A medical professional should be capable of spotting crucial symptoms in order to accurately diagnose your injury and/or illness. While we tend to trust medical practitioners to look after our health and provide quality treatment if obligations are not upheld by said professionals the risk of mistakes occurring can increase and this may cause patients to suffer unnecessarily. But what happens if a neck fracture is misdiagnosed and worsens as a result?
If your condition was overlooked, misdiagnosed or undiagnosed by a healthcare professional and you were made to suffer due to medical negligence, you could make a No Win No Fee personal injury claim with the help of a medical negligence lawyer. As this guide will cover in further detail, a medical practitioner must uphold a duty of care for all their patients. If there is a breach in this duty of care, then these mistakes could seriously impact a person’s life.
To begin your claim, simply call our expert team of advisers today on 0800 652 3087. With up to thirty years’ experience in representing victims of third-party negligence, our team can assess the validity of your circumstances under a no-obligation consultation and answer any queries you may have. Our lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Choose A Section
- A Guide To Missed Neck Fracture Compensation Claims
- What Is A Misdiagnosed Broken Or Fractured Neck?
- Why Are Fractures Misdiagnosed?
- Causes Of Broken Or Fractured Neck Injuries
- Symptoms Of A Broken Or Fractured Neck Injury
- How A Fractured Neck Is Diagnosed And Treated
- When And Why May You Be Eligible To Claim Compensation?
- Claims For Neck Fractures Misdiagnosed By A GP
- Claims For Neck Fractures Misdiagnosed By A Hospital
- Your Rights When Under NHS Care And Treatment
- Time Limits In Which To Claim For A Misdiagnosed Neck Fracture
- Missed Neck Fracture Compensation Calculator
- No Win No Fee Misdiagnosed Neck Fracture Compensation Claims
- Start A Medical Misdiagnosis Claim Today
- Supporting Resources
When we hear the term “medical malpractice”, we automatically assume it to refer to the most severe of cases, such as wrong-site surgery and other similar ‘Never-Events’. However, what we fail to realise is that an act of negligence is simply a substandard of care by a medical professional which directly causes harm or an existing condition to worsen. There are numerous ways in which clinical negligence could occur, including misdiagnosis or missed fractures entirely.
In this guide, we will look at how a missed neck fracture could create issues in recovery, why these mistakes happen during diagnosis and how you could begin the process of claiming compensation for a missed vertebrae fracture.
A misdiagnosis or undiagnosed injury may be the result of a mistake made by a healthcare professional during the assessment of a patient’s condition. These mistakes are more likely to be made when a patient has multiple injuries or the fracture is not as prominent as others (I.e. Hairline and stress fractures). While some fractures may not require treatment, others must receive medical attention within a short timeframe for a successful recovery to be made. It is, therefore, the medical practitioner’s responsibility to correctly diagnose the patient’s condition (with or without a second opinion) and treat accordingly.
If the condition becomes worse as a result of failure to diagnose a neck fracture, it could be seen as medical negligence. In such scenarios, the victim could receive compensation for any additional suffering caused by the misdiagnosed fracture. For example, this may include damage to the cervical spine nerves, bones below the neck, cervical vertebrae function and bones in the neck and shoulder.
There are a number of ways in which failure to diagnose a fractured neck may occur. An act of negligence such as this could arise in an Accident and Emergency (A&E) department.
Often, it is easy for a fracture to be misdiagnosed if the patient’s scans or X-rays are insufficient or of inadequate quality. For instance, a doctor could misread an X-ray because it was taken at the wrong angle or the fracture itself was too faint to see. The circumstances of the injury itself could also increase the chances of fracture misdiagnosis. For example, if the injury is severely swollen or misinterpreted to be a sprain.
A cervical spine fracture typically results from a highly traumatic event, such as falls from heights or road traffic accidents. However, athletes who partake in high-intensity sports may also be at risk of damage to the cervical spine anatomy, including footballers, ice hockey players, gymnasts and divers.
For example. If a diver were to strike the bottom of a shallow pool, they could cause serious damage to the neck anatomy. The same can be said for a gymnast who fails to land correctly and falls as a result.
Often it may be possible to spot a neck injury from severe pain or lack of mobility within the head/neck region. A broken neck may display very painful symptoms in other areas of the body, such as inability to move the arms, legs or back. While in some cases this form of paralysis could be temporary, some people may experience permanent paralysis as a result.
There are several different types of vertebrae fracture, many of which display similar symptoms, including:
- C1 Cervical Vertebrae: This type of injury tends to occur after an axial load injury, for example after a diving accident.
- C2 Cervical Vertebrae: A fracture to the second bone down from the skull, the “hangman’s fracture’ can be a partial or complete break in a bone.
- C3 Cervical Vertebrae: If the C2 bone is made to move out of alignment with the bone directly below (C3), such as described above, then a C3 Cervical Vertebra injury could occur.
- C4 Cervical Vertebrae: There are a number of ways the fourth cervical vertebrae could be damaged, though the most common tends to be high-impact trauma.
- C5 Cervical Vertebrae: If a person experiences a C5 vertebra injury then they may struggle with breathing as the nerves located between C3 and C5 are responsible for respiration control. This could also create issues for the vocal cords, biceps, and deltoid muscles.
- C6 Cervical Vertebrae: It is likely the patient will suffer a false case of carpal tunnel syndrome, along with numbness/tingling in the fingers, hands and arms. They may experience paralysis in the legs, torso or hands too.
- C7 Cervical Vertebrae: A break of this kind will incorporate one or more of the seven cervical bones at one time.
These symptoms may seem like key indicators of a neck fracture. However, sometimes when there are multiple fractures to various areas of the anatomy, a medical professional may misdiagnose fractures and therefore refer the patient for an incorrect course of treatment.
While most neck fractures occur higher up the spinal cord, some may also inflict damage upon the lower body if the break also encompasses a large proportion of the spinal cord. A spinal cord injury can be diagnosed through the use of:
- CT Scans
- MRI Scans
- SSEP (Somatosensory Evoke Potential) or “magnetic stimulation”
Following an X-ray, it is possible for a broken neck to be diagnosed. However, if this X-ray is blurry, insufficient or simply taken from the wrong angle, the chances of a misdiagnosed bone fracture could increase.
How the break may be treated will depend on the severity of the injury. If the break is minor then a simple neck brace may suffice as the break may not affect the spinal cord. Whereas for more severe breaks, the patient may require surgical intervention to set the bones back into the correct place.
For you to hold a valid claim for compensation following a missed cervical vertebrae fracture, a personal injury solicitor must first establish reasonable grounds for you to make a claim. This is done by holding sufficient evidence that:
- You, the patient, were owed a duty of care by the healthcare professional who provided treatment for an injury.
- There was a breach in this duty of care.
- As a result of said breach, you were made to suffer avoidable harm in the form of a new condition or worsening of an existing injury/illness.
A “breach” is seen as a substandard of care from what is reasonably expected from medical professionals. This could be through neglect during assessments, a misdiagnosed fracture or a missed neck fracture entirely when there would be enough symptoms that would qualify for investigative measures at least. If you were made to suffer from missed orthopaedic injuries and it was due to negligence you could make a claim for compensation.
Whether you are visiting your local GP or a GP you haven’t seen before, you should expect reasonable standards of treatment. Among other services, this includes the capability to diagnose your condition and refer you for the relevant treatment. If a GP fails to refer you for a correct course of treatment, then your condition could be made to worsen as a result. It is not likely that a GP will be able to accurately diagnose a fractured neck but through symptoms, they would know that a referral for an X-ray or alternative scan would be needed. Failure to refer a patient who is suffering symptoms connected to a fracture in the neck could have serious consequences for the patient in question.
A missed neck fracture could occur during the assessment of your injury or due to the misinterpretation of any diagnostic testing. For instance, a missed fracture could occur when hospital staff are made to rush during a medical exam and misinterpret your test results. While compensation for the misdiagnosis of a fracture cannot undo any unnecessary harm inflicted upon you, the settlement amount could be used to alleviate various financial constraints resulting from a missed fracture, such as medical costs or loss of earnings.
If you have been the victim of hospital negligence, a personal injury lawyer could secure a missed fracture compensation amount on your behalf.
If you require treatment for an injury or illness, you may seek out medical attention from either private healthcare or an NHS practice. As an NHS patient, you have the right to services and treatment upheld by The NHS Constitution. The Constitution sets out major rights for patients to, among other factors, be told about various mistakes and make a complaint which must be acknowledged within three working days.
In recent years, there have been changes to the NHS Constitution which extend new rights to NHS patients. These include:
- Openness: A patient must receive an acknowledgement, explanation and apology for a mistake made by NHS staff.
- End Of Life Care: The families and carers of a patient should have a say in all discussions and decisions.
- Complaints: Where a complaint is made, an acknowledgement must be made within three days.
- Single-Sex Accommodation: Patients can expect single-sex accommodation in some NHS services.
- Abusive And Violent Patients: Those who are abusive and violent to NHS staff can expect to be denied access to NHS services (if safe to do so).
You can find more information about The NHS Constitution by clicking here.
You must begin your medical negligence claim within 3-years of the date the incident occurred for your case to be valid. This is because there is a personal injury claims time limit which dictates how long a claimant has to pursue various medical negligence claims, such as for misdiagnosed neck fractures.
There are, however, some circumstances in which a claim could be made outside of this time limit. For example, if the injured person is a child under 18 years old then:
- A parent or guardian can make a claim on their behalf, or
- They can pursue their own claim from their 18th to 21st birthday
In addition to this, if a condition is diagnosed after the incident then the victim can pursue a claim from this diagnosis date. This is a common occurrence for cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
While a settlement amount cannot undo the harm and trauma you may suffer from a misdiagnosed neck fracture, the amount you receive could help compensate for financial loss that results from such events. Whether this is medical costs, travel expenses or loss of earnings, you could receive compensation for a range of damages.
In the table below, there are examples of how much compensation you may receive for certain injuries of various severities. These figures are taken from Judicial College’s (JC) Guidelines.
|In the region of £139,210
|Where the victim wears a collar 24/7 for a number of years but is still left with little or no movement in the neck region. Additionally, cases of incomplete paraplegia or permanent spastic quadriparesis will also be eligible for this bracket, along with significant pain and severe headaches.
|£23,460 to £36,120
|The injured person will suffer immediate symptoms from a fracture or dislocation and require spinal fusion as a result. Further from this, chronic conditions involving numerous areas of the anatomy (or, in some cases, soft tissue injuries too) will also be considered for this bracket.
|£4,080 to £7,410
|Although the injured person will not be left remarkedly impaired, they will still suffer from short-term acceleration and/or exacerbation injuries. A full recovery is likely to be made over a one to two-year period.
|£85,470 to £151,070
|The most severe of cases which involve damage to nerve roots and/or spinal cord will lead to a combination of consequences, many of which are particularly serious and unusual to typical back injury cases. As a result, the person in question will suffer severe levels of pain along with a combination of disabilities (E.g. Incomplete paralysis, significant impairment to bladder, sexual function and bowels.).
|£26,050 to £36,390
|Although residual disability is less severe than previously mentioned (see above), the severity of such injuries will still bare substantial risk to the individual’s health. For example, this bracket may look towards cases of lumbar vertebrae compression/crush injuries. This type of injury will be at high risk of osteoarthritis and the patient will be left with persistent pain and discomfort.
|£7,410 to £11,730
|This bracket includes strains and strains that are less serious than those of higher brackets. There is potential for such injuries to recover without surgical intervention within two to five years. In addition to this, shorter-term exacerbation injuries and/or acceleration injuries which, again, take two to five years to recover fully or at least a nuisance level.
|£18,020 to £45,070
|A severe shoulder injury will often be associated with neck injuries or damage to the brachial plexus. This will result in significant disability among other symptoms which cause significant pain in the neck and/or arm.
|£11,980 to £18,020
|This bracket will look towards cases in which the injured person will experience damage to the brachial plexus, shoulder, neck, and aching in elbow. They may also experience sensory symptoms (often in the forearm/hand), restricted shoulder movement and weakness of grip.
|£7,410 to £11,980
|For two years, symptoms of a frozen shoulder with serious discomfort and limitation to movement will persist. Alongside these symptoms, soft tissue injuries with more than minimal indications of suffering. These will persist for more than two years but will not be permanent.
|£4,080 to £7,410
|In less than two years, the severity of symptoms associated with this bracket will be of a minor nature. These will be ongoing but a recovery will be made in less than two years.
It is important to take note that while numerous cases may appear similar, the circumstances of each are unique to the individual. Therefore, while these amounts are helpful in providing a rough idea of how much you could receive, an adviser from our helpful team could provide you with an estimation more centralised to your case.
A medical negligence solicitor could manage your missed neck fracture compensation claim on a No Win No Fee Basis. Also known as a Conditional Fee Agreement (or “CFA”), a No Win No Fee is a financial agreement which outlines the terms of your solicitor’s fees. In addition to this, there are no hidden costs or start-up fees required to begin this type of claim either. The premises of this is as follows:
In the event that your legal representative is unable to secure compensation on your behalf, you will not be held accountable for their fees. However, if your claim is successful then your solicitor will deduct a small percentage from the final monetary value as payment for their services. This is known as a “Success Fee” and is legally capped to not surpass 25% of the final amount, although what this final percentage may actually be will be agreed upon between you and your solicitor prior to beginning your claim.
Our friendly advisers are committed to helping victims of third-party negligence pursue personal injury claims. That’s why we offer a free, no-obligation consultation to all of our potential claimants. Below are three simple ways to contact an expert from our team:
- Call Us: The number to call is 0800 652 3087 and our lines are open 24/7.
- Live Chat: Speak with an adviser instantly through our online chat.
- Online: Fill out an enquiry form and we’ll call you back at a time that suits you best.
What’s more, we understand that you may be curious as to how much compensation you could receive. Instead of leaving you with general estimates from online personal injury claims calculators, our advisers will seek to provide you with a centralised estimation of your potential settlement amount.
Patient information by the NHS about cervical fractures.
This is an NHS leaflet designed to inform patients about spinal fractures and how they should be treated.
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Written by Hollie
Edited by LisM.