While not common, chiropractic treatment can lead to catastrophic injuries, including death. In such circumstances, Illinois law allows patients to pursue a legal case against a chiropractor who causes injury or death because of a negligence.
THE ROLE OF A CHIROPRACTOR
Chiropractors are held to the accepted standards of care of a reasonably qualified chiropractor. Like malpractice claims against medical doctors, a plaintiff in a chiropractic malpractice case must prove that the chiropractor was negligent and that this negligence caused an injury. Below are several examples.
INJURY TO A PATIENT FROM NEGLIGENT TREATMENT
Most cases against chiropractors are based on negligent manipulations or adjustments causing an injury or exacerbation of an existing injury. Negligent chiropractic adjustments can cause herniated discs, neck injuries, nerve damage, and vascular injuries including strokes.
The most significant injury caused by chiropractic manipulation or adjustment is injury to the vertebral or carotid arteries causing stroke. These arteries pass through the upper vertebrae of the neck and supply blood to the brainstem and the brain. Medical research shows that sudden, forceful, twisting of the neck during a cervical adjustment by a chiropractor can cause a tear in the intimal lining of the vertebral or carotid artery. An injury can go unnoticed for hours, even days; however, can be deadly. This arterial tear, known as a “dissection,” can eventually result in blood clotting around the site of the tear. This can lead to life altering – even life ending – injury If the blood clot dislodges and travels up in the brainstem where it can trigger a stroke.
Chiropractors are required to advise patients of the material risks that chiropractic adjustments or manual therapy can cause them. If chiropractors fail to accurately inform patients of the risks associated with an adjustment or manual therapy, they may be liable if their patient sustains an injury.
Informed consent claims are most common in cases involving arterial injuries caused by cervical adjustments or manipulations. There is a fundamental disagreement between the chiropractic community and medical doctors surrounding the risk of cervical adjustment and manipulation causing injury to the vertebral or carotid arteries leading to a stroke. As a result, chiropractors fail to properly advise patients of the risk of vascular injury from chiropractic adjustments or manual therapy to the cervical spine leading to an unexpectedly high incidence of strokes causing catastrophic injuries or death.
FAILURE TO DIAGNOSE OR MISDIAGNOSIS
Another common claim against chiropractors is based their failure to correctly diagnose a patient’s condition causing delay in appropriate treatment and injury. Chiropractors cannot and do not provide the same services and treatments as medical doctors. The scope of a chiropractor’s practice is much smaller than that of a medical doctor. Chiropractors do not have access to diagnostic tools that are often readily available to traditional medical doctors – namely radiological examinations like x-rays, CTs, MRIs, etc.
Misdiagnosis is a common malpractice claim against chiropractors. An incorrect diagnosis can lead to worsened symptoms and denied access to appropriate treatment. Chiropractors should have the requisite training and knowledge to identify a patient’s medical problem and, if nothing else, send them to their primary care doctor or another specialist for necessary evaluation, care, and treatment. If a chiropractor fails to identify worrisome symptoms and properly transfer their patient to a medical doctor and if that patient sustains a significant injury, there may be a basis for legal action against the chiropractor.
WORK WITH AN EXPERIENCED CHICAGO CHIROPRACTOR MALPRACTICE LAWYER
If you have suffered an injury following treatment with a chiropractor, you have the right to seek compensation for your related damages through a malpractice claim. To learn more about this process, contact our team of experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Baizer Kolar Neiman P.C. today to set up your initial consultation.