Patients are increasingly turning to chiropractors for treatment, as chiropractic treatment does not require surgery or medication. A skilled chiropractor can be very helpful in treating and preventing many diseases and conditions. However, with the increased demand for chiropractors, the frequency of chiropractic malpractice is increasing, as well. Almost 6,000 medical malpractice reports involving chiropractors were filed between 1990 and 2012, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank.
Types of Chiropractic Malpractice
Chiropractors are most commonly known for adjusting patients’ spines in order to provide relief from injuries and tensions, help correct misalignments in the body, and to promote general health and well being. Chiropractors often promote healthy living by advising patients on eating and exercise habits, as well. However, incompetent or negligent chiropractors may seriously injure or harm patients by making improper movements or administering advice without conducting proper research.
Improper Adjustment Techniques
When a chiropractor performs an adjustment, the chiropractor must be extremely sensitive to the patient’s condition. If the chiropractor fails to conduct a thorough examination into the patient’s medical history, the chiropractor may injure the patient or worsen existing injuries or conditions. If a chiropractor fails to perform an adjustment correctly, injuries may also occur.
Injuries and conditions that may occur as a result of improper adjustment techniques include:
- Nerve damage
- Slipped or herniated disks
- Broken ribs
- Neurological damage
- Neck injuries
- Sciatic nerve injuries or pain
- Premature pregnancy for pregnant patients
- Facial paralysis
Misdiagnosis of Conditions
If a chiropractor fails to diagnose an underlying condition that may be causing the patient pain, it may be considered chiropractic malpractice. In some cases, a chiropractor will fail to diagnose an existing condition, and the patient will suffer an injury following the chiropractic visit that would not have occurred if the chiropractor had made the correct diagnosis. Unethical chiropractors may engage in this behavior to ensure continued visits from customers with conditions that may require other forms of treatment, but are temporarily relived by chiropractic adjustments.
Patient Consent Discrepancies
Chiropractors are required to inform patients of all inherent risks prior to performing adjustments or other treatment, especially the risk of stroke. If a chiropractor does not inform patients of these risks, the chiropractor may be liable for any injuries which the patient suffers subsequently. Many chiropractors downplay the risk of stroke, which can be considered chiropractic malpractice if the patient suffers a stroke without understanding the severity of the risk.
Chiropractic Malpractice Lawsuits
Chiropractors are not required to carry malpractice insurance in all states, which can be detrimental to patients that suffer injury in those states. State laws surrounding medical malpractice in general and chiropractic malpractice in particular, may vary widely. Lawyers with experience in dealing with chiropractic malpractice may be very helpful in filing a lawsuit for chiropractic malpractice because of these complexities.
Professional Negligence and Testimony
Professional negligence is the determined cause of injury in most cases of chiropractic malpractice. Professional negligence may be difficult to prove and may require the testimony of an expert in chiropractic practice. A chiropractic malpractice attorney will be invaluable in identifying the need for expert testimony and locating an individual that is qualified and willing to give the necessary testimony.
Chiropractic Lawsuit Bias
While the use of chiropractors in treating conditions is increasing in frequency, there is still some bias surrounding chiropractors and patients of chiropractors. Jurors may see the chiropractor as unqualified to treat medical conditions or to diagnose conditions, and may rule in favor of the patient because of this preconceived notion. Conversely, jurors may also view chiropractic adjustments as unhelpful, and believe that patients are engaging in a procedure with unnecessary risks.
Chiropractic Malpractice Compensation
Depending on the nature of the injuries suffered, a chiropractic malpractice attorney may be able to assist patients in recovering compensation for pain and suffering, in addition to financial damages. Financial damages may include lost wages as well as costs associated with medical treatment. Chiropractic offices that are found to have engaged in unethical practices may be required to pay additional punitive damages in order to discourage future malpractice.
“Chiropractic.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 4 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2014. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/chiropractic.html>
“Chiropractors.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2014. <http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/chiropractors.htm>