Healthcare providers throughout Illinois have a legal duty to treat patients within an accepted standard of care. When healthcare professionals fail to timely diagnose a disease or make other medical errors, patients can suffer harm. Sometimes, a patient may have a serious health condition that requires a prompt and proper diagnosis and treatment to prevent the condition from worsening and placing the patient’s life at risk.
One such condition is bacterial meningitis, which is an infection of the protective layer surrounding the brain and spinal cord. If left untreated, it can lead to serious, even life-threatening complications, and children are especially susceptible to contracting the disease. It’s important to understand all you can about bacterial meningitis and its symptoms so you can monitor your own health or the health of your child.
You also need to understand what constitutes medical malpractice in Illinois and how you could get compensation if a negligent medical provider failed to diagnose your bacterial meningitis or did not provide proper treatment. For help with your bacterial meningitis medical malpractice claim, you should contact an experienced Chicago bacterial meningitis lawyer immediately for a complete evaluation of your case.
What is Bacterial Meningitis?
The brain and spinal cord are protected by meninges. Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the meninges. Although most individuals contract bacterial meningitis because of an infection, other things can cause the disease, including fungi, tumors, drug allergies, and certain chemical irritants. Because bacterial meningitis occurs close to the brain and spinal cord, it is vital that it’s diagnosed quickly and treated promptly to avoid life-threatening complications.
What are the Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis?
While symptoms can vary based on several factors, the most common symptoms of bacterial meningitis include fever, confusion, stiff neck, extreme headaches, and lack of energy. Young children and newborns can also experience loss of appetite, vomiting, and irritability. Children may also have leg pain and feel coldness in their lower extremities, and some children with the condition may also have purple skin coloring.
What Causes Bacterial Meningitis?
Many different types of bacteria can hinder the body’s defense systems and can lead to infection. Some of the most common associated with bacterial meningitis include:
- Group B Streptococcus
- Neisseria meningitidis
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Streptococcus pneumoniae
- Haemophilus influenzae
A less common cause is the bacteria responsible for tuberculosis, mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Bacterial meningitis can occur if bacteria enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain or spinal cord, or if bacteria invade the meninges directly. Additionally, other health issues can lead to bacterial meningitis, such as ear and sinus infections, and even severe injuries like skull fractures or puncture wounds.
How Is Bacterial Meningitis Diagnosed?
To diagnose bacterial meningitis, doctors collect blood or cerebrospinal fluid and send it to a laboratory for testing. To collect spinal fluid, physicians administer a spinal tap or lumbar puncture, and these procedures themselves can be risky to the patient. Doctors may also use a lumbar puncture when there is a known brain mass or increased levels of intracranial pressure, which could lead to brain herniation.
Once the lab technicians have analyzed the sample, they will send the final culture report to the doctor, who can then determine which antibiotic is best to treat the specific type of bacteria. Additionally, doctors may use CT scans or MRIs to identify any areas of swelling or inflammation that could indicate a bacterial infection.
How Is Bacterial Meningitis Treated?
Doctors typically start their patients on a general antibiotic until the results are back from the lab. Doctors will usually prescribe an interim antibiotic based on the symptoms and age of the individual. This treatment is beneficial because it may be able to prevent the spread of infectious bacteria.
It is vital that bacterial meningitis is diagnosed and treated as soon as the symptoms surface. When the condition is left untreated, it can cause serious health complications, including:
- Irreversible brain damage
- Cerebral palsy
- Swelling of the brain
- Mental and neurological defects
- Permanent brain damage
In addition, the condition can also cause amputations and death if left untreated. Therefore, it is vital that you receive a prompt medical evaluation if you have any symptoms of bacterial meningitis. Treatment is based on which type of bacteria is found during the lab culture. When treatment involves the most common type of bacteria, the risk of dying is reduced to below 15 percent. However, when certain symptoms are present, which include seizures, brain swelling, and shock, medication is administered by intravenous fluids to control the spread of the infection.
Who Is Most at Risk for Bacterial Meningitis?
Infants and children younger than five are at the highest risk of contracting bacterial meningitis, and teenagers and young adults see high rates of occurrence. Individuals who are over the age of 60 are also at an increased risk of getting bacterial meningitis, and individuals with the following conditions are also at a higher risk:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Renal insufficiency
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Diabetes mellitus
Individuals who have been exposed to bacterial meningitis can get a meningococcal vaccination, which is also available to those who are at an increased risk of developing the infection.
Why It’s So Important to Get a Proper Diagnosis
Antibiotics are an effective treatment for bacterial meningitis, but they only work on bacteria, not viruses. Certain viruses may also cause meningitis, so it’s imperative your doctor order the proper tests and procedures to accurately determine the cause and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Because the treatment of bacterial meningitis is essential to prevent injuries or death, it can be devastating when a medical professional misdiagnoses the infection with a viral condition. It is the duty of healthcare professionals to rule out the deadliest possible causes of the symptoms in their patients. The most effective ways to diagnose bacterial meningitis are with a lumbar puncture or CT scan, and if a healthcare professional was negligent in ordering the necessary procedures, then it can lead to serious injury or death.
What if A Doctor Failed to Diagnose Bacterial Meningitis or Did Not Treat It Properly?
Misdiagnosis and medical errors are the leading causes of medical malpractice in Illinois and throughout the country. If you feel your medical provider failed to order the proper tests or made other mistakes in diagnosing or treating your bacterial meningitis, you should consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney to understand your options for obtaining compensation.
You should understand that not all medical mistakes qualify as medical malpractice. Malpractice occurs when medical professionals fail to provide an accepted standard of medical care that results in injuries or death. An experienced medical malpractice attorney in Chicago can sit with you and review your case and advise you of your rights and options.
How Do I Prove Medical Malpractice in Illinois?
For your medical malpractice claim to have merit, it must meet the following conditions:
- Your doctor had a duty of care to you
- Your doctor breached that duty through their actions or inaction
- That breach caused you injuries
- You suffered damages as a result, which can be financial, physical, or emotional
The key element in any medical malpractice claim is showing your doctor is liable for your injuries and losses because they deviated from accepted medical standards and practice. Under Illinois law, your claim must include a medical report from a consulting physician that details how another doctor would have acted differently in your case to render a proper and timely diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Illinois?
Illinois allows you two years from the date of your injury to file suit in civil court. If your attorney does not file suit within that time, the court may dismiss your case, and you will have virtually no legal recourse to obtain compensation. Some circumstances may extend the statute of limitations, such as if you didn’t discover your injury until some time later, but all medical malpractice claims in Illinois must be brought within four years of the incident.
Additionally, although Illinois does not require physicians to carry malpractice insurance, many physicians have malpractice policies. Your attorney can check with your doctor when investigating your claim. However, the insurance company will likely have its own requirement for when and how you file a claim, so your attorney will need to contact the insurance company to get the information as soon as possible.
What Can I Expect After Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim in Illinois?
If your doctor has malpractice insurance and your attorney files a claim with their insurance company, your lawyer will send a demand letter to the insurer that details your injuries and why the doctor is responsible. The letter will also include a settlement amount the insurance company can pay to avoid going to court. In most cases, insurance companies refute claims and try to reduce settlement figures, and your attorney will have to negotiate to get a higher amount.
If your doctor does not have malpractice insurance or settlement negotiations break down, you will have to take your case to trial. Your attorney will have to prove medical negligence by a preponderance of evidence, and the insurance company’s lawyers will try every method to convince the jury that your doctor is not culpable for your injuries.
It is vital that your Chicago medical malpractice attorney build the strongest case possible for you from the beginning and fight hard for you throughout all legal proceedings to increase your chances of success.
What Kinds of Compensation Can I Get for Medical Malpractice in Illinois?
For any personal injury claim in Illinois, including a medical malpractice claim, you can recover economic damages for financial losses, including:
- Medical bills
- Treatment costs
- Lost wages
- Other associated out-of-pocket expenses
You can also recover non-economic damages that cover intangible losses that are not easy to calculate or quantify, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional or mental distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Your lawyer will sit with you and carefully determine the types of compensation you may receive and their dollar amounts. Your attorney should also give you objective and realistic expectations for how much money you will get.
What If I Lost a Loved One Due to Medical Malpractice?
If you lost a child or other family member because of misdiagnosed or improperly treated bacterial meningitis, you may file a wrongful death claim against the healthcare providers and medical professionals responsible. However, wrongful death claims have specific legal requirements, so you need to consult an attorney.
Just as with a malpractice claim, your attorney will have to show your doctor or medical provider was negligent in providing an accepted standard of care, and that this directly caused your loved one’s death. For wrongful death, you may receive compensation to cover funeral costs and final expenses, as well as for the loss of income or financial support your loved one provided.
Contact a Chicago Bacterial Meningitis Lawyer for Help
If you or a loved one suffered harm because a healthcare professional failed to diagnose and treat bacterial meningitis, you should contact Zayed Law Offices for a free consultation. Our legal team of medical malpractice attorneys has the experience and resources to help you get the compensation you deserve. We have office locations in Chicago, Rockford, Wheaton, and Joliet, and we are ready to assist you and your family with your bacterial meningitis malpractice claim in any way we can.