Personal Injury Law (Accidents/Slip & Fall)/Legal Question
A family member of mine recently had a bad fall. The first hospital she went to took X-rays and then sent her home because they didn't find anything. The next morning, her own doctor looked at the X-rays and discovered she had actually broke her hip. Since she was sent home, she had to get up several times and stand and walk (a little) in pain, and I'm sure it made things worse.
Should we sue the hospital? There have been at least two other occassions where the hospital seemed incompetent, including the death of another family member who was administered morphine, even though she was allergic. We're not looking to take advantage of a bad situation in suing, but I don't know of any other way to make this hospital act more responsible.
ANSWER: CK Surely you understand that a medical malpractice case is a very expensive, difficult and time consuming effort especially for the attorney. The hospital would fight such a case and your lawyer would have to spend thousands out of his pocket, hundreds of hours over months or years and all for what? A less than 50-50 chance of getting paid 1/3 of what the family member was awarded and a 50-50 chance of get nothing for all his time and money out of pocket. Point is, the damages must be in the 6 figure value at the least and the chance of winning must be high. In other words, little question that the medical provider really really screwed up. In this case, even if the ER should have seen the injury, what are her damages because of that error? Minimal at best. She had some pain and suffering for one night but they would not have operated immediately anyhow so she would have had a bad night anyhow and you don't really have any evidence that the brief delay in getting the correct diagnosis made matters worse. Very unlikely it did. If she truly had a broken hip.........what does that mean really (dislocation, fractured femur, acetabulum, femoral head, pelvis, what?).........she would need the surgery anyhow. You don't mention that she did have surgery which I find interesting. And, what happened in other unrelated incidences has no bearing on this one case..........legally speaking. And what about this family member who died but was "allergic". Did she die from a morphine allergy? Is that what you mean? Or did she die from something else and how did you know she was allergic to the morphine anyhow? And if she was dying and they were trying to provide palliative (relieve suffering) care, wasn't that the right thing to do? When had she had morphine before and why? That would be interestinig to know. If the morphine didn't kill her and you have no evidence that it did other than your uneducated guess about it, that probably wouldn't stand up in court. Wouldn't you agree? Hope this helps.
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QUESTION: It was an actual break in her hip, so she did had to have surgery and screws put in. I'm going by what my mother told me, but the doctor said it was a bad break and that an artery runs through where the break is, so it could have been lethal sending her home. I don't know how easy a bad break is to miss, but I do know she should not have been standing and moving with a broken hip. I guess the only way to know if there was additional damage is to compare the X-Rays from the first hospital to any taken by the second.
I'm not surprised that Healthgrades.com gives this hospital a "worse than average" in death in procedures where mortality is usually low. Her nurse was actually 40 minutes late in giving her pain medication because she "forgot" and was chatting with a friend in the lobby. I'm not interested in a long court battle if it will do little to change this hospital's practices, and unfortunately people in this small town do not think to sue when bigger malpractice incidents take place.
As far as the family member who died from morphine, nobody is suing for this. It happened several years ago. The only reason I mentioned it is because this hospital seems like a nightmare. It was listed in her medical history that she was allergic, yet she was administered it anyway and died as a result.
I think you get the point which is this: The patient may very well have received substandard care (negligence and malpractice) but such cases require two other essential elements to be viable economically. First is "causation". Did the malpractice cause damage? Malpractice occurs all the time but in only a small percentage of those cases does it cause actual damage. And the second element is of course "damages". The dollar value of the injury that was caused by the malpractice must be very very substantial. The malpractice did not cause the broken hip. The malpractice was if failing to diagnose it initially. So unless you have an expert in orthopedics to say that the delay of a few hours was the "cause" of turning a minor injury into a life altering injury, the damages are not nearly sufficient. What "might have happened" because of the malpractice doesn't have any legal value at all. Clearly no case here. I wish the family member a speedy and full recovery