Articles Posted in Spinal Cord Injury

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backacheWe trust medical professionals to provide competent care, but the unfortunate reality is that mistakes do happen. Spinal cord injuries due to medical malpractice can have devastating consequences for a patient’s life. If you or someone close to you has suffered a spinal cord injury due to a medical professional’s negligence, our Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys can help. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, we are committed to helping our clients pursue the compensation they need to move on with their lives.

The spinal cord is the column of nerve tissue protected by the spine and is in charge of delivering messages from the brain to the rest of the body. Our spinal cords are fragile, and injuries to this part of the body can lead to serious damage to the nervous system. As a result, spinal cord injuries often result in a disability and even partial or total paralysis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 11,000 people sustain spinal cord injuries each year. Unfortunately, some of these spinal cord injuries are results of medical malpractice.

Under New York law, medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional breaches the accepted standard of care, which then causes injuries to the patient. The standard of care refers to the level of care that another medical professional in the same specialty would have used under the same or similar circumstances. The standard of care will vary in each case depending on a number of factors, including the patient’s age and medical history. It is not enough to show that a medical professional breached the duty of care; a plaintiff must also show that the breach was a direct and proximate cause of his or her injury. This is typically established through the testimony of an expert witness.

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Spinal CordPeople often seek chiropractic treatment to help with chronic neck or back pain. Chiropractors are credentialed differently from medical doctors and are regulated by a different New York licensing body, but they are still required to perform their treatments under a standard of care. The appeals court in a New York spinal cord injury case was asked to consider whether the expert witnesses in a chiropractic malpractice lawsuit had to have chiropractic expertise, or if more general medical knowledge would be sufficient.

The plaintiff hired the defendant, a chiropractor, to help alleviate chronic neck and back pain, along with headaches. After developing a treatment plan, the plaintiff visited the defendant for treatment 77 times. The treatment typically involved three spinal adjustments. Later, the plaintiff came into the defendant’s office for treatment after she returned from a jet skiing vacation. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant manipulated her spine in a violent or uncomfortable way, and she stopped attending treatments with the defendant. She began experiencing numbness, nausea, pain, and tingling and was admitted to a hospital shortly thereafter. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant caused her to experience trauma to the discs in her back and that she had to undergo back surgery as a result.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging chiropractic malpractice against the defendant. When the defendant moved for summary judgment, it was supported with affidavits from an orthopedic surgeon and a radiologist. Both experts testified that the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by the defendant’s treatments. However, the trial court did not grant the defendant’s summary judgment motion because the experts did not demonstrate that they were qualified to opine on matters of chiropractic treatment.

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Spinal CordInvasive surgical procedures necessarily carry with them risks, including a possibility of permanent injury. Although doctors are required to disclose the risks associated with a procedure under the doctrine of informed consent, New York medical malpractice law holds doctors to a certain standard of care when performing surgeries. Whether this standard was breached was at issue in a recent New York court decision after the plaintiff alleged that a botched spinal surgery worsened her condition and resulted in additional surgeries.

The plaintiff came to her doctor with complaints about chronic lower back and leg pain. After taking X-rays, the plaintiff and her doctor discussed possible surgical options. The plaintiff elected to undergo back surgery to repair the bulging disc in her back. The court record showed that there was no indication that there was anything wrong during the surgery; however, a day after the surgery, the plaintiff had a left foot drop. Her doctor recommended that the plaintiff continue with steroids and physical therapy and did not immediately recommend surgery. The plaintiff continued to experience significant pain going down the left leg and decreased sensation in her left foot. The plaintiff returned to her doctor, and after he re-evaluated the plaintiff, he suggested a further spinal procedure, six days after the first was completed.

The plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged that the defendants, which included her doctor and the hospital, (i) failed to obtain informed consent in advance of the surgery or on the day of surgery; and (ii) committed medical malpractice, based upon the performance of the initial surgery and the timing of the second surgery.

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