Healthcare providers are obligated to care for patients in a way that is consistent with accepted medical standards. This includes cardiac conditions and medical emergencies such as heart attacks. Meeting this standard includes making an accurate and timely diagnosis based on available information and providing appropriate treatment to support the health and well-being of the patient. Unfortunately, not all healthcare providers achieve this standard of care in every situation, and because of the gravity of each situation, every negligent action or inaction matters.
If you or a loved one was harmed by a healthcare provider's inadequate care you may be wondering “Can you sue for a heart attack misdiagnosis?” The answer depends on the circumstances of your unique situation, but in many cases, inadequate care is grounds for a medical malpractice claim. The knowledgeable attorneys at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble can help you determine the best course of action to receive the compensation you deserve.
How Does a Heart Attack Occur?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death, nationally. Of the approximately 805,000 people in the United States who have a heart attack each year, 605,000 have their first heart attack and 200,000 have already had a heart attack.
A heart attack occurs when the heart is unable to receive adequate blood flow. This is often due to a blockage such as a buildup of cholesterol-containing deposits (plaques), fat, and other substances. During a heart attack, the lack of blood flow causes tissue in the heart muscle to die, and immediate treatment by a trained healthcare provider is needed to avoid severe harm or death to the patient. Common symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest pain which may present as pressure, tightness, aching, or squeezing;
- Pain or discomfort through the shoulder, arm, back, jaw, teeth, and sometimes the upper stomach area;
- Cold sweat,
- The feeling of heartburn or indigestion;
- Sudden dizziness or lightheadedness;
- Fatigue or shortness of breath; and
It is true that these symptoms could also be indicators of other conditions, but paired with a patient's medical history and appropriate diagnostics, in many cases, a healthcare provider should be able to properly diagnose a heart attack.
Heart Attack Misdiagnosis
A failure to diagnose a cardiac condition commonly occurs when patients seek medical attention for cardiac symptoms that warrant further evaluation. Providers who fail to treat patients demonstrating or communicating cardiac symptoms may misdiagnose underlying conditions such as acid reflux, vertigo, muscle strains, gastrointestinal issues, or a handful of other ailments.
A patient may be suffering from angina, which occurs when there is decreased blood flow to the heart, typically related to coronary artery disease (CAD). For many people, the first sign of CAD is a heart attack, but it can be diagnosed and addressed earlier with proper medical attention.
A healthcare provider must conduct a thorough examination and any necessary diagnostic procedures to determine the cause of the symptoms presented. It is also crucial that they obtain an accurate record of the patient’s history and risk indicators such as age, weight, tobacco use, dietary habits, etc. to help define the likelihood of certain conditions like heart attacks.
If a heart attack or other cardiac concern is discovered by a general practitioner or other medical professional, they also have a duty to ensure the patient receives optimal care, which may mean recommending a cardiologist. Failing or refusing to refer a patient to a specialist when symptoms warrant it can be detrimental to the patient’s well-being. When harm occurs after a healthcare provider fails to provide adequate care, it is important to seek counsel from an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.
Can You Sue for a Heart Attack Misdiagnosis?
Depending on the situation surrounding your heart attack and the treatment provided, you may have the option to file a lawsuit and recover meaningful compensation for the physical, mental and emotional harm you have endured because of the misdiagnosis.
Healthcare providers are held to a specific standard when providing care to patients. They must act in the same way that other healthcare professionals with the same education and training would have acted in a similar situation. A general practitioner would not be held to the same standard as a cardiologist, but they would be held to the same standard as expected of other general practitioners.
In order to have a valid medical malpractice claim, the action or inaction of the healthcare provider must have been the cause of serious and actual harm to the patient. If all of these elements exist, a patient may be entitled to compensation for the misdiagnosis.
How Much Is a Heart Attack Misdiagnosis Claim Worth?
Just as every person is different, so is every medical malpractice case. There are a number of factors that contribute to the value of your claim including:
The severity of the damage caused because of misdiagnosis is the biggest factor. If the impact was costly and had temporary but serious consequences, the amount the patient is owed would be less than if the results were debilitating or resulted in a decreased life expectancy. Damages for medical malpractice often include:
- Medical expenses,
- Ongoing treatment,
- Diagnostic costs,
- Lost wages,
- Pain and suffering,
- Mental anguish, and
- Post-traumatic stress.
Your attorney can evaluate your claim to determine how much it is actually worth, taking into consideration both the current and future impact of the harm endured. It is important to never accept a settlement offer for less than what you deserve. Once you accept an offer, you cannot go back and ask for more.
Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice
Under the New Jersey statute of limitations, you have only two years from the date you knew or should have known of the error to file your medical malpractice lawsuit. It is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible to help you start gathering evidence and take the appropriate steps to ensure a successful case. Your lawyer can also let you know if there are any exceptions to the statute of limitations that may apply to your circumstances.
While considering filing a claim. do not speak directly to your provider about filing a malpractice claim and do not make public posts about the care you were provided. These acts can have a negative impact on your case. Your lawyer can make sure you follow proper procedures and execute a timely file of all necessary documentation.
Hiring a New Jersey Medical Malpractice Attorney
At O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, we understand that choosing to file a medical malpractice claim is a big decision and the process may seem overwhelming. We know what it takes to win and are honored to have secured the largest medical malpractice verdict of its kind in the state of New Jersey. You may be wondering, Can you sue for a heart attack misdiagnosis? We provide a free case consultation so that we can listen to your story and help you evaluate whether you have a valid claim. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help. Contact our Medical Malpractice Attorneys in New Jersey today to get started.