Can I Sue My Chiropractor?
Chiropractic medicine helps many people address issues they feel traditional medicine has not successfully solved. However, when something goes wrong at a traditional physician’s office, the patient has the option to sue. Does that same right exist when it comes to mistakes during chiropractic care?
Are Chiropractors Medical Doctors?
Chiropractors do not hold medical degrees and thus, are not medical doctors. However, most people consider chiropractors medical professionals, and they are certainly trained professionals required to obtain a Doctor of Chiropractic degree in all 50 states. Specifically, chiropractors are licensed professionals that must acquire and maintain a license to practice.
Although many patients prefer chiropractic care to traditional medical care for multiple reasons, chiropractic care can result in severe injuries if not practiced correctly.
- Facial paralysis
- Spinal stenosis
- Frequent headaches
- Pinched arteries
- Numbness or tingling of limbs
- Disc herniation
- Bone-weakening disease
- Muscle weakness
- Bladder and bowel paralysis
The most severe complication of improper treatment is stroke. Pinched arteries in the neck can cut off the blood supply to the brain, causing the brain tissue to begin dying. Improper treatment leading to such severe injuries would likely qualify as medical malpractice in a traditional medical setting.
Can You Sue a Chiropractor for Malpractice?
Like other medical professionals, the law holds chiropractors to certain professional standards. When something goes wrong in a chiropractor’s office and you suffer an injury due to what you feel is negligent care, you may potentially sue the chiropractor for his or her negligence. Some jurisdictions continue to refer to chiropractors’ negligence as medical malpractice, though chiropractors are not medical doctors. Others refer to it as professional negligence.
No matter what your jurisdiction calls chiropractors’ negligence, you must first prove the four essential elements of a medical malpractice case.
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship. The doctor-patient relationship element is relatively easy to prove with any evidence of a visit to the chiropractor and payment for treatment.
- The medical professional treated the patient in a substandard manner and fell short of treatment expected by most other chiropractors. Typically, your Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney will use expert testimony, usually by another member of the field, to establish the expected treatment and describe the way your chiropractor fell short.
- The medical professional’s inadequate care resulted in injury to the patient. Your attorney will continue to use expert testimony and your medical records to establish that the inadequate care caused your injury.
Aside from malpractice, if your chiropractor performed a procedure he or she cannot perform due to licensing restrictions, or performed a procedure you did not authorize, you may be able to sue for fraud, misconduct, or civil battery, depending on the details of your case. Alternatively, if your chiropractor makes specific contracted promises regarding the outcome of your treatment and then fails to satisfy them, you could sue for breach of contract.
Should You Contact an Attorney?
Not all chiropractic treatments that fail to result in improvements for the patient qualify as negligent. In addition, not all chiropractic treatments that cause patients to feel worse qualify as negligent. As long as the chiropractor’s course of treatment meets the standard of care expected of a professional, the chiropractor is not likely negligent. An attorney can help you determine if your case consists of malpractice.
Medical malpractice or professional negligence cases in many states must follow a specific set of guidelines. If you do not follow the proper procedures, the courts could dismiss your case. You must also ensure that you do not exceed the statute of limitations to file your lawsuit, usually two years after you discover your injury. It is usually a good first step to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after your injury to make sure you use the proper procedure.