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How to achieve an appendicitis malpractice settlement

Sometimes, even the most routine medical procedures and conditions can result in life-long complications. Appendicitis is a relatively common ailment, with proven and effective treatment in existence. However, the consequences of a misdiagnosis are severe — even deadly. If you or a loved one are dealing with the effects of a ruptured appendix or extended acute appendicitis, you have options for financial reprieve. The personal injury and medical malpractice solicitors at Gerard Malouf & Partners can help you get the outcome you deserve.

What is appendicitis?

Appendicitis is when the appendix, a small tube-shaped organ attached to each person’s intestines, becomes infected and inflamed. If left unattended, acute appendicitis may cause the appendix to burst — spewing pus and other toxins into other vital organs. While appendicitis is easily treatable, typically with a short surgical procedure called an appendectomy that removes the appendix, a ruptured appendix can leave lasting damage and even be deadly. That means making a correct diagnosis in a timely manner is crucial.

While the symptoms and warning signs of appendicitis are well established at this point, many are very similar to other ailments like gastroenteritis and even pregnancy complications. Common symptoms include:

  • Sharp, sudden pain in the lower abdomen, typically on the right side of the body
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
 

Even though these symptoms are fairly vague, most smart practitioners assume appendicitis as a possible answer because the infection is fairly common. According to The Second Australian Atlas of Healthcare, the annual hospitalisation rate for an appendectomy stands at 179 for every 100,000 people, with rates far higher in some states. Despite how relatively common appendicitis is and how important an initial diagnosis can be, practitioners still miss the mark far too often.

Does my appendicitis misdiagnosis qualify as medical malpractice?

An appendicitis misdiagnosis only qualifies as medical negligence or malpractice if the doctor or hospital system failed to provide the minimum standard of what’s expected of them. Any time they are on the job, a medical practitioner has an assumed duty to provide reasonable care to their patients. In a case where a doctor was trying to determine if a patient had appendicitis, this would typically include running diagnostic tests like a CT scan. In some cases, a doctor may even elect to perform surgery without a firm diagnosis, due to the serious consequences of inaction. Since the appendix doesn’t perform any function in the digestive system (that scientists know of) its premature removal can be a smart decision.

In general, to show that your appendicitis misdiagnosis rises to the level of medical malpractice, your case will need the following four elements:

Duty:

It must be clearly shown the defendant had a duty or an obligation. In a medical malpractice situation, the attending medical professionals have a moral duty of care that is a part of their profession.

Breach:

It must be proven that the defendant fell short of the expectations of their duty. This may include failing to perform standard diagnostic tests or not taking proper care during an appendectomy.

Causation:

A causal link must be made between the harm suffered and the breach of duty. In other words, your pain and suffering following a bout of appendicitis must be related to your delay in treatment, not simply the illness itself.

Damages:

The damages being sought must be directly related to the harm caused. Examples of relevant damages include the costs of additional or long-term medical care, lost wages and superannuation and additional payment for emotional trauma.

 

Finding evidence that establishes each of these points and presenting it clearly, in either mediation or court, can be challenging. Working with a solicitor that’s knowledgeable in medical malpractice law can ease some of this burden while you recover from the ordeal you’ve undergone. A lawyer can collect the necessary information from your diagnosis and treatment process and find medical experts who can back up your claims of negligence. Expert testimony is one of the key ways that legal teams establish the norms of duty of care and prove causation.

Our cases

If you need a professional legal team that can get justice for you and your family, look no further than Gerard Malouf & Partners. Our medical negligence solicitors have a track record of delivering favourable outcomes for those who have been wronged by the medical professional or hospital they put their trust in.

In one recent case, our client was an 11-year-old girl who was checked into a South Australian hospital with vomiting and abdominal pain. Blood tests confirmed elevated white blood cell count (WBC) and C Reactive Protein levels (CRP), which continued to rise over the course of the following two days. Despite the warning signs, our client was only treated conservatively.

Finally, after developing an intense fever, our client was flown to a local children’s hospital in South Australia where doctors discovered a grossly dilated bowel, a deteriorating infection in the abdomen, and a ruptured appendix — all conditions that the first hospital had failed to find. As a result, our client suffered a burst appendix and subsequent infection, extensive adhesions, and surgical complications.

Our client’s mother instructed Gerard Malouf & Partners to investigate. We acquired the clinical notes and other medical evidence and spoke to a medical expert, who was able to confirm that our client’s appendix ruptured as a result of the initial failure to diagnose the condition. We also obtained expert evidence that the plaintiff suffered a recognised psychological injury as a result of the hospital’s negligence and her complications. As a result of the delayed diagnosis, we were able to secure a significant settlement for the plaintiff, giving her and her family peace of mind after a traumatic time in their lives.

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Gerard Malouf & Partners
 — Personal Injury Compensation Lawyers

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