Compensation for the Misdiagnosis of a Fracture

Have You Suffered an Injury due to a Fracture Being Misdiagnosed?

If you have attended hospital with a fractured or broken bone, and your injury was overlooked by a medical professional, you may be eligible to claim compensation for the misdiagnosis of a fracture. However, before you consider a fracture misdiagnosis compensation claim, certain conditions have to be fulfilled.

This article explains what those conditions are and gives examples of some of the most commonly misdiagnosed injuries. If you have any questions regarding your eligibility to claim compensation for the misdiagnosis of a fracture, or have suffered an injury that is not covered by this article, please do not hesitate to contact our Medical Negligence Advice Bureau for information that is relevant to your particular circumstances.

When is an Injury Not an Injury?

The first condition that has to be fulfilled is that the negligence of the medical professional that treated you was responsible for an “adverse event”. What this means is that the misdiagnosis of your fracture must have resulted in a serious deterioration of the injury, and that the deterioration of the injury would have been avoided if the correct diagnosis had been made at the time.

Most hospitals now have a system in place whereby X-rays are reviewed by a radiologist or radiographer. If your injury was overlooked by a junior doctor in A&E (apparently more than a third are), but identified quickly on review – and there has been no significant deterioration of the injury during the intervening period – you will not qualify to make a fracture misdiagnosis compensation claim.

When is a Misdiagnosis Not Considered to be Negligence?

A claim for compensation for the misdiagnosis of a fracture also has to show that “at the time and in the circumstances” the medical professional who treated you demonstrated a lack of skill. One of the problems with diagnosing a fracture from an X-ray is that the injury is not always clearly evident. This is why some hospitals use MRIs to identify fractured bones in the wrist or hip fractures.

The issue may be complicated if the hospital equipment was faulty – in which case the hospital or an agent of the hospital, such as a technician, has been negligent – or if an X-ray was taken too soon after the accident which caused your fracture. In both these circumstances it should still be possible to make a fracture misdiagnosis compensation claim, but speak with a solicitor for more advice.

Commonly Misdiagnosed Fractures

Any fractured bone can be misdiagnosed. All it takes is for a fine line on an x-ray to be overlooked, and you could be in unnecessary pain for months and need surgery to repair the damage caused by the negligence of a medical professional.

Below we list some of the most commonly misdiagnosed fractures. The list is not comprehensive and, as mentioned above, if you have suffered an injury due to the misdiagnosis of a fracture not included in this article, please contact our Medical Negligence Advice Bureau.

Misdiagnosis of a Skull Fracture

The concern with the misdiagnosis of a skull fracture is that other head injuries may also have been overlooked. A misdiagnosed depressed skull fracture – although rare – could result in pressure being put on the brain or a direct brain injury, while a misdiagnosed basal skull fracture could lead to nerve damage and a loss of hearing, smell or vision.

Misdiagnosis of a Spine Fracture

It may be possible to claim compensation for the misdiagnosis of a spine fracture even if an oversight is picked up quickly on review. Loose bone fragments can cause significant and potentially permanent injuries if they damage the spinal cord or spinal nerves. Any delay in the correct diagnosis of a spine fracture can also lead to later-developing conditions such as osteoporosis.

Misdiagnosis of a Shoulder Fracture

Because of the load we often place on our shoulders, the misdiagnosis of a shoulder injury can result in the misalignment of the clavicle or scapula bones as they heal. Sometimes it can take as little as a week for a misalignment to occur, with the consequence often being a long-term loss of function of the shoulder and the arm beneath it.

Misdiagnosis of a Sternum Fracture

Often a fractured sternum is associated with blunt force traumas to the chest, and the misdiagnosis of a sternum fracture could be due to the swelling of soft tissues in the chest masking the injury. Fractured sternums without a blunt force trauma are often an indication of a disease or illness, and could be an early indicator of bone cancer.

Misdiagnosis of a Rib Fracture

The misdiagnosis of a rib fracture can have serious consequences. If complications occur, a fractured rib can puncture a lung or cause damage to other internal organs. If the victim is unable to breathe deeply or cough, the risk of pneumonia increases. Even the smallest undiagnosed fracture of a rib can lead to a lifetime of mobility issues and discomfort.

Misdiagnosis of a Hip Fracture

There is rarely any defence against compensation claims for the misdiagnosis of a hip fracture. The medical profession has been aware for a long time that hip fractures do not always show on an X-ray and, in determining the nature of your injury, you should also have undergone a “clinical triad” of exercises – after which you should have been referred for an MRI scan.

Misdiagnosis of a Leg Fracture

As with the shoulders, the legs perform major weight-bearing tasks. The misdiagnosis of a leg fracture or the misdiagnosis of any fractured bone within the leg can have serious implications on the bone’s ability to heal correctly and the long-term consequences to the patient. Specific misdiagnoses that occur frequently include:

  • The misdiagnosis of a femur fracture
  • The misdiagnosis of a tibia fracture
  • The misdiagnosis of a fibula fracture
  • The misdiagnosis of a patella fracture
  • The misdiagnosis of an ankle fracture (the talus bone)
  • The misdiagnosis of a foot fracture (including the tarsal, metatarsal and phalange bones)

Misdiagnosis of an Arm Fracture

More than 50 percent of diagnosed bone fractures in the UK concern bones in the arm or hand. This does not necessarily imply that the misdiagnosis of an arm fracture occurs with such frequency, but certain overlooked fractures can require complex surgery before they heal properly. Subject to the conditions being mentioned above, you would be entitled to claim compensation for the misdiagnosis of a fracture if you suffered an adverse event due to:

  • The misdiagnosis of wrist fracture
  • The misdiagnosis of radius fracture
  • The misdiagnosis of an ulna fracture
  • The misdiagnosis of an elbow fracture
  • The misdiagnosis of a humerus fracture
  • The misdiagnosis of a scaphoid fracture

An Important Note about Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is a term that is used when a claimant has either contributed to the cause of their injury or the extent of their injury. In terms of compensation for the misdiagnosis of a fracture, you may be considered to have contributed to the extent of your injury if you continued to experience pain from your fractured bone, but failed to seek further medical attention.

If found to have contributed to the extent of your injury due to your own lack of care, you will not be disqualified from making a fracture misdiagnosis compensation claim. However, how much compensation for the misdiagnosis of a fracture you receive may be reduced when your claim is settled. This can have serious implications if you are no longer able to work because of the negligence of a medical practitioner.

Time Limit for Making a Fracture Misdiagnosis Compensation Claim

In the UK, there is a three-year time limit for making a fracture misdiagnosis compensation claim. It is important to note that the time period begins on the date that you are aware that you have been misdiagnosed (often called the Date of Knowledge) and not the date on which the misdiagnosis occurred.

Consequently, it may be many years after the original misdiagnosis that you seek legal advice about claiming compensation for the misdiagnosis of a fracture. You should not be concerned about this delay because your original X-rays and scans should still exist. Your solicitor will be able to determine – with the help of an independent medical expert – whether you are still eligible to claim compensation for the misdiagnosis of a fracture.

Further Information about Compensation for the Misdiagnosis of a Fracture

No two claims for compensation for the misdiagnosis of a fracture are identical. The location of the fractured bone, the extent of the adverse event you suffered and the consequences on your quality of life will differ from anybody else who has made – or will make – a fracture misdiagnosis compensation claim.

Consequently, it is important that you obtain legal advice about claiming compensation for the misdiagnosis of a fracture that is relevant to your particular circumstances. With this in mind, we invite you to contact our Medical Negligence Advice Bureau in order to discuss the circumstances of your misdiagnosed fracture, how long after the misdiagnosis the correct diagnosis was made, and what the consequences were to your general health and quality of life.

Our solicitor will be able to answer any legal questions you may have about making a fracture misdiagnosis compensation claim without any obligation on you to proceed with legal action. This will enable you to make an informed decision about whether you have a claim for compensation for the misdiagnosis of a fracture that may be worth your while to pursue.