Advances in medical research and technology have uncovered numerous links between poor kidney function and the progression of serious illnesses. It is the duty of nephrologists to diagnose injuries and disorders of the kidneys which may be the result of certain medical conditions or the cause of others. The ubiquity of unhealthy eating options, an epidemic of obesity, and weight-related illnesses has resulted in a rising demand for these specialists. Their actions can have life-changing impacts on the wellbeing and survival of patients. This is why the Chicago nephrologist medical malpractice attorneys of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC are dedicated to representing the interests of every patient whose injuries were the result of poor medical decisions or negligence.
The Path to a Career in Nephrology is Challenging and Rewarding
According to the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the incidence of chronic kidney disease is slated to rise by over 27% before the year 2030. Most people are completely unaware of the importance their kidneys play in their overall health and the ability to prevent serious medical conditions. For example, diabetes is one of the numerous conditions that can damage the kidneys. Damage to the kidneys may cause other major organs to fail. The good news is that it is possible for a patient to survive the failure of one or both kidneys as long as he or she receives the right medical care.
Nephrologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disorders. They need to have an understanding of the other medical conditions that are often linked to kidney disease either as potential causes or resulting from an insufficient renal function. Before they can become nephrologists, medical students must first complete their medical degree, spend at least three years in residency, and then have a three-year fellowship program. As it is with most specialists, these doctors must invest over a decade of their lives toward their education.
Our Chicago nephrology malpractice lawyers cannot understate the value of the work nephrologists do and their ability to allow many patients to live longer and happier lives. Yet, it is also important to note that they are rewarded with extremely lucrative pay that should go hand and hand with high expectations. The median income for nephrologists is over $149,000 as hospital employees and about $300,000 if they work in outpatient settings.
Nephrologists in High Demand due to Commonality of Kidney Disease
Roughly one third of the nation will be diagnosed with kidney disease at some point in their lifetimes. Disorders of the kidneys are more common than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Plus, they are often the root cause of these other serious conditions. Our kidneys play a vital role in cleansing our blood of toxins, managing water levels in our bodies, eliminating the waste that has been filtered out of our bloodstream, and controlling our blood pressure. Renal failure is defined by the failure of the kidneys to perform these functions and can quickly turn into a life-threatening condition.
A nephrologist’s role isn’t merely to diagnose and treat kidney disorders. They must also help patients adapt to the loss of a kidney and make changes to their diet and activity levels which will prevent or delay the onset of other health conditions. The conditions nephrologists diagnose and help patients manage include the following.
- High blood pressure— chronic kidney disease can result in elevated blood pressure and nephrologists may work cooperatively with cardiologists to both diagnose and treat the underlying causes of hypertension.
- Diabetes— while diabetes can be managed through the assistance of a primary care physician, most kidney disorders are caused by hypertension and diabetes. This is why a nephrologist may be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic patients at risk of developing kidney disease.
- Electrolyte imbalances— the kidneys play an integral role in managing hydration by eliminating the materials that we do not need from our blood. Electrolytes may be eliminated through the urine in excessive amounts when the kidneys are not functioning properly, which can result in severe electrolyte deficiencies and imbalances. Diabetics often suffer from kidney disorders because excess sugars are evacuated by the kidneys through urine, causing a cycle of extreme thirst and excessive urination that can overwork the kidneys as they try to restore balance.
- Chronic urinary tract infections— a urologist may refer a patient to a nephrologist in the event of recurring urinary tract infections due to the role the kidneys play in the elimination of bacteria and yeast from the body. There can be correlations between UTIs and kidney infections or poor renal function.
- Kidney stones— minerals such as calcium and other metals may form stones inside of the kidneys following an infection or due to other problems within the kidneys. These sharp stones must be passed through the urine, but can cause extreme pain when traveling through the urinary tract. This will require pain management in the majority of cases and surgical intervention to break up stones that are too large to pass on their own.
- Dialysis— in addition to maintaining the perfect mineral and electrolyte balance in the blood, the kidneys are responsible for removing toxins from it that may harm major organs or cause organ failure. Dialysis removes this waste and any fluids from the blood that are not needed so that patients can survive while waiting for a kidney transplant. Since dialysis cannot replicate the endocrine functions of the kidneys, such as the production of renin, calcitriol and erythropoietin, dialysis patients will eventually require a kidney replacement. While nephrologists do not administer dialysis treatments, they help patients manage them and are responsible for the diagnosis of renal failure.
- Referral to specialists— when patients require treatment measures that a nephrologist is not equipped to provide, they are referred to specialists in relevant medical specialties. However, they must also contine to monitor their progress and follow up with patients after they have undergone surgical procedures or treatments.
When attempting to determine a diagnosis, a nephrologist may order blood tests, urinalysis, biopsy or ultrasound to aid in identifying the problem. Their failure to order the appropriate tests in a timely fashion can have long lasting or permanent consequences due to organ failure or fluid and electrolyte imbalances.
Nephrologists also coordinate with a variety of other specialists due to the correlation that kidney disorders have with conditions affecting other areas of the body. Some instances of renal failure may even stem from the mismanagement of these other disorders, such as hypertension or diabetes, and it can be difficult to determine which physician is ultimately responsible for any resulting injuries.
Injuries that Often Result From Nephrology Malpractice
Our Chicago nephrology malpractice lawyers have noticed that many of the injuries our clients have suffered stemmed from missed or delayed diagnosis. Other causes of malpractice can include misinterpreting test results, prescribing medication without consideration for the patient’s diet, health conditions or drug interactions with other prescriptions. The injuries which may result from failing to detect or treat kidney diseases can include the following.
- Heart disease or failure— kidney disease and cardiovascular disease often accompany each other due to the role that the kidneys play in regulating blood pressure and the substances that make up the blood itself.
- Neuropathy— electrolytes are important because they allow the body to function through the transmission of electrochemical impulses. An electrolyte imbalance can wreak havoc on the nervous system and cause permanent damage to large clusters of nerves, resulting in neuropathy. This condition may result in the loss of feeling, an experience of sharp pain or of pins and needles, or could impact motor function, vision and hearing in the most severe cases.
- Death due to renal failure— renal failure can be deadly, even though it doesn’t need to be. When patients receive treatment in a timely manner, they are able to extend their lives while waiting for more permanent solutions. Undiagnosed renal failure can quickly result in the failure of the body’s major organs, however, ultimately claiming the patient’s life.
As chronic kidney disease continues to be linked to additional health problems, the demand for nephrologists will continue to grow. It is important that these specialists are able to quickly identify symptoms of kidney disease and order the appropriate tests to confirm their diagnoses. When the quality of patients’ lives rests in the balance, mistakes and failure to act cannot be excused— especially when such mistakes result in injuries or deaths that could have been easily prevented.
Sample Nephrology Malpractice Verdicts & Settlements
$5,132,197 Jury Award; Nephrology Malpractice; DuPage County, Illinois
Here, the plaintiffs’ lawyers claimed that the controversy commenced and continued because of the nephrologist’s malpractice. The patient was a middle-aged woman (56) with ankle pain. Her primary doctor diagnosed it as gout and prescribed her Allopurinol. Then, the woman saw her nephrologist. That doctor should have known or did know that she was on Allopurinol. That medication is toxic with a patient with renal failure which she had. That combination caused her lots of problems including rashes, liver damage, and other issues. Eventually, she had to go back to the doctors’ office. The doctors she saw after this point relied on her nephrologist’s medical history of the woman. That history did not include her Allopurinol prescription. Her condition worsened to the point that she had to visit the emergency room. She passed away from organ failure and a skin disease. Her children and husband survived her. They sued the nephrologist and the facility he worked for. They claimed his failure to take her off that medication, tell other doctors she was on that medication, and take other steps to help her was the cause of her death. The defendants denied that they were responsible for her death. They argued that many other doctors saw her after and that that broke any causal chain. Plus, the multitude of conditions she was suffering from could not all be attributable to them they argued. The two sides could not work out their concerns, so the matter went to trial. The jury returned a verdict of over $5 million for the family. This was one of the largest wrongful death verdicts in DuPage County history.
$500,000 Settlement; Nephrology Malpractice; Cook County, Illinois
This case was more about a failure to use a nephrologist than a nephrologist’s negligence. The patient was a young woman, about 30 years old. She began seeing a doctor because she was not feeling well. She saw that primary care physician for almost two years. The doctor noted high creatinine levels. This is evidence of kidney failure. However, he did not refer her to a nephrologist. Consequently, the woman’s kidney condition worsened. She was not able to get on dialysis for a long time. This harmed her overall health. It also increased the cost of her medical care. She sued the doctors and facility. Her lawsuit claimed they were responsible for this development and the lack of nephrology care that she received. Both sides settled out of court for $500,000.
$3,000,000 Jury Award; Nephrology Malpractice; Cook County, Illinois
The plaintiff in this dispute was a man in his early forties. He was a paraplegic from an incident unrelated to this lawsuit. He also had stage-three kidney disease. The nephrologist put him on Bactrim. He did this despite knowing the man had an allergy to it and pre-existing kidney problems. Problems commenced soon after this error. His kidneys failed. He had to go on dialysis. This caused him a lot of pain. It also cost him almost $300,000 in medical bills. He sued the doctor. He claimed the nephrological care he rendered was negligent. This was the sole cause of his harms he argued. The defendant pointed the finger at another doctor. Also, he said the plaintiff’s problems were unrelated to any errors he might have made. Thus, a jury had the job of figuring it all out. They awarded the plaintiff $3 million-$700,000 for lost normal life; $350,000 for pain; $400,000 for reduced life expectancy; $350,000 for trauma; $500,000 for medical bills; and $700,00 for lost consortium.
$3,300,000 Jury Award; Nephrology Malpractice; Cook County, Illinois
The patient here was sick long before the events of this case started. Years before, he made it through several myeloma. Now, doctors diagnosed him with acute leukemia. He got a bone marrow transplant thought and was doing better. Doctors determined he was in remission. Then, he got a graft infection. He went to the hospital for treatment. Doctors prescribed Foscarnet but he allegedly got ten times what he was supposed to receive. This overdose gave him renal failure as well as vomiting, sepsis, nausea, and other problems. Doctors tried different procedures to help calm the effects such ass dialysis. They were not successful. The man died from complications related to the nephrology error. His family sued for malpractice. They claimed he was in remission and would have lived much longer but for their errors. The defendants admitted to their mistakes. However, they argued that the man died because of the underlying infection and diseases instead of their errors. In the end, the concession might have been what swayed the jury. They awarded the family more than $3 million. The compensation was for suffering and pain ($1.5 million), for emotional trauma ($500,000), for lost society ($500,000), for grief ($500,000) and for lost earnings ($300,000).
$8,480,000 Jury Award; Nephrology Malpractice; St. Clair County, Illinois
The plaintiff that filed this case went to the emergency room after a car crash. He was just twenty-four. Doctors treated him for his injuries. They also noted that he had high blood pressure and creatinine levels. Later, they claimed they instructed the plaintiff about this and the need to follow up with a doctor. He did not do this. Consequently, he went into renal failure roughly eight months later. He required a kidney transplant and dialysis in the meantime. He sued the nephrologist, primary doctor, and facility for malpractice. His lawsuit claimed they should have instructed him better. Since they did not, he suffered immense pain, will experience future pain, incurred substantial medical bills ($450.000), and lost income ($500,000). The defendants shot back that they did exactly what he asked of them. He only suffered because he did not follow their instructions they argued. Yet, after four hours of deliberation, the jury came back with a verdict for the young man. It was one of the highest awards ever given in the county.
Nephrology Malpractice Lawyers Dedicated to Your Interests
If you have suffered serious injuries due to the failed diagnosis of a kidney disorder or improper handling of your medical treatment, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC may be able to help you recover the compensation you are entitled to for the payment of your current medical expenses, cost of future care, lost wages, pain and suffering or the loss of a loved one. Our Chicago medical malpractice law firm is made up of lawyers that have many years of legal training and experience in the area of medical law so that you can be sure you have access to an attorney that knows how to win your case.
Contact us today to be connected with one of our award-winning Chicago nephrologist medical malpractice attorneys so that we can review all of the information we need to assess your case and discuss your legal options. After we have had the opportunity to investigate the matter, we can let you know how we can assist you and just what you can expect if you choose to pursue a claim. In an effort to provide top notch legal services to anyone in need, regardless of financial concerns, we work on a contingency basis only. This means that unless we secure compensation on your behalf, our services are free.