A meningitis misdiagnosis can be fatal. If the tell-tale symptoms are not properly recognised the sufferer can decline very rapidly putting their life at risk. It’s essential that medical professionals spot the signs quickly as the consequences of allowing the disease to develop could mean; brain damage, sepsis, organ failure, seizures, amputation or death.
This article explains how you could start a medical negligence claim for a missed meningitis diagnosis related to medical negligence. We aim to provide you with the resources to make an informed decision about the direction of your claim. With the right help, you could launch a successful case that enables you to receive compensation for these errors.
Perhaps you are ready to start your claim now? If so, please feel free to call our friendly team who are happy to advise on all aspects of No Win No Fee medical negligence claims. You can call on 0800 652 3087 or email us at Medical Negligence Assist.co.uk. Alternatively, there is a ‘live support’ option to the bottom right of this screen that connects you with help straight away.
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- What Is Meningitis Misdiagnosis?
- What Is Meningitis?
- Types Of Meningitis
- Symptoms Of Meningitis
- Diagnosis And Treatment
- Missed Diagnosis
- Misdiagnosed Meningitis
- What Complications Could Misdiagnosis Cause?
- Could I Claim If A Loved One Died Due To Meningitis?
- Time Limits To Claim For The Misdiagnosis Of Meningitis
- Meningitis Misdiagnosis Compensation Calculator
- No Win No Fee Meningitis Misdiagnosis Compensation Claims
- Get In Touch With Our Team
- Rates Of Meningococcal Disease And Meningitis
- Meningitis misdiagnosis – Supporting Resources
- FAQs About The Misdiagnosis Of Meningitis
Meningitis medical misdiagnosis can happen for a number of reasons. Medical professionals have a duty of care to provide a service that does not fall below the standards of their profession. The duty requires them to be trained and experienced physicians who can accurately and adequately deliver healthcare that does not cause suffering that could have been avoided.
These expectations are monitored, inspected and rated by the Care Quality Commission, an executive non-departmental body of the Department of Health and Social Care. A misdiagnosis can take place when the doctor has acted within the realm of their capabilities. However, this will not be a case of medical negligence. It is when a physician provides a standard of care that is below what is expected leading to a misdiagnosis that medical negligence occurs.
In this article, we explain what evidence you might need to provide in order to uphold a claim of meningitis negligent misdiagnosis. We also discuss the two types of damages it can be possible to calculate to reach a realistic and reliable estimate of compensation.
Importantly, it is possible that you can be harmed during the correct and proper administering of medical care. Patients may respond in unforeseen ways and cases such as this may not be medical negligence. But if you feel you have solid grounds for a claim that a diagnosis was missed or improperly acted upon because of failures of the medical team, speak to our team now for help.
Meningitis can be a viral or bacterial infection of the protective membrane of the brain and spine (meninges). The inflammation caused can affect anyone, but is most commonly encountered in babies, young children and teenagers. Meningitis is still a life-threatening disease. Despite the development of effective vaccines, various types of meningococcal still cause many fatalities worldwide.
Meningitis is classified into five different categories. Briefly, these are:
When the bacteria have entered the body they travel to the brain or spinal cord. The Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumonia, and Neisseria meningitides viruses are transmitted person to person through contaminated food, saliva or other body fluids. Meningococcal vaccines are the best protection for certain age groups, but coverage is not universally reliable. A highly dangerous type of the disease, we look at symptoms and risks in the next chapter.
More common and generally less severe. Most cases of this type of meningitis are caused by non-polio enteroviruses, but other viruses and diseases such as measles, chickenpox, Mumps and certain insect bites can cause meningitis. Faecal contamination can also spread this type of meningitis when hand washing is neglected or there is contact with nappies etc.
Various parasites can affect the nervous system, brain or cause meningitis. This type of meningitis is less common than bacterial or viral meningitis. Primarily these parasites infect animals which people go on then to eat and this is what causes this type of meningitis.
This is another rare type and usually occurs when the fungus spreads from another part of the body to the brain. It can affect anyone but is particularly dangerous for those with a compromised or weakened immune system. Fungal meningitis is most frequently caused by inhaling fungal spores or coming into contact with bird or bat droppings and contaminated soil.
Non-infectious meningitis is not contracted person to person and is more typically the result of cancer, lupus, brain surgery or a head injury. Also, certain medications can trigger a bout of non-infectious meningitis.
The symptoms of bacterial meningitis are a sudden onset headache and fever as well as a noticeable stiff neck. There can be nausea and vomiting as well as the presentation of red or purple spots in a rash that does not disappear when light pressure is applied to the skin surface. Light sensitivity and confusion are also reported. These symptoms may appear 3 days after exposure to the bacteria and are often mistaken for influenza or a bad cold.
Viral meningitis shares many of the same symptoms such as headache and stiff neck. Certain factors such as age and a non-robust immunity can make this version of the disease fatal which is why it can be a particularly dangerous type to misdiagnose.
The standard symptoms of Parasitic Meningitis appear in a 1 – 7 day time frame after infection. The commonly reported symptoms can be particularly alarming for the sufferer – loss of balance, disorientation and confusion, hallucinations, seizures and ultimately coma and death if untreated. Because this microscopic organism can enter the body through the mouth or nose, it can commence the destruction of brain tissue quickly and virulently.
Both Fungal Meningitis and non-infectious meningitis share many of the characteristics of other versions of this disease. Sudden onset headache, fever, stiff neck, light sensitivity and general malaise accompanied by vomiting nausea, visual or hearing problems and altered mental states are all indicators.
Whilst the types of meningitis may vary, they all share very similar symptoms. The NHS offers further reading about the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of these distressing conditions. If you think you or someone you know has these symptoms they should be treated as a medical emergency.
Prompt and accurate detection of meningitis is essential. Although there are versions of this disease that are absolutely life-threatening, with the right treatment patients can make a full recovery. Some treatments consist of prolonged periods in hospital receiving long courses of treatment administered through an intravenous (IV) or cycles of antibiotics given under carefully prescribed dietary conditions. The state of the patient’s immune system and their individual response or tolerance to the drugs prescribed may dictate the length of their recovery and the path of their treatment.
Anyone admitted to an A&E department or hospital with these symptoms should be assessed with meningitis in mind. The sufferer or their family themselves may diminish the symptoms as something else. They may think it’s flu or another problem that is not of a life-threatening nature. But certain key indicating symptoms such as the neck ache, rash and disorientated headache, particularly in the young, should alert those to the risk of meningitis.
Treatment in the hospital may consist of a physical examination, several blood tests to determine the type and degree of meningitis, (particularly whether it’s viral or bacterial) and in some cases a lumbar puncture – which is when a sample of fluid is extracted from the spinal cord and tested. A CT scan can be used to check for swelling of the brain. Antibiotics are commenced immediately. IV and steroid injections may also be administered and the patient may be required to stay in hospital for several weeks.
Whilst common issues like influenza or food allergies can share common signs, serious meningitis is similar to a bewildering array of other conditions. It’s essential that an accurate and prompt assessment takes place.
Missed or delayed diagnosis can literally lead to lifelong health problems or death. Any health care provider has a duty of care to their patients to ensure they do all they can to provide a correct diagnosis at the time of presenting symptoms is given. Doctors, nurses and specialists are expected to be adequately trained and experienced to spot obvious signs and anticipate the likely development of health problems.
Whilst the variations in meningitis types may make it difficult to be precise about the exact stage and severity, any attending doctor should be able to spot the general signs for what they are. Misdiagnosis can have devastating consequences for the patients and most practitioners would aire on the side of caution when making their diagnosis by including the possible presence of meningitis.
A meningitis misdiagnosis can occur for a number of reasons. Firstly, a baby or child is not able to clearly express the severity of their ailments so the seriousness of the problem can be understated at the start. Furthermore, parents may just as easily under-appreciate the severity of a problem as they can overreact to one. Given the difficulty of obtaining clear information from young patients, the doctor may be at a disadvantage straight away.
In addition to this, meningitis is a highly ‘mobile’ condition which means that it can change quickly and radically in a short space of time. Something that can initially present as a mild issue could be diagnosed as such only for it to worsen severely some few hours later when the patient has been sent back home. A misdiagnosis could also happen because of medical negligence. If a doctor fails to spot the signs of this disease because the care they are providing is substandard this may be classed as medical negligence.
When we or a loved one presents at the hospital, we trust that the people tasked with helping us will do the best job they can. The NHS performs literally millions of procedures every day in the UK. The vast majority of which are carried out properly. In addition to this, meningitis can change very quickly. It is vital that meningitis particularly bacterial meningitis is spotted very early on. The dangers of not spotting meningitis sooner can be wide-ranging:
- Life-threatening blood poisoning or (septicaemia)
- Loss of limbs, amputations to prevent further spread of the infection or disease
- Permanent damage to the nerves and brain
- Learning difficulties
- Behavioural problems
- Total or partial blindness or deafness
- Recurrent seizures
- Memory and concentration problems
- Coordination and balance difficulties
- Arthritis or other bone/joint problems
- Kidney and renal problems
The above represent a serious risk to those who have their meningitis misdiagnosed although these in themselves can also be a complication of meningitis even when diagnosed early on. Whilst medical staff are under particular pressure to correctly diagnose this illness due to the similarities it shares with so many other disorders, any delay can mean the condition quickly deteriorates. Talk to our team about how to construct a case for meningitis misdiagnosis if you are living with the consequences of a wrong call on your illness.
Yes. As a family member of someone who died because of their meningitis misdiagnosis, it can be possible if their misdiagnosis was caused by medical negligence. Acting either independently or on the guidance of a medical negligence lawyer, you may be able to make a medical negligence claim for their suffering and any financial losses caused. In addition to this, you could also claim a bereavement award of £15,120 if the loss was after the 1st May 2020.
The current time limitation period for medical negligence claims is 3 years. This starts from the moment you first become aware of the injuries caused by negligence. This means you must start your case within these 3 years. As a victim of meningitis misdiagnosis under the age of 18, the claim period begins from the date of their 18th birthday. A responsible adult acting on your behalf as a ‘litigation friend’ can assume the legal duties on your behalf before this time. There are other exceptions please call our team for more information.
As you commence a claim for medical negligence, there are two types of compensation that can be calculated. Firstly, General damages and are taken from suggestions in the Judicial College Guidelines.
This publication offers amounts based on what other people were awarded in the past for pain and suffering and other emotional impacts. A No Win No Fee lawyer can help arrange the necessary independent medical assessment for you or a loved one that provides a report. This report proves injuries suffered as a direct consequence of the negligence. The chart below shows a small example of what could be appropriate (figures are taken from the JCG):
|Harm suffered due to meningitis misdiagnosis||General damages award amount|
|Amputation||For a below elbow amputation of one arm for example: Up to £102,890|
|Epilepsy||Up to £140,870|
|Brain damage||that impacts concentration, memory and work abilities - £40,410 to £85,150|
|Total Deafness||£85,170 to £102,890|
|Total Blindness||In the region of £252,180|
The next amounts are called special damages. These aim to seek lost money and return it back to you. Any tangible, out of pocket expenses that you can prove were a direct result of the negligent or substandard health care you received can be considered. Losses such as:
- Missed wages/ time off work
- Specialist medical treatments
- Care costs
- Medical supplies and drugs
- Impact to education
- Child care provision
- Forfeited deposits or cancelled occasions
- Modifications and adaptations needed at home
Sudden illness is disruptive. All of these unwanted changes in your life can carry a financial cost. With the correct proof in the form of receipts, statements or other bills it can be possible to collect together these out-of-pocket losses. Your lawyer can explain how best to track the short and long term consequences of a meningitis misdiagnosis in a way that could see these amounts returned to you as part of your compensation. Contact our team now if you have been confronted with expenses due to NHS medical negligence or substandard treatment from a private clinic.
No Win No Fee lawyers can offer their service at no immediate cost to you. In addition to this, they take no money whilst the case progresses. They deduct their fee from cases that win at the conclusion. This means that all you need to do is provide as much information as possible to support your claim. When you share the financial and medical evidence with your No Win No Fee lawyer they can do the rest.
No Win No Fee arrangements allow ordinary people to access expert and professional legal representation straight away. In the hands of an expert, you could see your final compensation calculation far exceed what you initially may have hoped for. To find out how a service like this could help you, simply give our team a call. It’s just a free, no-obligation and informal chat about your eligibility. Meningitis misdiagnosis caused by negligence is a breach of duty. You have a right to claim compensation if it affected you.
Thank you for reading this article about meningitis misdiagnosis. We hope it has helped in your decision to start a medical negligence claim.
You can call on 0800 652 3087 or email us at Medical Negligence Assist.co.uk. Alternatively, there is a ‘live support’ option to the bottom right of this screen that connects you with help straight away.
Public Health England confirmed that in England during 2019 to 2020 there were 461 cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD). This saw a decrease in the previous year of 12% (526). It was said that the Covid-19 pandemic during this time which saw a national lockdown and social distancing disallowed many diseases and illnesses to spread. However, it also had an impact on the detection of the disease.
More information is available about missed fracture claims and what to do if you suffered a dental problem that was overlooked. In addition, you can read more about how long medical negligence claims may take.
Do medical claims go to court?
Medical claims do not always need to go to court.
Will I have to visit my solicitor?
Communication can take place remotely these days. But it is entirely up to you.
Can I keep my medical records private?
It’s important that you share your medical records with your lawyer to provide proof
Guide by Jeff
Edited by LisM.