Learn how to prove liability and get maximum compensation if you experience medical negligence
A brain bleed is a common name for different kinds of brain hemorrhage distinguished by the location of the bleeding.
Your brain and other tissues are contained within your inflexible skull bone. The contents are tightly packed, with little room for swelling that occurs with brain bleeding.
Your brain is protected by 3 layers of membranes (meninges). Some brain bleeds occur between the meninges.
More problematic bleeding comes from within the brain because it’s harder to diagnose or treat. The 2 kinds of bleeding from within the brain are:
- Intraventricular hemorrhage
- Intracerebral hemorrhage
Intraventricular bleeding comes from within the ventricular system, which is comprised of 4 cavities where the circulating cerebrospinal fluid is produced.
Your brain matter, which is protected by the surrounding meninges, is comprised of about 60 percent fat, with the rest a combination of water, protein, carbohydrates and salts. Within the brain matter are blood vessels that nourish the brain and nerves that send and receive message impulses to and from the other parts of your body.
Intracerebral bleeding comes from blood vessels within the brain tissues. If the blood vessels are either blocked or burst, affected parts of your brain will die. Those blood vessels can be blocked by accumulated blood or fluids that compress the brain within your skull, which has very little room for swelling.
In addition, brain tissue swelling can compress the nerves that communicate with different parts of your body. The compression of the nerves can cause pain and impair the functions of affected organs, muscular and skeletal systems, and senses.
Death can result soon if an inordinate amount of blood flows into the tissues before it is arrested.
If you suffer trauma to your brain or head due to a personal injury, are you eligible for compensation?
Brain bleed symptoms and causes
Common symptoms of a brain bleed include the following:
- Persistent headache
- Disparate pupil sizes
- Slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness
A brain bleed can result for a number of reasons, but common causes include the following:
- Brain injury or head trauma
- Aneurism or spontaneous blood vessel rupture
- High blood pressure
- Amyloidosis (a rare disease that affects the nerves that control blood pressure)
- Brain tumors
Effective treatment of brain bleeds requires immediate emergency medication or surgical response to stop the bleeding and reduce the swelling of brain tissues.
A defective diagnosis or delayed treatment can have catastrophic death-threatening consequences.
When it comes to medical malpractice, the most common wrongful death causes are either misdiagnosis of a condition or failure to diagnose a condition.
Because an intracranial brain hemorrhage is typically a rushed, emergency situation, under-pressure medical professionals can misdiagnose and prescribe treatments that are contraindicated for intracranial brain hemorrhage. The results can be harmful.
What should the doctor do if they suspect a brain bleed?
Surgery is the fastest response to a brain bleed because it helps to remove blood that is building up pressure. Medication should also be administered to decrease blood pressure to a systolic of 140 mmHg. Blood thinners should be reversed, and blood sugar should be maintained in a normal range.
An example of medical error in the diagnosis and treatment of brain bleed is a misdiagnosis of it as hydrocephalus, which has similar symptoms. Hydrocephalus is commonly treated with the insertion of a ventricular drain and corticosteroids. But corticosteroids can be very harmful if administered in the case of a brain bleed.
A brain bleed is often the cause of hydrocephalus, which has other causes as well. Corticosteroids are a major risk and are contraindicated when a brain bleed is suspected. They induce high blood pressure and reduce collagen synthesis in brain blood vessel walls, both of which are causes of or exacerbate brain bleeding.
This kind of misdiagnosis and faulty medication can lead to patient death or long-term disability. If the brain bleed had been accurately diagnosed, the hydrocephalus would have been treated surgically with a ventricular drain, with no corticosteroids—while the brain bleed would have been treated according to accepted protocols.
General personal injury law
Medical malpractice is a subcategory of personal injury law within the larger scope of tort law. A tort is a body of law focused on harm to a person or property caused by the negligent or intentional act or omission of another.
Liability for a tort requires that a defendant have negligently or intentionally committed an act or omitted an act they had a duty to perform, which was the proximate cause of the harm to the plaintiff.
A personal injury tort action is governed by state law in most cases. Generally, an action for personal injury is brought in the county court in the place where the personal injury occurred. The laws of the state where it occurred will govern.
Awardable damages for personal injury are compensatory or punitive. Compensatory damages are either economic or non-economic.
Economic damages are those that can be monetarily measured. These include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages and earning capacity
- Property damage (if applicable)
Non-economic damages are those for which there is no universally recognized monetary value. Measurement of these damages is a fact issue to be determined by a jury or other fact finder. The standards are necessarily subjective.
- Pain and suffering and mental anguish
- Permanent disfigurement
- Physical impairment
Punitive damages are awarded as a punishment or deterrent. They are awarded only in a case where the defendant’s conduct is egregious. In some states, punitive damages are limited to a cap, which is typically a multiple of the compensatory damages awarded.
Some state legislatures have enacted special limits or caps on medical malpractice damages in response to pressure from the AMA and other lobbies. However, according to current Florida laws, there are no caps on compensation for medical malpractice lawsuits.
Burden of proof
In a personal injury civil action, the plaintiff has the burden to prove the defendant’s liability and measure of damages by a preponderance of the evidence. Generally, this means that the fact finder (jury or judge) is convinced that there is a greater than 50% chance that the plaintiff’s claim is true.
Medical malpractice and brain bleed
Medical malpractice is a highly specialized law practice because of the complexity of the subject matter. Physicians typically have 11 years or more of education and internship, as well as further practical education, before they are qualified to practice a particular kind of medicine.
Malpractice trial lawyers must have a working knowledge of medicine in order to evaluate a case and must comprehend and rely on the testimony of medical and scientific experts to make a case.
Medical malpractice burden of proof
The plaintiff in a personal injury claim against a doctor must show the following:
- There was a duty and standard of care required of the doctor.
- The doctor failed to satisfy that duty, and that failure was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury or harm.
- The plaintiff experienced damages attributable to the doctor’s failures.
Learn about definitions, types, damages & deadlines surrounding personal injury cases in Florida.
An overarching standard for judging a doctor’s conduct is not succinctly defined in most state laws. Generally, a doctor is expected to:
- Act according to a generally recognized standard of care for the particular services rendered; and
- Foresee the consequences that a professional person with the necessary skills and education would have foreseen.
To bear the plaintiff’s burden of proof, a medical malpractice attorney must employ the services of medical or other experts to testify as to the following:
- The standard of care applicable to the case
- What a doctor would have done if they had the necessary skills and education to reasonably perform the services in question
- The doctor’s particular failures to satisfy the standards
- The causal relationship between the doctor’s failures and damages suffered by the patient
For brain bleeds, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has published Guidelines for the Management of Spontaneous Intracerebral Hemorrhage. This publication provides the kind of evidence that would be presented in a brain bleed medical malpractice claim.
On what grounds can you sue for medical malpractice?
The principal grounds for a medical malpractice claim are:
- Unduly delayed response
- Incorrect medication
- Negligent surgical procedure
Conditions are misdiagnosed when a doctor fails to observe and correctly interpret the signs and symptoms of a brain bleed. Also, a negligent doctor might fail to administer proper tests (e.g., CT scan or MRI) that would reveal and identify the presence of a brain bleed and lead to appropriate medical or surgical intervention.
Delayed diagnosis or treatment
Brain bleeds require immediate medical attention. Bleeding-induced swelling within limited cranial space compresses other blood vessels and nerves. The immediate results are:
- Irreversible death of oxygen-deprived brain cells
- Permanent damage to nerve-controlled body functions (e.g., paralysis)
If a brain bleed is not timely and accurately diagnosed, the wrong medication might be prescribed. The example above demonstrates how medication for an incorrectly diagnosed condition can lead to death.
Even if a diagnosis is correct, a negligent doctor might prescribe the wrong medication.
Among the numerous possible surgical errors are the following:
- Performing the wrong surgical procedure
- Failing to stop excessive bleeding resulting in oxygen deprivation
- Failing to properly intubate the patient
- Administering wrong anesthesia
- Failing to monitor the patient under anesthesia
While some medical mistakes result from negligent or incompetent doctors, other mistakes are the result of well-intentioned, competent doctors who may not be experienced with brain hemorrhage but are the only physicians available at the time of the emergency (perhaps due to staffing problems or other issues). There are also competent brain specialists who, on any given day, can simply make a mistake.
All of these circumstances can result in serious harm or death to a patient with a brain bleed, and regardless of the reason for the doctor’s error, the innocent patient or their surviving family deserves to be compensated.
Contact a Florida medical malpractice attorney
It only takes one careless mistake by a doctor for a patient’s life to be changed forever. If you or a family member suffered an injury or death because of a doctor’s negligence, the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Lorenzo & Lorenzo are here to help. We can investigate your case and consult medical experts to prove liability and get you the compensation you rightfully deserve.