According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins, medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in anywhere between 250,000 and 440,000 deaths annually. Unfortunately, many of these errors are the highly avoidable results of doctors ignoring or misinterpreting the symptoms of advanced heart disease or a heart attack – conditions which themselves are also leading causes of death in America. A patient who suffers a preventable heart attack or whose heart attack is misdiagnosed can suffer horrible outcomes and may even die as a result of his or her doctor’s failure to use reasonable care.
Pursuing a medical malpractice case in Florida against a cardiologist, hospital, or primary care physician who has mishandled a patient’s heart condition is a complicated process. A qualified Florida medical malpractice attorney will take the steps outlined in this article while investigating and prosecuting a cardiology medical malpractice case.
- Identify the Medical Error
Every case and every patient are unique. Each must be evaluated thoroughly and critically in order to identify the negligence that led to the patient’s injury or death. Commonly, cardiology negligence cases are the result of failure to prevent a heart attack, failure to manage known coronary artery disease, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a heart attack, medication prescribing errors, or an error which occurred during heart surgery, such as cardiac tamponade or arterial perforation. Other times, emergency room or primary care physicians fail to make appropriate referrals to cardiology specialists in patients who require a specialist’s care, or fail to refer a patient for a life-saving EKG, blood test, or stress test. In order to determine what course to pursue in seeking justice for the patient and his or her family, it is essential to piece together exactly what went wrong, what the doctor knew or should have known, and what the doctor should have done or not done in response.
- Investigate the Records
Medical records contain a wealth of information and are a window into what the doctor was thinking and perceiving while treating his or her patient. Oftentimes, medical records will reveal information that was known to the doctor or nurse but which the doctor or nurse failed to act upon. For example, a record which reveals recent chest pain at rest and a new complaint of jaw pain in a patient who later died of a heart attack ought to raise a red flag as to whether these symptoms were properly addressed. Other times, medical records reveal signs of changes after a patient’s injury – an attempt by the doctor or hospital to cover their tracks.
- Investigate the Doctor or Hospital
It is rarely sufficient to merely look at each client’s case in a vacuum. Instead, it is essential to know the history of each doctor and hospital involved in the patient’s care. What is their patient safety record? Have other patients died under similar circumstances or suffered injuries similar to this one? Did the hospital give privileges to a doctor with a poor safety record? Did the hospital generate a risk management report as a result of this case or a similar one? Asking these questions and knowing what information Florida patients are entitled to receive from healthcare providers is critical to any inquiry into what went wrong to cause a medical injury and who could have prevented it.
- Consult Highly Qualified Experts
All Florida medical malpractice cases, whether against cardiologists or any other specialty, require expert testimony. No medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed in Florida unless and until a qualified expert opines that a reasonable basis exists to believe that medical malpractice occurred and led to the patient’s injury and death. The type of expert required will depend on the type of health care provider who committed the negligence and the nature of the injury. Often, a single cardiology negligence case will require the services of an expert cardiologist, a nursing expert, a hospitalist, and even a pathologist if the negligence resulted in death. It is essential in a cardiology medical negligence case to consult the best medical experts and to do so early. The sooner a top-notch expert reviews the records and evaluates the facts and circumstances of your case, the sooner the wheels can be put in motion toward obtaining justice for you or your loved one.
- Ask the Hard Questions
A cardiology medical negligence case which results in litigation means the plaintiff’s attorney will have the opportunity to question the negligent doctor or nurse under oath. This is the injured party’s only opportunity prior to trial to get information directly from the source. A properly conducted deposition of a defendant doctor takes days to prepare for and ends with the doctor answering every single question which is asked of them. Negligent health care providers will frequently deflect, avoid answering, make excuses, or claim not to remember what happened. A good attorney knows how to see through this type of tactic and will relentlessly pursue the answers her clients are owed by asking questions that are hard to ask but even harder to answer: what happened, why did it happen, and what could you have done differently? Had you responded differently, would my client’s husband, wife, father or mother still be alive today?