When you walk into a hospital or an emergency room, it is normal to expect the doctors to help you get better. Unfortunately, that is not always the situation. In one case, a 65 year-old woman fell, hitting her face and knee. Her husband took her to the emergency room, where she was seen by a doctor. He examined and discharged her, recommending that she see a dentist and her primary care physician. He did not order a CT-scan or any further tests. The next morning, two hours after being discharged, she was feeling worse and began vomiting, so she returned to the emergency room. At this time, she was diagnosed with a head injury, subdural hematoma and extensive brain bleeding. Because of these injuries, she was moved to a 24-hour care facility until her death 16 months later. Estate of Remonde St. Pierre vs. Inphynet S. Broward LLC; Peter A. Oravitz and S. Broward Hospital Dist. 28 Fla. J.V.R.A. 4:C5 (Fla. Cir. Ct. 2018)
While this is a rare and tragic experience, it is always best to be prepared for anything. In Florida, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice actions is only two years. This means that a claim must be made within two years from the time of the incident or when the injury was discovered. In some states, that period is as short as six months. If an act of negligence occurs, this does not give you much time to respond. So what can you do? Anytime you visit a doctor, be sure to keep extensive records. Write down what you say to the doctor and what they say to you. Take photographs of any injuries you have. Be as detailed as possible.
In the St. Pierre trial, the Defendants’ expert testified that there were no symptoms of a brain bleed when the patient first came to the ER and that the brain bleed was related to a medication she was taking for a pre-existing condition rather than the fall. They said that the ruptured clot had happened after she left the hospital and would not have been detected on a CT-scan. However, the Plaintiffs’ experts testified that the ER physician failed to note facial swelling and other signs of head trauma that would have alerted him to order a CT-scan and allowed him to diagnose the brain bleed. Because her injuries had been well-documented, the jury in this case found the emergency room doctor negligent and awarded the plaintiffs a total of $456,000.
It can be legally challenging to hold hospitals and doctors responsible for catastrophic damage in medical malpractice cases. These cases are often complicated and highly regulated by laws varying based on where you live. The first step you should take is to get advice or representation from someone who is familiar with these laws. If you have experienced a tragic situation like this, don’t let anyone tell you that you are out of options. Call Fasig | Brooks to speak to one of our attorneys who fight to protect injured patients’ rights every day.