Chiropractic Malpractice: When Treatments Harm Instead of Help

Chiropractic treatment is increasingly common, and many people have either visited a chiropractor, or know friends, family, or coworkers who have. The popularity of this alternative medical practice brings with it some important questions—such as what happens if the chiropractic treatments cause medical harm? Can chiropractors commit malpractice? The answer to both of these questions is yes.

If you suffered an injury from chiropractic mistreatment, speak to a malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. Call Dolman Law Group at (727) 853-6275 or contact us online to discuss your potential claims.

What Is a Chiropractor Licensed to Do?

Chiropractic treatment focuses on the musculoskeletal and nervous systems to resolve pain in the back, neck, arms, legs, or head. One of the most common chiropractic procedures is spinal manipulation. This typically involves a high velocity thrust to align the spine, resetting the position of the spinal cord and nerves and restoring proper function to the nervous system.

The federal government recognizes chiropractic science as a healthcare profession. Therefore, many of the regulations for physicians also apply to chiropractors. Chiropractors are also subject to state laws.

Chiropractors must meet education standards and receive licenses to practice. Licensed chiropractors are permitted to adjust, manipulate, and treat by manual, mechanical, electrical, or natural methods. Such methods may include light, heat, water, or exercise. They may also analyze and diagnose abnormal functions and their causes. Chiropractors are not allowed to prescribe or administer drugs.

Chiropractic Malpractice Examples

Chiropractic malpractice takes place when a chiropractor fails to meet the standard of care. Common chiropractic malpractice includes failing to diagnose an underlying medical condition, causing or exacerbating injuries from manipulation, and failure to obtain informed consent.

  • Failing to diagnose an underlying medical condition. The chiropractic standard of care requires an initial exam and medical history review before treatment begins to ensure that a chiropractor, rather than a medical physician, is the appropriate professional to treat the patient’s condition. Failing to diagnose a medical condition and make a proper referral increases the risk of injury to the patient and also delays necessary treatment.
  • Injury from manipulation. Spinal manipulation and adjustment demands the highest level of care. Done improperly, chiropractic adjustments may cause herniated discs, broken ribs, fractured vertebrae, nerve damage, muscle weakness or paralysis, or even stroke. In addition, chiropractic treatments on pregnant patients may induce preterm labor.
  • Lack of informed consent. Chiropractors must inform patients about the treatments they will provide, and the risks of those treatments. If the chiropractor fails to obtain informed consent and injures the patient through the treatment, the chiropractor may incur increased liability.

A lawsuit was filed against a chiropractor in Kansas after a patient in his 30s suffered a stroke following a neck adjustment. The patient, who described the adjustment as “forceful,” began feeling dizzy, went into atrial fibrillation, and doctors had to place him on a ventilator. His neurologist stated in writing that the vertebral artery dissection and subsequent stroke resulted from chiropractic manipulation. The patient also claimed he did not receive information regarding the risks of the procedure.

In 2016, 34-year-old model Katie May died of a stroke following neck manipulation by a chiropractor. The coroner’s assessment was that she suffered a tear in the vertebral artery that blocked blood flow to her brain, which caused the stroke.

In 2011, a South Carolina woman recovered $800,000 in a lawsuit against her chiropractor. The woman suffered a herniated disc following a side-posture chiropractic treatment. The chiropractor claimed that it was impossible for her to know the patient had an underlying medical condition. The suit alleged that the chiropractor did not give the patient a full medical exam or take her full medical history before treatment. Someone removed the procedure from the patient’s records, possibly to avoid showing causation.

Florida Laws Regarding Chiropractic Treatment

Florida law provides for revoking a chiropractor’s license for:

  • Failing to keep legible medical records detailing all treatments, exams, medical histories, test results, and diagnoses that the chiropractor rendered, ordered, or billed, for at least four years
  • Performing services that the patient did not authorize
  • An inability to safely perform treatments on patients due to illnesses or use of alcohol or drugs, or due to mental or physical conditions
  • Gross or repeated malpractice, or failure to practice at the level of care, skill, and treatment of any chiropractic physician under similar circumstances
  • Performing any experimental procedure or therapy on a human without obtaining full, informed, written consent
  • Delegating responsibilities to someone who is not qualified by training, experience, or license to perform them

Injured by a Chiropractor? Call the Dolman Law Group

If you were injured by a chiropractic treatment, Florida law may entitle you to damages, including medical expenses. Contact a malpractice lawyer who has experience with chiropractic malpractice as soon as possible—do not let Florida’s statute of limitations prevent you from an opportunity of recovery.

A malpractice lawyer will review your case and determine if you have a claim. To prove chiropractic malpractice, the facts must show the chiropractor failed in the duty to provide the required standard of care, and that failure caused the patient’s damages. An attorney can gather the facts from many sources, including medical records, records of the chiropractic treatment, depositions of parties and witnesses, expert testimony regarding the standard of care, and a calculation of the patient’s economic and non-economic damages.

Chiropractic treatment can help many people, but if not done properly, they may cause devastating results. If you were injured by chiropractor malpractice, Dolman Law Group’s compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys may help you to get the compensation you are entitled to. For a free consultation, contact Dolman Law Group online or at (727) 853-6275.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275