Every 40 seconds in the United States, someone has a heart attack. One in five is silent - the damage is done, but the victim is not even aware of it. While the leading cause of heart attacks is coronary artery disease (CAD), it's not always the reason that an individual suffers a heart attack.
Oftentimes the circumstances that lead to a heart attack are of no fault of a victim at all. Misdiagnosis, toxic work environments, and even the impact of auto accidents can damage the heart of an otherwise healthy person and will, sooner or later, lead to a heart attack. In many instances, these mishaps could have been prevented.
If you believe your heart attack or heart disorder was caused by the negligence of another, contact the Weinstein Legal Team to speak to an attorney about your case.
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack, known medically as a myocardial infarction, occurs when a part of the heart muscle doesn't receive enough blood flow. When the coronary arteries that supply the heart with fresh blood accumulate a buildup of fat, cholesterol, and plaque, they become thicker and harder. If the plaque breaks open and a blood clot forms, it will block blood flow to the heart muscle. When this happens, a heart attack occurs.
During a heart attack, the muscle supplied by that artery begins to die due to a lack of blood supply. The more time passes without intervention to restore blood flow, the more damage to the heart muscle occurs. If a muscle dies, that result is permanent heart damage.
Common Heart Attack Symptoms
Some heart attacks have no symptoms at all. These are called silent heart attacks, and they can often be the most dangerous as a victim has no idea the damage has even occurred. Some heart attacks will present sudden, intense symptoms, which will immediately alert the victim that something is wrong. More commonly, though, a victim experiences mild, gradual discomfort.
Some of the signs that can mean a heart attack is happening include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Heightened anxiety
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Jaw, neck, or back discomfort
- Pain or discomfort in one or both of the arms
- Weakness, and feeling dizzy or lightheaded
Can a Doctor Misdiagnose a Heart Attack?
When a victim feels the onset of heart attack symptoms, their typical reaction is to visit a hospital, urgent care, or doctor immediately. If a patient presents heart attack symptoms, it's the responsibility of doctors and emergency room staff to not to mistake heart attack symptoms for symptoms of other, less dangerous medical problems, such as:
- Anxiety attack
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Heartburn or acid reflux
However, heart attack victims are often overlooked simply because they don't fit the mold of a typical heart attack patient. It is a common misconception - even among those in the medical field - that in order to suffer a heart attack, a victim must be visibly out of shape, overweight, elderly, and so on. For this reason, heart attacks are often misdiagnosed in younger people, those who look visibly healthy, and women in general.
Aside from looks, heart attack diagnosis often falls through in the testing phase. Like all conditions, a medical professional should conduct a series of medical testing to confirm a correct diagnosis. Unfortunately, due to negligence on the behalf of medical and hospital staff, issues diagnosing a heart attack occur frequently.
Common factors leading to heart attack misdiagnosis include:
- Laboratory error
- Over-reliance or improper reading of EKG results
- Failure to consult cardiac specialists in a timely manner
- Failure to order necessary tests in a timely manner
When a heart attack is undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, it can create serious issues for the victim. Not only can loss of blood flow to the heart muscle create permanent heart damage, but an untreated clot in the heart can cause death. In these cases, it is the negligence or carelessness of the medical professional who did not fulfill their duty to provide the patient with proper care that will be held liable for the injury.
What Else Causes a Heart Attack?
Most commonly, existing cardiac diseases or conditions set the scene for a heart attack. However, an otherwise healthy individual can suffer a heart attack when placed under duress, or after experiencing a trauma. One may not typically think of a heart attack as an immediate personal injury, yet, when another individual acts negligently, a heart attack can be the unfortunate consequence.
Circumstances that could lead to a heart attack include:
- Employment at a workplace with exposure to toxic chemicals that weakened the heart
- Ingesting a poison that was damaging to the heart
- An accident that damaged the cardiac muscle
- Extreme stress during an accident that triggers an attack
Can a Car Accident Cause a Heart Attack?
While not common, an auto accident or motorcycle crash can actually cause a heart attack. It begins with a cardiac contusion, or myocardial contusion. This is a bruised area of the heart muscle that is caused by a deceleration injury or blunt trauma to the anterior aspect of the chest wall. Typically, this involves the right ventricle of the heart, but any area of the heart can be affected.
Often, a cardiac contusion is associated with a fracture of the sternum or one or more ribs. Following this type of injury, the most common result is arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and hypotension (low blood pressure). However, cardiac contusions carry serious complications, including:
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Aortic rupture
- Biventricular failure
- Cardiac rupture
When cardiac contusion leads to a blood clot or other blockage of blood flow to the heart muscle, heart attack ensues. Risk factors for cardiac contusions include drivers of a vehicle in high-speed crashes, as the steering wheel makes direct contact with the chest. Otherwise, not wearing a seat belt or being hit with an airbag can damage the heart. Likewise, those who work at heights above 20 feet, such as window washers, roofers, and painters are at greater risk of cardiac contusion as a result of injuries on the job.
If you were involved in an auto or motorcycle accident which you were not at-fault for, and suffered a heart attack as a result, you can be eligible for compensation.
Damages from a Heart Attack Injury
Suffering a heart attack can create sudden financial, physical, and emotional hardships for victims. While they're likely more focused on healing and spending time with their loved ones, it is important to think about seeking legal help. If you have experienced a heart attack due to what you believe was negligence on the behalf of another individual, don't hesitate. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer, who can help you receive compensation for damages such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Long-term disability
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Long-term care expenses
- Current and future medical bills
- Current and future loss of wages
If you have experienced a heart attack that you believe was due to a failure to timely diagnose or treat a heart attack, or you suffered trauma at the hands of another, you may be entitled to compensation. At Weinstein Legal, our dedicated attorneys are ready to fight for your right to compensation, so you can put your financial burdens in the past. If you've been the victim of a heart attack you believe was caused by negligence, contact Weinstein Legal today.