According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease kills 610,000 people in the United States annually.
This means that 1 out of every 4 US deaths is caused by heart disease per year. If we combine the statistics for heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases that number increase to 1 out of every 3 deaths per year and the total number of deaths rise to just over 800,000. The most common cause of death is coronary heart disease (CHD) which kills 370,000 per year in the US alone. Finally, it’s estimated that over 735,000 Americans per year suffer a heart attack, 525,000 for the first time.
Needless to say, heart disease is a major American health problem and early diagnosis is critical to effectively battling its effects. However, heart disease often goes undiagnosed for a long period of time and, unfortunately, sometimes not until it’s too late.
If you or someone you know has experienced such a situation, you should ask the following question: Was the failure to diagnose heart disease caused by a mistake made by the doctor, diagnostician or another health care professional?
If you believe it was, it is possible that the professional was negligent and, as a result, committed medical malpractice. Believe this might have happened to you or a loved one? If so, there are several important things you should know.
When does the failure to diagnose heart disease rise to the level of medical malpractice?
For a diagnosis to be “failed”, it must have been conducted in the first place or at least should have been conducted.Perhaps you were seeking medical attention for some random condition or another. Maybe you were undergoing a routine physical. No matter the reason for seeing a doctor, if you presented symptoms or signs that indicated the potential presence of a condition related to heart disease but no diagnostic testing was done, medical malpractice may have occurred.
How can you know for sure? Initially you can’t, at least not without an admission by the medical professional that they “made a mistake”.
Whether a mistake has, in fact, been made depends on whether your heart disease would have been diagnosed by another competent professional presented with the same signs and symptoms.
If another physician would have diagnosed your heart condition, your healthcare professional may be held liable for negligence.
The failure to diagnose your heart condition resulted in harm to you that you would not otherwise have suffered but for the mistake. If, for example, a cardiologist did not detect your condition but you subsequently suffered a heart attack, which treatment was unlikely to prevent, the cardiologist’s negligence might not support a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The harm you or your loved one suffered must be consequential, resulting in significant issues such as chronic pain, constant suffering, loss of income due to disability caused by your heart disease or a transplant. It should go without saying that death would be the most severe form of harm.
If you believe or discover that you or a loved one has suffered harm as a result of a failure to diagnose heart disease, there are practical and legal steps you should take.
Don’t sign anything.
Not one thing. Not a release from a doctor’s office, hospital or insurance company. If failure to diagnose heart disease caused injury or death, any parties involved will seek to absolve themselves from all legal and financial responsibility. A legal release permits them to do so and limits the opportunity to seek legal recourse, if not eliminate it altogether.
Write down everything.
Once you discover that you or a loved has experienced a failure to diagnose heart disease, you should make a record of any and all information, symptoms, doctor’s visits, diagnostic examinations (if any) and anything else you can think of that could possibly be related to the heart condition.
As tempting as it may be to talk to others about the situation and how terrible it was, you should refrain from doing so, at least until you have met with a failure to diagnose heart disease lawyer. One of the normal stages in any lawsuit is discovery, a procedure which allows each party to poke, prod and otherwise examine the evidence the other side possesses.
Such discovery includes deposing anyone who may have relevant information related to the matter. Say, for example, you made statements to your employer regarding your ability to work. Those statements are potentially relevant to any lawsuit you may have filed if you assert that the failure to diagnose heart disease renders you incapable of employment. A claim that you experience physical limitations caused by professional negligence can be undermined by someone on your adult league soccer team if you continued to play after the diagnosis. Any statements or conduct that appear contrary to your claims will be used against you in a court of law.
Seek out an attorney experienced in handling matters related to the failure to diagnose heart disease.
Representing yourself in any legal matter is never advised (remember the old saying that even a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client). Doing so in a medical malpractice case is, quite frankly, a recipe for disaster. Below are some reasons why.
Navigating the legal landscape of a medical malpractice matter is very difficult. Some of the laws regarding professional negligence are very complex.
Proving your case requires detailed, technical and often very complicated medical evidence and expert testimony.
Even a personal injury lawyer is hesitant to step into the failure to diagnose heart disease arena without having compiled significant medical malpractice experience. Consider how much more difficult it would be for you.
In fact, to be completely frank, it would be a near impossibility to conduct a failure to diagnose heart disease case without an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.
The defendant health care professional(s) will have the benefit of competent legal representatives who are highly motivated to ensure that you do not win.This truth of this reality cannot be overstated.
Unless instructed by the malpractice insurer to settle as quickly as possible in exchange for a release of any and all future claims for liability, you can expect the defense lawyers to attack your case very aggressively, using every tool available including wearing down your resolve by delaying progress of the case as much as the court will allow.
Insurance companies have very deep pockets which means that they can afford to have their lawyers make the case as financially and emotionally taxing as possible for you. And they will.
An experienced failure to diagnose heart disease attorney knows what evidence is necessary, can identify the strengths and weaknesses of your case and knows the ins and outs of the legal process.