Strokes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. With the number of cardiovascular diseases consuming our country, medical providers have an obligation to watch for and monitor warning signs. High blood pressure, smoking, poor nutrition, obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes are all warning signs, and there are many drugs and treatments now available to prevent or slow the disease’s progression.
A stroke occurs when there is an interruption of blood flow to the brain. The lack of oxygen due to this interruption causes brain tissue to die, which causes that part of the brain to be unable to function. Strokes can be caused by either occlusion (plugging) of a blood vessel in the brain (ischemic stroke), or by bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). A stroke can result in partial paralysis, paralysis, memory loss, and death.
Time Lost is Brain Lost
A stroke is a medical emergency. Neurologists use the phrase, “time lost is brain lost” to emphasize how critical fast diagnosis and response are to saving brain cells.
No matter the type of stroke, once it occurs, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs at a rapid rate. When brain cells die during a stroke, the sensory and motor abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost and are (almost) never fully recovered. These abilities include speech, movement, memory, and other cognitive functions.
How a stroke patient is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the large distribution vessels in the brain and how much brain tissue is affected by the lack of oxygen delivery.
What are the Symptoms of a Stroke Doctors Should Know?
The symptoms of a stroke can vary depending on the extent of damage to the brain and which part of the brain is affected, but in general the symptoms include:
- Severe headache
- Numbness in the face or extremities
- Slurring or loss of speech
- Rapid heartbeat or hypertension
- Loss of balance
- Paralysis on one side
In addition, a patient may experience a warning sign called a transient ischemic attack (or TIA) before an actual stroke. A TIA, or mini-strokes is caused by blood supply to the brain being cut off for a short time, without causing any permanent damage. It is the health care professional’s job to recognize the symptoms of a TIA and develop a treatment plan to try to prevent a full-scale stroke.
Aneurysms – An aneurysm is the bulging of a blood vessel in the brain. Although they may burst without warning, malpractice may occur if a doctor does not heed the warning sign of a blinding headache in an at-risk patient, or does not perform corrective surgery properly.
What Are the Different Claims That Can Be Made For A Stroke?
Given these considerations, litigating a case involving a stroke can be difficult because of the different elements that come into play. There can be a claim based on:
- Delayed diagnosis
- Delayed treatment
- Improper discharge
- Mismanagement of treatment
- Inadequate medication
How do I Find the Right Stroke Malpractice Lawyer?
Here are five steps to find the right stroke malpractice lawyer:
1. Ask a trusted adviser
If you have a trusted legal adviser, start there, otherwise, consider asking friends and family. The best lawyers are usually known by reputation in their community. Let them know you are looking for a medical malpractice-only attorney, and preferably one who has handled stroke malpractice claims. Why? Because you do not want a lawyer who handles “everything,” because they will not be the best at any of them.
Also let them know you need the lawyer to be from or licensed in the state where the stroke malpractice occurred. Why? That’s likely to be where a lawsuit would have to be filed.
Be sure to ask them for 2-3 suggestions.
You can also check your state’s or city’s plaintiff trial lawyer association. For example, in Ohio we’re members of the Ohio Association for Justice, and the Cleveland Academy of Trial Attorneys. Both are plaintiff-lawyer-only organizations.
2. Do Background Research on the Lawyers Online.
Getting the names is the start of the process. Now do a little looking online.
Their website will tell you if they really specialize in medical malpractice or not. If you see the lawyer does “general litigation,” or handles things outside of personal injury (like criminal defense or estate planning), they are NOT likely to be top medical malpractice attorneys.
You can also look the lawyers up on avvo.com to see if they have been “disciplined”–gotten in ethical trouble as a lawyer–and what their clients say about them.
3. Set up a Meeting to Interview the Lawyer and Ask Tough Questions.
If there is a serious disability or death from a doctor or hospital failing to diagnose or treat a stroke, you can bet lawyers will be interested in the case, and in selling you on their services. You’ve already weeded out the jack-of-all-trades lawyers, and are only looking at the medical malpractice-only lawyers.
Time to ask the tough questions.
Set up an in-person appointment and ask them:
- What types of cases do you handle other than medical cases?
- What do you know about the different types of strokes? Symptoms and treatment?
- Have you investigated and filed lawsuits on behalf of people hurt or killed by stroke misdiagnosis? How many? Can you give me the case name and court?
- How would this process work?
Most lawyers will struggle with these questions–even medical malpractice-only lawyers–so you’ll know if you have an expert or not on the topic. You’ll also get a sense for whether you like and trust the lawyer. That’s critical, too.
4. Ask for Recommendations.
One way to gauge how confident a lawyer is in their ability and success is to ask them for names of other top medical malpractice or stroke malpractice lawyers in the community. Most places will have at least a handful of great medical malpractice lawyers.
If a lawyer is not confident, or if they are desperate for your case, they will say something like, “I’m the best.” (By the way, at least in Ohio, lawyers are not allowed to call themselves the best Ohio medical malpractice lawyer, or best Ohio stroke malpractice lawyer–so that should tell you something about their ethics if they do!)
If the lawyer is confident, and is not desperate, they’ll give you names. Why? Because their job is to help you, and that includes helping you find a great Ohio stroke lawyer if you are not hiring them.
(If they are not the right lawyer for you, ask too: you need some new names!)
Why do yo not want a desperate lawyer? Because the fastest way for a lawyer to make money is to settle your case on the cheap: they do less work, spend less time, and get money now. That’s not something talented lawyers do, because they understand the only way to maximize the return to a client is to work the case up the right way.
That takes time.
5. Ask them about trial.
Lawyers who are afraid of trial cannot scare a hospital or insurance company’s lawyer. All they can do is settle on the cheap.
So how do you know if a lawyer is afraid of trial? Because when you ask them about it, they tell you it won’t ever happen.
When a client asks me about trial, I tell them by the time we’ve been working together for a while, they’ll want to go to trial. Because they’ll know that being ready–even eager–to go to trial is the best way to put the fear into the other side.
Does that mean we try cases even when it would be better for the client to settle? Never. It just means we have all the leverage in the case, because we’re not afraid.
If you believe a healthcare provider failed to diagnose a stroke, or took too long to diagnose or provide treatment for a stroke, the impact was likely devastating. Whether there is partial disability, full disability, or even brain death, the person and their family are forever changed.
Do not let them be harmed again by losing the opportunity to recover for their losses. Start an investigation now.