When Flu Misdiagnosis is Grounds for a Medical Malpractice Claim in NJ
Flu was Misdiagnosed in NJ – Can I File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Flu, or influenza, is a respiratory viral infection that can range from mild to severe. Two forms of the contagious influenza virus, Type A and B, are responsible for the annual seasonal flu outbreaks in the winter months. Older adults over 65, people with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or asthma, pregnant women, and young children under 2 are most vulnerable to the serious effects of the flu. In fact, prolonged life-threatening illness requiring hospitalization or even death may result when the flu progresses. Severe complications from the flu and development of other conditions like pneumonia, can be deadly. Each year, healthcare workers encourage susceptible populations to get vaccinated to prevent or diminish the flu’s effects.
While the flu is a reality of everyday life in the U.S., particularly during the well-known “flu season,” misdiagnosis of this serious condition may be considered medical malpractice under certain circumstances. For instance, perhaps your family doctor diagnosed your 86-year old diabetic father’s symptoms as the common cold, when it turned out to be the flu. Now he is gravely ill from having contracted the flu virus and being misdiagnosed. Although influenza is a common illness, it may lead to serious bodily harm and even prove fatal when the patient is a victim of misdiagnosis. Medical professionals know or should know the flu can be deadly, and must take timely, appropriate action when potential symptoms of the flu manifest in those under their care. If a doctor or medical professional failed to diagnose the flu virus in you or someone you love, contact our skilled New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers to discuss your case and find out if you may have grounds for a claim. You can reach us anytime for a free consultation.
Signs and Symptoms of the Flu that may be Misdiagnosed
Although not everyone experiences the flu the same way, typical symptoms are sudden onset of cough, sore throat, headaches, body aches, runny nose, tiredness, and stuffy nose. Some people may also experience fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. The flu usually runs its course in a few days to two weeks unless the victim develops complications, such as pneumonia, ear infection, inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain inflammation (encephalitis), inflamed muscle tissue (myositis) or rhabdomyolysis (a breakdown of muscle tissue that results in a protein released into the blood that may cause kidney damage). Other complications from the flu include respiratory failure, sepsis, and kidney failure.
Children and infants often have unique signs of flu-related complications, including breathing difficulties, blue-tinted lips, extreme rib constriction when breathing, chest pain, extreme muscle pain, dehydration, listlessness, seizures, fever above 104 degrees, recurring cough and fever after other symptoms resolve. In adults, the signs of an emergency situation are trouble breathing, chest pain, abdominal pain, dizziness, confusion, listlessness, seizures, intense muscle pain, extreme weakness, fever, decreased or lack of urination, returning cough or fever, or complications related to chronic conditions. All of these warrant a visit to the hospital or emergency room. The flu may also result in deterioration of other medical conditions in both children and adults.
Responsibility of Doctors to Diagnose and Treat the Flu
Diagnosis of the flu is often difficult because influenza can present like other viruses that cause respiratory and flu-like sicknesses. Thus, it is important for doctors to diagnose patients based on more than just symptoms. There are several tests used to differentiate the flu from a cold or other virus. Rapid influenza diagnostic tests identify influenza within minutes, but not as accurately as rapid molecular assays or other swab tests sent to hospital labs. Rapid tests are generally more accurate at identifying the flu in children than in adults. Also, variation taints the accuracy of all rapid tests, depending on the test and virus, potentially leading to false negatives. Doctors then must rely on diagnosing the flu by symptoms and judgment.
As distinct from a mere cold, flu illnesses come on suddenly and are usually signaled by fever, aches, chills, weakness, cough and headache. Both colds and the flu may begin with a stuffy nose and sore throat, but not always with the flu. There is no treatment for a common cold other than rest, symptom abatement remedies sold over the counter, or home remedies. The flu, on the other hand, may be treated with antiviral drugs for severe cases. Mild cases may pass through the body with rest and fluids. High-risk groups with the flu or extremely severe cases of the flu require an immediate trip to the doctor, without delay, for antiviral drugs, which can lessen the flu symptoms’ severity, length and complication risks. However, high-risk, hospitalized or severe flu sufferers must take these drugs early, typically within two days of onset, to avoid serious complications.
When is Flu Misdiagnosis Considered Medical Malpractice?
Since flu-like symptoms are common to other viruses and illnesses, healthcare providers must be especially vigilant to identify the flu. By quickly ruling out other possible conditions to arrive at the correct diagnosis, doctors prevent costly treatment delay. Delay in diagnosis or misdiagnosis of the flu creates the risk of missing the window of opportunity for early drug therapy to both ease the patient’s suffering and prevent worsening symptoms. For at-risk patients, the delay in correct diagnosis of the flu may spell the difference between life and death. Similarly, failing to properly treat the flu may lead to prolonged suffering, pneumonia or lung damage, among other serious complications leading to permanent injury.
So your flu was misdiagnosed. Is your doctor to blame? There are certain requirements that must be satisfied to justify a claim for medical malpractice in New Jersey. First, a doctor-patient relationship must exist. Second, the doctor’s care must fall below the acceptable practice standard expected by practitioners in the same specialty with similar training and experience, when presented with the same circumstances. Third, the medical provider’s failure to provide an acceptable standard of care must have caused some form of injury or harm.
If you or a loved one’s flu misdiagnosis meets these criteria, you may recover compensation for economic and non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering and the cost of past and future medical care. Under New Jersey’s medical malpractice statutes, these claims must be filed in the courts within two years from the date of injury or the date upon which injury should have been reasonably discovered. With the time constraints and complexities of these cases, it is highly advisable to seek knowledgeable legal counsel regarding your potential for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Consult our Lawyers if Your Flu was Misdiagnosed in NJ
If you have questions regarding a flu misdiagnosis case or a doctor’s failure to diagnose the flu, discuss your case with an experienced NJ medical malpractice attorney at Fronzuto Law Group to learn more about your rights. With a practice dedicated to medical injury claims, our firm has the unique qualifications and extensive knowledge and resources to represent you when seeking compensation for medical malpractice. We will thoroughly review your case to identify instances of negligence that may provide grounds for a misdiagnosis lawsuit. If your flu misdiagnosis constitutes medical malpractice, we will vigorously pursue the highest possible damages. Contact us today for a free consultation.