Attorney Kowalski specializes in cases of medical malpractice, birth injury, auto and truck accidents, nursing home negligence, and other medical negligence. He has appeared before state and federal courts throughout Pennsylvania on behalf of seriously injured accident and malpractice victims.
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Distasio & Kowalski LLC
Located in Wilkes-Barre, PA, Distasio & Kowalski LLC, specializes in birth injury, medical malpractice, auto & truck accidents, personal injury, and wrongful death.
For more information on Distasio & Kowalski LLC, please visit dklawllc.com or call 570-970-5400.
Preventable medical errors can cost you your health and possibly even your life. Each year people across the country die or are severely injured due to preventable medical errors. While we look to medical providers to diagnose and treat us, preventable medical errors can and do happen in healthcare settings. A new study detailed in an article by Yale University reported that most hospital medical errors involve poor monitoring or management of medical conditions. Diagnostic errors and errors related to surgery and procedures are also prevalent. While any medical error can be dangerous, there are some that are more common and can be more harmful.
Delayed Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis
A timely, accurate diagnosis is critical to your getting proper medical care. A fairly common medical error, delayed, or the wrong diagnosis can result in severe harm to a patient. Misdiagnosis may occur because a healthcare provider failed to ask the right questions or order adequate testing for a patient. A busy physician might order tests, but then fail to review thoroughly. Even if an accurate diagnosis is eventually made, a delay in diagnosis on the part of a healthcare provider can lead to the loss of valuable time in treating a serious illness.
Protect yourself from delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis
Take an active role in your care. Advocate for yourself, and ask questions. Being involved as a patient can be very important in preventing diagnosis errors. Follow up on test results and speak up if you have doubts.
Provide a full medical history. If you feel your medical provider is not asking enough about your history, speak up and provide as much information as you can.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion. Quality healthcare professionals support that decision.
Bring a family member to appointments or to the hospital to ask questions and help get information from your doctor.
Educate yourself and research your symptoms.
According to the FDA, a medication error is defined as any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the healthcare professional, patient, or consumer. Medical errors are one of the most common, preventable medical errors. Medication errors can occur when a patient gets the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. This error can occur on the part of a doctor writing a prescription or entering medication into a computer system, a nurse dispensing medication to a patient or a pharmacist error in filling a prescription. Medication errors are also caused by incorrect labeling on the part of a drug manufacturer.
The FDA has put many safeguards in place to help prevent medication errors. This includes barcodes that allow healthcare professionals to verify the right drug and dose is being given to a patient. They have also published guidelines to help manufacturers design drug labels and packaging to minimize or eliminate hazards that lead to medication errors.
To be proactive in helping to prevent medication errors, the FDA recommends that you:
Ask your doctor the name and purpose of any drug you are prescribed, as well as the risks and potential side effects. Ask about drug and food interactions as well.
Be sure you understand the directions in taking the drug, dosage, etc.
Check the container label each time you take a medication. Don’t transfer medication to another container, so you can always check the original label.
Keep an updated list of all of the medications you are taking.
If in doubt about medication, double-check with your pharmacist or another healthcare provider.
Surgical Medical Errors
Mistakes during and after surgery can have devastating results. This includes medical complications and possibly even death. Surgical errors can include wrong-site surgery, wrong operation, operating on the wrong part of the body, leaving a foreign object in a patient, or operating on the wrong patient. Post-surgical errors can include neglect in providing proper post-op care.
Protect yourself from surgical errors
A common theme for protecting yourself from medical errors is asking questions. Fully understanding your procedure and treatment can help you catch potential problems. Talk to your surgeon about the details of the procedure.
Research your procedure.
Take notes and detail everything.
Request medical staff show you where they will be performing surgery and mark the spot.
Errors involving anesthesia can cause permanent injuries or death. They can include failing to evaluate a patient’s medical history for possible complications or failing to provide proper instructions. Administering the wrong dose of anesthesia, improper placement of breathing tube, or not properly monitoring a patient on anesthesia are other potential errors.
Be proactive with speaking with your anesthesiologist before surgery
Be sure you are supplied specific instructions prior to surgery that addresses preparation. This might include not eating or taking certain medications. You will meet your anesthesiologist on the day of the operation before surgery. If you have questions or concerns, be sure the anesthesiologist addresses all of your concerns.
Childbirth Medical Errors
Childbirth errors can have tragic results, harming both the mother and child. Birth injuries that may result from medical errors or medical malpractice include cerebral palsy, brain injuries, paralysis, and bone fractures.
Childbirth medical errors that can cause serious harm include:
Not anticipating possible pregnancy and birth complications.
Failure to diagnoses a medical condition or birth defect.
Failure to respond to fetal distress.
Not performing or delay in performing a cesarean section.
Incorrect use of vacuum extractors or forceps.
To ensure proper care during childbirth:
Seek regular prenatal care. Regular check-ups with your obstetrician and early detection of potential problems will help prevent complications. Be sure your doctor is carefully monitoring your health throughout your pregnancy.
Eat a healthy diet.
Determine whether your selected medical professional is qualified to handle your birth. Are they skilled and experienced in handling birthing complications should they arise? Talk extensively with your obstetrician about your options and be well-prepared for delivery.
Lack of coordination between healthcare providers
In today’s medical world there are often multiple healthcare providers taking care of one patient. Communication and coordination are critical to the safe and successful treatment of a patient. A mistake in or lack of communicating can result in testing, treatment, medication, and other medical errors. Be sure your healthcare providers are all on the same page when it comes to your treatment.
Get help if you are the victim of medical errors
The most common contributing cause of medical errors is human error. A lack of training, fatigue, or simple carelessness can all contribute to medical errors. Charting and lab errors are common and can lead to patient injury. When there is a breach of duty on the part of a medical professional to provide competent care, it could be considered medical malpractice. If a medical error has injured you or someone you love, you need the help of medical malpractice attorney. A qualified medical error attorney can help when dealing with hospitals and their insurance company. The medical injury attorneys at Distasio & Kowalski can provide a free, confidential consultation. Our medical malpractice lawyers will work to determine if the injuries caused were due to medical negligence. Contact a medical malpractice attorney at Distasio & Kowalski in Wilkes-Barre today.
Birth trauma refers to damage of the tissues and organs of a newborn baby. Although many newborns might have minor injuries during birth, sometimes the injuries are more severe and include serious nerve damage. Brachial plexus birth injuries refers to damage to the brachial plexus nerves that occurs at birth, and may be related to a difficult labor and delivery.
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that begins at the spinal cord in the neck and delivers messages from the brain to the shoulder, arm and hand. These nerves control muscle function in the chest, shoulders, arms and hands, as well as sensation in the upper limbs. A brachial plexus birth injury occurs when the baby’s neck is stretched, compressed, or awkwardly twisted. A quick or emergency delivery resulting in the baby being forcibly pulled out can result in a brachial plexus injury. The nerves may stretch or tear during a traumatic delivery. Although nerves have some ability to heal on their own, it depends on the severity of the damage.
The most common type of brachial plexus injury is called Erb’s palsy. Babies with a brachial plexus injury may have difficulty moving their arm or lack feeling in their arm. Damaged nerves may result in symptoms from minor weakness to partial or complete paralysis depending on the severity of the injury. A less common injury that affects the lower brachial plexus is called Klumpke’s palsy. This typically affects only the muscles in the hand and is not common in babies.
Four types of brachial plexus nerve injuries
Neuropraxia – This is a stretch injury and is the most common. The nerve is stretched but not torn. These injuries will typically heal on their own in time.
Neuroma – This is a more serious stretch injury that damages nerve fibers and results in scar tissue. The scar tissue may press on the healthy nerve and create discomfort. Long-term recovery is typically only partial, not complete.
Rupture – This a stretch injury that tears or ruptures the nerve. This type of injury will not heal on its own. Surgery is required to re-attach the nerves.
Avulsion – This type of injury is the most severe type of nerve damage and occurs when the nerve fiber is torn from the spinal cord.
For severe brachial plexus injuries, prompt surgical treatment might be needed to attempt to regain function. Without it, permanent disability may occur. In the most severe cases, the damage may be permanent. Chronic pain can also be a long-term result of a brachial plexus injury.
Erb’s Palsy birth injury
Erb’s palsy may occur during delivery when excessive pressure is put on the baby’s head, neck or shoulder because of difficulty delivering. The symptoms of brachial plexus injury can vary based on severity and extent of damage. Erb’s palsy is the result of the upper brachial plexus being paralyzed. The risk of a baby developing Erb’s palsy is greatly increased if they develop shoulder dystocia during delivery. Shoulder dystocia is a condition where the baby comes through the birth canal at an awkward angle and a shoulder becomes stuck on the mother’s pelvis. Erb’s palsy can include paralysis or limpness in a baby’s arm, limited or no movement in hands and fingers, and loss of sensation in hands and fingers.
Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy
Weakness or numbness in arm.
Limited motion in the shoulder, arm, wrist or hand.
Arm hanging by side and rotated inward.
Partial or total paralysis of the arm.
Potential Causes of Erb’s Palsy / Brachial Plexus Injuries
As we mentioned above, brachial plexus nerve injuries typically occur with traumatic or difficult deliveries. This may include a large baby, a breech birth or prolonged labor. A doctor delivering quickly may use excessive force to pull the baby from the birth canal resulting in a stretching of the baby’s neck. This can also result from excessive pulling on the shoulders during a head-first delivery, or by pressure on the infant’s raised arms during a feet-first delivery. Risk factors associated with brachial plexus injuries include improper use of birthing or extraction tools, prolonged labor, breech delivery, large baby, small or abnormal maternal pelvis shape or excessive maternal weight gain.
A baby’s arm that is limp can usually indicate a brachial plexus injury. Proper diagnosis requires a complete neurological exam to determine which nerves have been impacted and the severity of the injury. Treatment may include anything from physical therapy to improve movement in the muscles and nerves or occupational therapy to improve joint function and muscle tone to surgery in the most severe cases.
Brachial Plexus injuries during childbirth
The main cause of Erb’s palsy is damage to the nerves during childbirth. Brachial plexus injuries are avoidable. An obstetrician must proceed with extreme caution when risk factors are present during delivery. For instance, failure to recognize that a caesarean section should have been performed due to the baby’s size, use of excessive force or pressure on the baby’s head, neck, or shoulder during delivery, or improper use of delivery instruments, such as forceps or vacuum extractors, may indicate an error on the part of the doctor.
Often, Erb’s Palsy injuries are the result of preventable medical errors during delivery. Medical professionals have a duty to ensure you and your baby are provided a certain standard of care. Birth injuries may come with lifelong limitations for your child, crippling medical costs, and lasting emotional stress. If your infant has suffered a brachial plexus injury or has been diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy that you believe may have been caused by medical negligence, you should consult with an experienced birth injury attorney to explore your options and help recover compensation for your child’s injuries. The Distasio & Kowalski birth injury attorneys have seen the toll birth injuries can take on a family and we are here to help.
A medical error is a preventable adverse effect of medical care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient. A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins medicine said that medical errors should rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States. Hard to imagine, we know. Highlighted by the report was a failure to accurately track vital statistics, which hindered research on the subject and more accurate reporting. Researchers called for more detailed coding on death certificates. The hope is to more accurately capture if a medical error is the cause.
This lack of detailed accounting on both injuries and fatalities as a result of medical error and medical mistakes, has led to this very real problem not getting the focus it deserves. Patient safety needs to be a top priority of our healthcare system and legislatures. No one expects to seek medical attention and experience further harm as a result. A sad fact is that it can and does happen. Read on to learn about many types of medical errors that can occur.
Common medical errors
Misdiagnosis – An error in diagnosis or delayed diagnosis is the most common type of medical error. Often, a speedy and accurate diagnosis is
Physicians performing surgery
essential in starting a proper course of treatment. A wrong diagnosis can cause a dangerous and sometimes fatal delay in treatment.
Surgical errors – We’ve all heard horror stories of wrong site surgeries, or even of surgeons operating on the wrong patient. There are many surgical errors that are a result of medical negligence. An example of this is leaving objects, such as surgical sponges or even medical instruments inside a patient’s body after surgery. Puncturing an organ or causing an infection due to a surgical error are other problems that can lead to serious injury, as is failing to properly monitor vital signs. Surgical errors can lead to a devastating outcome for a patient.
Anesthesia errors – One of the most serious medical malpractice injuries can come from a negligent anesthesia error. This can sometimes result in brain damage, coma or death before action can be taken. More specifically, anesthesia errors can result in stroke, heart attack, asphyxia, brain injury, birth defects and many more injuries. Giving the wrong dosage of anesthesia, failing to monitor the patient properly, failing to properly administer oxygen or failing to recognize complications are just a few of the anesthesia errors that occur.
Medication errors – Medication and other prescription errors can occur at many different stages in the medication prescribing and dispensing process. For instance, an error could be made in ordering or prescribing or in entering the information into a computer. Medication mistakes can also happen when the drug is dispensed or administered or in monitoring the patient. According to the FDA, they receive more than 100,000 reports in the U.S. each year associated with a suspected medication error. Medication errors could result in a variety of injuries from birth defects to adverse reaction, life threatening conditions, disability and even fatality.
Errors due to lack of communication – Medical errors and injury may result from the lack of proper communication and coordination between healthcare providers. It can also be a result of lack of communication between a doctor and a patient. Good communication is essential between all parties involved in medical treatment. This is a very preventable medical error that can lead to serious harm.
Failure to properly monitor a patient – Failure to monitor could lead to missed medical warning signs. This may result in valuable time lost in properly treating a patient. It may even result in irreversible injury. Monitoring is essential in medical care.
Lab errors – Failure to properly read test results can lead to a wrong diagnosis and wrong treatment. This can lead to a dangerous delay in properly treating a medical condition. Errors in testing, reading tests and in communicating results can all cause harm.
Medical equipment malfunction – Medical equipment that is not kept in good working order can cause serious harm or possibly death. An example of this might include a case of a malfunctioning defibrillator.
Blood transfusions errors – Blood transfusions are high-risk procedures. Errors can occur during the transfusion process. They can occur when identifying a patient, in blood typing, in failing to test for contamination in blood or in failing to recognize a blood transfusion reaction.
Birth injuries as a result of medical errors – Every year, tens of thousands of birth injuries occur in the U.S. Birth injuries can include traumatic brain injury or other brain injuries and oxygen deprivation among other errors. A failure to anticipate complications or to diagnose an ailment could be life threatening. Birth injuries that can be caused by medical errors include Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy or HIE. Cerebral Palsy, and Erb’s Palsy/Shoulder Dystocia are other examples of birth injuries. Medical errors resulting in birth injuries can include a failure to detect fetal distress or a delayed cesarean section. They can also include a delay in diagnosis or the improper use of birthing tools among other errors. Birth errors can have a lifelong impact on children and families.
How can patients better protect themselves from certain medical errors?
The sad truth is that many medical errors are often preventable. Medical mistakes are frequently the result of carelessness on the part of a doctor or another medical professional or healthcare provider. Here are five ways you can protect yourself.
Be assertive and ask questions – Don’t be afraid to ask. You will want to know the risks and disadvantages of various procedures, side effects of medication and other treatments, etc..
Bring along an advocate – It sometimes gets confusing, and having a family member or friend with you at an appointment can help.
Watch for signs of medical staff fatigue in an understaffed health care facility.
Make sure all medical providers know all of the medication you are taking. Alert them to medication allergies and reactions as well.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.
When errors are made in the medical profession, they can result in serious and sometimes fatal consequences. For medical malpractice to be considered in a case, the following must have occurred: harm was suffered by a patient as the result of a medical professional failing to provide a standard of care that other medical professionals would have provided under the same circumstances. If you believe you have been injured by a medical error, it’s important to act quickly to protect your legal rights. Speak to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can evaluate the circumstances of your case. A knowledgeable medical injury lawyer can tell you if you have a medical malpractice case.
Cerebral palsy is a lifelong and serious neurological disorder that is often caused by a lack of enough oxygen reaching an infant’s brain during labor or delivery. Head trauma before, during or shortly after birth can be a cause. While not all cases of cerebral palsy are caused by medical error, some certainly are. Medical errors or medical malpractice during labor or delivery can sometimes result in hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen to the brain, or asphyxia, which is insufficient oxygen to the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that 85 to 90 percent of cerebral palsy cases are congenital, or occur before or during the birth.
Cerebral palsy impairs muscle coordination and body movement. Harmful side effects of cerebral palsy can include breathing problems, trouble swallowing, speech impediment, as well as vision and hearing problems. Other side effects include cognitive impairments, seizure disorder, learning disabilities, and inability to control the bladder or bowels and more. 1 in 323 babies in the U.S. is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. This is according to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation.
Types of cerebral palsy
Spastic Cerebral Palsy – The most common form of CP, it accounts for for 70-80% of cases. Symptoms include stiff and tight muscles. Those suffering from spastic cerebral palsy may have difficulty moving from one position to another. They may have trouble controlling muscles that are needed to perform tasks such as holding an object or speaking. Spasticity is due to damage to the motor cortex of the brain before, during or after birth.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy – This form of CP is characterized by involuntary movements, such as twisting and repetitive movements, slow movements or unpredictable movements. It results from damage to the basal ganglia of the brain.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – Ataxic is characterized by shaky movements that may appear disorganized or jerky, as well as a difficulty in maintaining balance. Ataxia causes an interruption of muscle control in the arms and legs, causing a lack of balance and coordination. It has an impact on the movements required for day-to-day activities. Ataxia results from damage to the cerebellum.
Medical errors that may result in cerebral palsy
Failing to properly monitor the mother or infant before, during or after childbirth.
Failure to identify fetal distress by not properly monitoring the fetal heart rate during labor and delivery.
The medical mistake of failing to identify and properly treat infections in the mother during pregnancy.
Delayed diagnosis and treatment of maternal medical conditions or infections.
Failing to identify an umbilical cord prolapse, a birth complication that occurs prior to delivery. Prolapse is when the umbilical cord drops through the open cervix into the vagina ahead of the baby. It sometimes getting trapped against the baby’s body.
Medical errors regarding cesarean sections. This can include delaying a cesarean section needed due to an emergency or failing to perform a cesarean section in a high-risk pregnancy. Failing to perform a C-section when the baby is too large to deliver vaginally may also cause an injury. Medical mistakes relating to C-sections can lead to serious birth injuries.
Medical negligence in using medical instruments or equipment. This can include the improper use of forceps or vacuum during delivery.
Medication errors or the uses of medication that was inappropriate or dangerous for the mother or baby.
Inadequate monitoring of the mother and baby when anesthesia is used.
Medical diagnostic errors, such as incorrect reading of test results.
Providing a child with cerebral palsy with the appropriate care can take a toll on a family, both financially and emotionally. Cerebral palsy often requires a lifetime of care. Costly rehab, therapy and home care, as well as other medical expenses can become burdensome to an already struggling family. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or is exhibiting symptoms of cerebral palsy, and you suspect medical malpractice, contact an experienced birth injury attorney today for help.
The burden of proof in birth injury cases
It’s hard to imagine that with just a single medical error, an infant’s life can be permanently harmed. The plaintiff has the burden of proof in a birth injury case. Therefore, a plaintiff must do more than just prove that a child suffers from cerebral palsy. A medical expert is needed to testify as to the specific cause of the disability. The medical expert will also determine whether it is a result of medical error or medical negligence. A doctor or hospital failing to provide the accepted standard of care may be a factor in a cerebral palsy birth injury. Responsible medical parties in a cerebral palsy medical malpractice case can include an OB-GYN, surgeon, doctor, nurse, hospital or healthcare clinic or others.
Statute of limitations in Pennsylvania cerebral palsy cases
If you feel your child was the victim of medical negligence or has cerebral palsy as the result of a medical error you may be entitled to compensation for those injuries, as well as resulting medical treatment. It is not too late to hold the responsible medical providers accountable for their negligent actions. A statute of limitations establishes the deadline for filing a lawsuit. If the injured victim is a minor at the time the injury or accident occurred, such as in the event of a birth injury, the statute of limitations does not begin until the victim turns 18. An injured child or minor has 2 years to file a lawsuit after they turn 18.
If your baby has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and you believe that medical error or hospital error could have been the cause, you need to contact a medical malpractice lawyer. An experienced cerebral palsy birth injury lawyer can review the details of the case and help determine if medical negligence did cause your child’s birth injury. Medical errors leading to cerebral palsy can occur during pregnancy, labor and birth. They may also occur immediately following the birth of your baby.
Distasio & Kowalski medical malpractice lawyers
The birth injury lawyers at Distasio & Kowalski in Wilkes-Barre can help you to obtain the compensation you deserve. It is our goal to help your family overcome the lifelong difficulties associated with cerebral palsy or other birth injuries. This can include compensation for past and future medical expenses and caretaking costs, as well as for pain and suffering. We are a personal injury firm dedicated to getting injury victims the best possible legal results and holding medical professionals accountable for the harm they cause.
Read more on birth injuries and medical malpractice compensation on our website. Learn more about the early signs of cerebral palsy and screening on the CDC website.