants denied Plaintiff’s claims arguing that her complaints were sporadic and the extent of her disabilities were much smaller than she claimed. While the Defendants denied liability, the parties agreed to a $2,000,000 settlement.
- February 2001, Maryland: $85,000 Verdict: A 28 year-old man visited the emergency room of St. Agnes Hospital with complaints of headaches and facial numbness. After being observed by the attending neurologist and infectious disease specialist, it was recommended that various lab studies be conducted to help determine the cause of the man’s symptoms. The infectious disease specialists recommended an HIV test, even after the man denied having any risk factors for HIV. Shortly after testing was conducted, the man was informed that the results showed positive for HIV treatment was started immediately. He was prescribed cytotoxic drugs and admitted for three days. He was discharged and had to go through the difficult process of informing his family and loved ones of his HIV status. Yet, not long afterward, he was contacted by the infectious disease specialist who notified him that there had been a mistake and he was not HIV positive. The man sued the infectious disease specialist and hospital for negligence, claiming that he experienced immense physical and emotional pain during the time he was under the impression that he was HIV positive. Plaintiff claimed that he was subjected to highly toxic drugs due to the Defendants’ negligence. Defendants denied liability, claiming that the results had been read properly. The arguments continued to a Baltimore City court where a jury found the Defendants negligent and awarded the Plaintiff in the amount of $85,000.
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