One of the most common-and potentially harmful-forms of medical malpractice is the failure to timely diagnose a medical condition or a delay in diagnosing the condition. In many medical situations, time is of the essence. If a medical professional medical provider does not act reasonably when a patient comes in, and a condition is not identified that should have been identified, then medical malpractice may have occurred.
This type of mistake perhaps receives the most publicity in cancer cases. Of course, catching cancer early is crucial, because the more time that cancer has to spread the harder it is for caregivers to control it and save the patient’s life. However, failure to diagnose lawsuits can also be filed in many other contexts-including when traumatic brain injuries are involved.
In fact, a failure to diagnose a TBI was at the heart of a medical malpractice lawsuit (and settlement) that was profiled this weekend in the Contra Costa Times. The suit was filed a year and a half ago by a man who was staying at a public rehabilitation center. While there took a pretty tough fall in the bathroom, hitting the bathroom floor hard. Caregivers at the facility claim that they conducted an evaluation after the fall and determined that he did not show any sign of injury. That is why they apparently discharged the man. However, after arriving home, it became clear that something was wrong. Eventually his family was forced to rush him back to the hospital where he was finally diagnosed with having suffered a traumatic brain injury. He had bleeding on the brain that required extensive medical care to correct.
Following the accident, the man filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the rehabilitation facility claiming that they did not conduct a thorough examination to ensure that he was safe to be discharged. Part of the complaint included allegations that the staff members at the facility were negligent in their examination due to the fact that the accident occurred near the holidays and they wanted to leave.
According to the story it now appears that the city, which is responsible for the conduct of the public rehabilitation facility, is seeking to settle the lawsuit. The Board of Supervisors will vote on the reported settlement this week. As it is currently proposed, the settlement would include $2.3 million to the patient, an assumption of a Medi-Cal lien of roughly $200,000, and excusing the man’s $635,000 hospital bill.
It is encouraging that the negligent facility in this case appears poised to step up and accept responsibility for their conduct in this case. Beyond providing redress for the man in this case, the suit has also spurred changes at the facility. Part of the settlement includes demands that the country health officials provide a corrective plan of action. The plan will survey how the hospital conducts patient assessments to prevent injured patients from being sent home improperly. Hopefully these protocol changes will spare future victims the same suffering that the man in this case experienced.
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