Failure to Recognize Signs of Sepsis

Sepsis is a severe medical condition that impacts more than one million people a year in the United States. While not always preventable, the road to the most serious cases of sepsis is often long, with opportunities for preventable measures along the way. When sepsis is unavoidable, swift and attentive medical treatment at the first sign is crucial to reduce the risk of fatality. 

While certainly not all cases of this aggressive and potentially deadly infection are the result of medical negligence, a lack of proper medical intervention or care may mean that you or your loved one has experienced medical malpractice as a result of your healthcare professionals’ failure to recognize the signs of sepsis. 

What Is Sepsis?

Sepsis is the presence of two or more systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) criteria in a setting of confirmed or suspected infection:

According to the CDC, more than a quarter million Americans die from sepsis every year. For people who are especially at risk for sepsis—including older patients, infants, people with weakened immune systems or chronic conditions, or anyone who has previously had sepsis—medical decisions come with higher stakes. But severe sepsis is typically avoidable if you are under quality medical care.

Over 80% of patients develop sepsis outside of a hospital setting. However, many of these cases occur in patients in intermediate care settings, like a rehabilitation center, a nursing home, or even at home under the watch of home healthcare workers. Whether you contracted an infection during the course of your inpatient or outpatient care—especially if you have had recent surgery—the development of an infection into a septic condition may be the result of your provider missing the signs or negligently attributing the symptoms to other conditions.

Both the CDC and other medical organizations and facilities recognize that the key to reducing the frequency of severe sepsis involves vigilance in recognizing and communicating about developing signs of sepsis on the part of healthcare providers. Because this condition is a syndrome, by definition it requires multiple symptoms to be diagnosed as sepsis. The sooner doctors recognize and treat early symptoms, the smaller the risk of patients developing severe cases. 

How Dangerous Is Sepsis?

Sepsis is the clinical term used to refer to a serious medical syndrome that arises as a result of infection and causes life-threatening organ dysfunction. Sepsis with one or more end-organ failure is called severe sepsis. Septic shock occurs when there is a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

Not all severe cases of sepsis result in death. However, patients who survive sepsis often experience long-term physical, psychological, and cognitive disabilities. Screening for sepsis symptoms often begins at the very first contact with nurses, who then document and, if needed, report the results to doctors:

  • Fever, shivering, or chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Clammy or sweaty skin
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • High heart rate
  • Low blood pressure 

If your sepsis occurs after you displayed symptoms that should have resulted in further action to diagnose and treat you, the experienced legal and medical team at JJS can determine if you have a case for medical malpractice. 

What Do You Need to Prove in a Malpractice Case Involving Sepsis?

To prove that you have been the victim of sepsis as the result of medical malpractice, your situation must meet the following basic criteria for general malpractice: 

  • Duty of care. The healthcare provider you are considering suing was responsible for your or your loved one’s care.
  • Violation of standard of care. The healthcare provider did not act as a reasonably prudent health care provider would act under the same or similar circumstances.
  • Injuries. That negligence or error resulted in injury.
  • Damages. The injury itself resulted in harm to the patient.

Questions you and your lawyer might discuss in determining whether your case can be brought as a medical malpractice case include the following:

  • Was the injury severe and permanent?
  • Are there any past, current, and future costs for medical care to treat the injury?
  • Was the doctor or hospital negligent in giving you the best standard of care?
  • What is your life expectancy in light of the injury?
  • Were any family members impacted by the injury?

Some common acts of negligence relating to sepsis are:

  • Not requesting the right blood, urine, and wound secretion tests
  • Not screening for signs of sepsis
  • Not recognizing that a patient has developed an infection
  • Not addressing the infection or symptoms of sepsis 
  • Not giving the patient the right antibiotics
  • Not administering antibiotics or failing to administer them timely and appropriately 
  • Not cleaning IV lines properly
  • Not giving the patient the right fluids
  • Not implementing reasonable medical treatments 
  • Not getting necessary informed consent for treatment

If you or your loved one were not timely or properly diagnosed with sepsis and were harmed, reach out to the experienced injury lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs for a free legal consultation. A medical malpractice attorney can provide you with professional help navigating the complex legal and medical waters in your pursuit of justice and financial compensation.

How Are Sepsis-Related Malpractice Cases Resolved?

Determining grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit is a complex process that often requires a lawyer with medical knowledge. Therefore, the first step toward the resolution of a medical malpractice case is to reach out to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. 

Malpractice cases can be long and complex and, without expert legal help, they can become painfully overwhelming for you and your loved ones. Because the statute of limitations (the period of time in which you can file a lawsuit) can be short, and a significant amount of information is needed to determine whether or not to move forward with a malpractice lawsuit, it is vital that you reach out to an attorney for a consultation as soon as possible. 

If the attorney you speak to determines you may have a valid claim, your legal team will begin compiling your case and filing it with the appropriate court. Medical malpractice cases require an immense amount of preparation, including compiling past and current medical records, getting testimony from expert witnesses, and commuting with the defendant’s legal team.

Compensation for these cases will vary depending on a few factors, such as:

  • Doctor and hospital bills—past, current, and future
  • Lost income—past, current, and future
  • Pain and suffering
  • Quality of life impact

While the amount of compensation will depend on the specific circumstances of your case, you can always count on the injury lawyers at JJS to remain committed to fighting for a fair resolution. 

Why Choose Janet, Janet & Suggs?

The team at Janet, Janet & Suggs has been fighting for justice in medical malpractice cases for over 40 years. If you believe you or a loved one may have grounds for a malpractice lawsuit, a conversation with the team at JJS will provide the information you need to make a decision about moving forward with a lawsuit. JJS operates on a contingency fee basis, meaning we collect no fees from you unless we win your case, starting from the first consultation, and we put the full weight of our resources behind each case we accept. JJS will:

  • Conduct an in-depth investigation of the circumstances of your injury to find out when negligence occurred
  • Carefully review medical records and treatments you are receiving to determine the severity of your injury and all of the ways it affects you on a daily basis
  • Consult medical experts if necessary to prove the injury could have only been caused by negligence
  • Determine a fair amount of compensation to cover all physical, financial, and emotional damages from your injury
  • Negotiate with insurance companies and lawyers for the other side if they offer to settle
  • Take your case to trial if we do not receive a fair settlement offer, given your medical expenses and other damages caused by your injury
  • Charge no legal fees unless your claim has a favorable outcome through a settlement or courtroom verdict

Our team has championed those impacted by the errors of healthcare professionals for decades, achieving hundreds of millions of dollars in record-breaking verdicts and settlements for our clients. Our experienced attorneys and network of expert witnesses will help you find your way through the complex process of your medical malpractice case to seek justice and fair compensation for your injuries. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation review of your sepsis case.


 William R. “Topper” Cramer

Reviewed by:
William R. “Topper” Cramer, RN, MBA, MS, CCRN, CFRN, EMT-P
Legal Nurse Consultant | Nurse Paralegal

Topper has been involved in emergency, transport, and critical care medicine since 1978 when he became an EMT in high school. A United States Air Force veteran, he remains active as a pre-hospital RN/paramedic, certified flight nurse, and critical care nurse. In addition to his professional role as a nurse consultant/nurse paralegal, he is the Chief of Operations at Walkersville Volunteer Rescue in Frederick County, Maryland. READ FULL BIO

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