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Allergic Reactions: What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?

Allergic ReactionAllergic reactions do happen. Some are more severe than others. Some even come about as a result of another person’s negligence. One of the most egregious forms of negligence that occurs in this regard happens when an allergic reaction is caused by the actions of a medical professional. If you suffer an allergic reaction after medical care, you should be aware of which types of conduct are actionable and which are not.

Statistics and Symptoms

The most common cause of allergic reactions in medical settings is prescription medication. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that approximately 60 percent of all anaphylaxis deaths between 1999 and 2010 were caused by various prescription medications, while the next most likely cause was ‘unknown causes’ at 19 percent, followed by food allergies at seven percent. However, there are also drugs and other compounds common to medical settings that can cause what is referred to as anaphylactoid reactions - attacks which are not true anaphylaxis, but cause similar distress and symptoms. Both can be grounds for medical malpractice allegations.

Allergic reactions can occur with many different symptoms, though there are some that appear more often than others. The list includes:

  • Hives, blisters or other swelling;
  • Dizziness;
  • Breathing problems;
  • Decreased blood pressure, possibly leading to unconsciousness; and
  • Increased heart rate.

There are many other symptoms that can appear, but if three or more of the above are present, an allergic reaction can generally be classified as severe.

Proving Malpractice or Negligence

A malpractice claim based on improper medication administration can be simpler than many others, simply because the prevailing standard of care is fairly easy to elucidate. California law mandates that a medical professional is negligent if they fail to use the same “skill, knowledge and care in diagnosis and treatment” that other similarly situated medical professionals would use. It is not a leap of logic to assume that most reasonably careful and ‘similarly situated’ medical professionals would check whether a patient was allergic to a medication before prescribing it.

California establishes a duty by law between doctor and patient. If this duty is breached by conduct that caused direct harm to the patient, medical negligence can likely be proved in court. It is also possible in some situations that a doctor, while not the direct cause of the patient’s injuries, could be held liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior, also known as vicarious liability. If, for example, a nurse or physician’s assistant negligently administers a dose of an incorrect medication, or too much of the correct one, a doctor may be held liable for not properly supervising them.

Experienced Professional Assistance Can Help

No one is a mind reader, obviously; if your allergy is not immediately discernible and you do not advise medical personnel of its existence, your chances to obtain recompense are slim. However, it is still possible to recover in cases where a doctor ignored or forgot the existence of your condition. If you have further questions, the San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. can help you work through them. We have years of experience dealing with all manner of medical negligence, and we are happy to help you through what can be a difficult and demanding process. Contact our office today to set up a free initial appointment. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of Alameda, Monterey, Santa Clara, San Benito and San Mateo.

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My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.