Medical Malpractice
Virginia is one of the most difficult states in the country for medical malpractice claims.

Are you a victim of medical malpractice? Learn why you need an attorney with expertise in this complicated specialty of law.

Failure to Diagnose Stroke

Failure to Diagnose Stroke: Why Does This Happen so Often?

Every 40 seconds, someone suffers a stroke in the U.S.

Being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition is terrifying and overwhelming. What is even worse, however, is when that diagnosis is NOT made in time to minimize the impact, effect a cure, or save a life. In the case of stroke, the failure to diagnose leads to brain damage, permanent disabilities and, all too often, death. The American Heart Association reports that that stroke kills 140,000 Americans every year, making stroke the fifth leading cause of death.

What is a Stroke?

In simplest terms, a stroke is when there is a sudden interruption of the blood supply to the brain. Every year, about 795,000 people will suffer a stroke. The effects can be almost immediate. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. That’s why proper diagnosis is so critical. An accurate diagnosis leads to speedy treatment which may save a life and minimize the long-term effects of stroke.

Why is Speedy Diagnosis so Critical?

About 85 percent of all strokes are ischemic stroke, caused by a blood clot, blocking the blood supply to the brain. According to the American Stroke Association, the FDA-approved drug treatment (Alteplase IV r-tPA) works to dissolve the clot which improves blood flow to the brain. However, to be effective, the drug must be administered within three hours (or four and a half hours for certain patients.)

Other strokes are hemorrhagic, transient ischemic attack TIA and brain stem stroke.

Death by stroke or disability by stroke, therefore, may be prevented through proper, timely and accurate diagnosis. If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke that you believe should have been diagnosed in a timely fashion, you may be able to seek justice for your injuries or loss.

We Have Seen too Many Cases of Failure to Diagnose Stroke

Partner Gary Brooks Mims has significant expertise in medical malpractice and in failure to diagnose stroke in particular. In three recent cases where patients rushed to the emergency room, Mims found that the ER doctor and staff did not exercise the simplest, most basic quick check of stroke symptoms: to examine or observe the patient’s ability to stand and walk normally. An unsteady gait is a universally accepted symptom of stroke. In each of these three cases, the patient had an unsteady gait but stroke was ruled out and the patient was discharged.

Case History: Stroke Leaves a Teenage Softball Player With Permanent Brain Injury

During a softball game, a teenage girl is struck in the neck with a foul tipped ball. She sits out the remainder of the game on the bench. She develops headache and nausea, and after the game her mother takes her to the emergency room. By this time she also developed vertigo. She could not walk or stand normally. However, in the emergency room she is diagnosed with dehydration and sent home. That night she begins to vomit and cannot walk without holding onto furniture. She is taken back to the hospital and now diagnosed with stroke. This was an ischemic stroke and very treatable IF she had been administered the drug to break up the clot within 4 to 6 hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. By the time she returned to the hospital, the window for treatment had closed, as a result the teenager suffered permanent brain injury which limits her ability to walk and think clearly.

Case History: Patient is Diagnosed With Dehydration, Suffers Massive, Debilitating Stroke

In another case, a 40-year-old executive was home alone while her husband was out of town on business. Suddenly she developed nausea and vertigo. She could not walk or stand normally. She rushed to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with dehydration and discharged. When she awoke the next morning, she could only open her eyes—she had suffered a massive stroke. After months of hospitalization and rehabilitation, the patient was able to walk with a walker, can speak, but is no longer employable.

We brought suit on behalf of the woman against the hospital and treating doctors. Our medical expert testified that had her ischemic stroke been diagnosed on her first visit to the emergency room, it could have been easily and successfully treated. We reached a favorable settlement that will support her lifetime of care. Under the terms of the agreement, the amount may not be disclosed

Case History: Pregnant Woman Dies After Failure to Diagnose Stroke

A pregnant woman developed nausea and vertigo, and like the other two patients, she went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with dehydration and sent home. She too was suffering from an ischemic stroke. Unfortunately, she died as a result of the failure to timely treat her stroke. Remarkably, she was kept alive in a vegetative state for more than 2 months so that she could successfully deliver her baby.

We brought suit on behalf of the woman’s family against the hospital and treating doctors. Again, our medical expert testified that the defendants failed to meet the standard of care, by failing to observe one of stroke’s most obvious symptoms and thus failing to diagnose the stroke in a timely fashion. We achieved a favorable settlement for her baby and husband. 

Statute of Limitations for Failure to Diagnose Stroke

In Virginia, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice is two years from the date of injury (Va. Code Ann. 8.01-243.) In the cases above, the plaintiff would have two years from the date of the failure to diagnose the stroke in the emergency room. If you’ve been injured due to the failure to timely diagnose stroke, you may be able to seek compensation for your permanent injury, pain and suffering, lost wages and other “damages.” As medical malpractices lawsuits are complicated and can take months to prepare, it is wise not to delay to seek legal counsel.

Client Reviews
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Gary Mims represented me as my attorney with an issue I had last year. Working with Gary was a pleasure. He was very understanding about my situation, and it was affirming to talk to him. He had a good grasp not only of the legal issues, but the technical issues with my case. Other attorneys I had approached were less receptive because they were not familiar with my particular issue; Gary was. He was professional, empathetic, and a zealous advocate. I was very pleased with how he handled my case... Lisa Ramish
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This is the ‘go to’ firm in Northern Virginia for personal injury law. They did a fabulous job for us. I would highly recommend them. They definitely went above and beyond for us with a great result. Christine Bates
★★★★★
Trusted advice and guidance when you need it most: Gary Mims of Sickels, Frei and Mims, provided outstanding help and guidance through a difficult, emotional and often complex process. When we first thought we might need legal assistance we reached out to several attorneys that we found on the internet and Gary stood out from all the rest: he explained the situation and process ahead in simple terms that we were able to understand...While we hope not to need legal support in the future, if we did, Gary Mims would most certainly be our first, and only, choice. 10 out of 10, thank you Colonel Jeremy Johnson