Can I Pursue a Medical Malpractice Claim for an Allergic Reaction?

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 Allergies can cause a wide range of symptoms, from itchy, watery eyes, hives, and sneezing to stomach pain, vomiting, and swelling of the lips, tongue, eyes, or face. In extreme cases, a severe allergy can cause the person to go into anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal if the person does not receive immediate medical treatment. For example, people who are severely allergic to bee stings can go into anaphylactic shock quickly if they do not receive a shot of epinephrine, which will reduce the severity of the allergic reaction. Certain medications can also cause very serious health complications if the person is allergic to that medicine. If you suffered a serious allergic reaction to a medication and you believe that the health care provider who administered the drug was negligent in some way, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer experienced in medical malpractice cases who will protect your legal rights and secure full and fair financial compensation.

What Causes a Drug Allergy?

Drug allergies occur when the immune system detects a drug in the system and mistakenly identifies it as a harmful substance. When this happens, the immune system will develop an antibody that is specific to that drug. In some cases, you may not experience symptoms the first time you take the drug. However, the next time you take the medication, the antibodies will target the drug and direct the immune system to attack the substance. This activity releases a chemical into the body, which causes the symptoms associated with the allergic reaction. Even trace amounts of a drug can cause the immune system to create an antibody to it. Depending on the drug for which you are allergic, you may suffer a severe allergic reaction the first time you take the drug.

 What Are the Common Symptoms of a Medication Allergy?

 Any medication can induce a drug-related allergy, including over-the-counter drugs. However, prescription medications are more likely to cause the immune system to have an abnormal reaction to a medication. When this happens, you may experience a range of symptoms, including the following:

  • Skin rash
  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Swelling
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath

If you have a serious allergy to a medication, you are at risk for anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening reaction for a drug allergy. If you experience a severe allergic reaction to a medication, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Tightening of the airways and throat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting, or abdominal cramps
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness

What Medications Are Commonly Associated with Allergies?

 Although there are a wide range of medications that can cause allergic reactions, the following are examples of drugs that are commonly associated with allergies:

  • Antibiotics, including penicillin
  • Pain-relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium
  • Chemotherapy medications
  • Medications used to treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis

What Are the Most Common Causes of Negligence in Medication Allergy Cases?

According to a recent study, most medication errors are caused by the following acts of negligence:

  • Inadequate observation. If a physician fails to observe a patient after the administration of a medication and the patient suffers a serious allergic reaction, this inadequate observation may be considered negligent.
  • Missed or delayed epinephrine administration. If a physician does not administer epinephrine within the necessary period or fails to administer a dose of epinephrine, this may be recognized as negligent.
  • Ignoring a patient’s history of an allergy. Physicians are expected to thoroughly review their patients’ medical records and ask them if they have any drug allergies or hypersensitivities to any medication. A failure to determine or confirm whether the patient is allergic to a medication may be considered negligent.
  • Prescription error. This includes dosing errors; prescribing the wrong medication; and the incorrect timing, route, and rate of administration. The following are examples of cases in which a physician may be considered negligent:
    – A physician administered a medication for which the patient had a known allergy, which was noted in the patient history.
    – A physician administered a medication that is known to interact negatively with another medication that the patient is currently taking.
    – A physician administers a dose of a medication that the patient cannot tolerate, which causes an allergic reaction.
  • Delayed airway management. In cases of severe allergic reactions, it may be necessary to perform intubation to secure the airway and allow the patient to breathe freely. If an allergic reaction causes the patient’s airway to be obstructed and the necessary steps are not taken to clear the airway, the health care provider may be held liable for the patient’s health complications.
  • Delayed or inappropriate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). If the allergic reaction is severe, CPR may be necessary. If a health care provider delays CPR or fails to perform CPR correctly, this can have serious consequences. The reasons cited included a delay because of intubation, delaying CPR until emergency services arrived, and waiting too long to contact a physician.
  • Missed skin test. With certain medications, a skin test can determine whether a patient is allergic to the drug. Skipping a skin test before administering a medication may be recognized as negligence.
  • Inadequate preparation of emergency equipment. If a medication is administered in an unprotected setting without the necessary emergency equipment and the patient suffers a life-threatening allergic reaction, this could have serious consequences, particularly if it takes a significant amount of time to transfer the patient to the emergency room to treat the allergic reaction.

How Do I Prove Negligence?

 If you suffered a serious allergic reaction to a medication and you wish to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against the physician who administered the medication, there are a number of factors that you must be able to prove in order to have a successful claim, including the following:

  • You must be able to establish that your health care provider owed you a professional duty of care. This element is rarely contested because it is easy to prove that a doctor-patient relationship existed. For example, it is reasonable to expect that a physician would thoroughly examine a patient’s medical history to determine whether he or she is allergic to any medications.
  • You must also be able to prove that your health care provider breached his or her duty by failing to provide the standard of care. You will need to define the standard of care as it relates to your situation and present evidence to support it. In addition, you must demonstrate that your health care provider’s actions deviated from the accepted medical standard of care. If a physician fails to review the patient’s health history and administers a medication that results in the patient suffering a severe allergic reaction, this is a breach in care.
  • Injury and causation. Finally, you must be able to prove that you were injured, and that the physician’s breach in care caused your injuries. To support your claim, you will need to provide evidence, which may include medical records, copies of prescriptions that caused the allergic reaction, and any other evidence that an allergic reaction occurred.

What Damages May I Receive in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

If your health care provider administered a medication that caused a serious allergic reaction and you believe that negligence was involved, you may be entitled to the following damages:

  • Economic damages. These are quantifiable damages that can be easily calculated. They include the following:
    – All medical expenses associated with the injuries or health complications caused by the allergic reaction, including hospital bills, in-home care, and any future medical care that is required
    – Lost wages, including loss of future earning capacity and temporary or permanent disability if a severe allergic reaction prevents you from being able to return to work in the same capacity, or at all
  • Non-economic damages. These are more difficult to quantify, as they are awarded for a diminished quality of life. They include the following:
    – Pain and suffering, which is the physical and emotional distress that the patient experiences as a result of the injury
    – Loss of enjoyment of life
    – Loss of companionship
    – Punitive damages if the actions of the health care provider are considered particularly egregious

Every state calculates damages differently. In most states, including Maryland, there is no cap on economic damages. However, the maximum compensation for non-economic damages for 2022 is limited to $905,000. If the allergic reaction results in a fatality, the cap for a wrongful death lawsuit is $2,262,500. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer will secure full and fair compensation.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Patients Harmed by Medication Errors

If you or a loved one suffered a serious allergic reaction to a medication and you believe that your health care provider was negligent in some way, you are urged to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will thoroughly review the details of your case, determine whether negligence was a factor, and ensure that your legal rights are protected. Our dedicated legal team will assist you with every step of the claims process and secure the financial compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.