At the end of October, 2011, a federal jury in Wyoming awarded a man whose broken neck was not properly diagnosed a record-breaking $9 million (the prior record was reported to be $1.5 million). The jury found that a board-certified emergency room physician and the hospital that employed him breached the standard of care when the man’s fractured neck was not timely diagnosed, resulting in permanent and very painful shoulder paralysis that prevented the man from working and caused harm to his marital relationship.
On December 9, 2008, the man was involved in a roll-over accident and was rushed by ambulance to the emergency room of a regional hospital. The ambulance personnel who transported the man from the scene of the accident to the hospital immobilized the man on a backboard and applied a neck brace. Despite the man complaining of neck pain, the emergency room doctor did not order cervical (neck) x-rays and the doctor removed the neck brace (x-rays were taken of his head and back, but not his neck). It was also alleged that the doctor failed to perform an appropriate physical examination of the man’s neck in the emergency room. The emergency room doctor discharged the man to home.
Four days later, the man returned to the emergency room with complaints of left shoulder and arm weakness. At that time, his unstable cervical spine fractures were diagnosed, requiring emergency neck fusion surgery that could not prevent permanent C-5 nerve root damage. The man had to have a second neck fusion surgery and will need further surgeries in the future, including the implantation of a spinal cord stimulator in an effort to reduce the man’s intense pain.
The emergency room doctor and the hospital argued at trial that the doctor did not fail to examine the man’s neck during the first emergency room treatment and that someone who experiences a roll-over accident and complains of neck pain does not need x-rays of the neck.
The jury apparently disagreed with the doctor and the hospital: the jury awarded the man $7 million for his injuries and $2 million to his wife for harm to their 30-year marriage.
We necessarily rely on our doctor’s experience and competence in providing timely and appropriate medical care when we most need it. When the medical negligence (that is, medical care that fails to meet the required standard of care) of our health care providers harms us, we need to seek the advice of medical malpractice lawyers regarding our rights. MedicalMalpracticeLawyers.com can help connect you with medical malpractice lawyers in your area who may be able to assist you with your medical malpractice claim: visit our website or call us toll free at 800-295-3959.
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