What if I had a heart attack because a doctor failed to recognize the signs?

Man Holding His Chest During a Heart Attack You knew something wasn’t right, which is why you sought medical attention in the first place. However, a triage nurse, doctor, or other medical professional dismissed your complaint as indigestion or a panic attack and sent you home. It turned out you were having a heart attack. Could it have been prevented if the signs had been recognized? Would you have had a better outcome if you had been treated immediately? Can you hold someone liable for the harm it caused you? We answer these questions here.

How Heart Attack Symptoms Are Missed

Heart disease and heart attacks are the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Despite this fact, heart attacks are still misdiagnosed in emergency departments and doctors’ offices every day, putting patients at risk of a much worse medical outcome. There is no excuse for a doctor missing the signs of a heart attack, but because the symptoms are similar to other less serious conditions, they could be overlooked when medical facilities are understaffed, unprepared, or rushed. Typical symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Pain or tightening in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort or pain in the left shoulder or arm

When more than one of these symptoms is present, a heart attack should always be suspected. However, some patients present with atypical symptoms. This is particularly true for women, who often experience heart attack symptoms such as the following:

  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Jaw, neck, or back pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling flushed or breaking out in a cold sweat

It’s hard enough for you as a patient to know when to take certain symptoms seriously. You might find yourself consulting Dr. Google to decide whether you should even get medical attention. However, if you do seek medical help, you deserve to be taken seriously. If your symptoms are dismissed, and you are sent home to have a heart attack, you might be able to take action against the negligent parties who allowed it to happen.

Proving Medical Negligence in New Mexico

Medical malpractice lawsuits are not easy to win, but if you have a strong case for damages, a skilled attorney can gather the necessary evidence and pursue the compensation you deserve. To prove medical malpractice, you will have to show all of the following:

  • You had an official relationship with the healthcare provider, meaning they agreed to treat you, and you agreed to their treatment.
  • The healthcare provider failed to meet the accepted standard of care in a given situation.
  • You suffered some kind of measurable harm or loss resulting from the healthcare provider’s failure to meet the standard of care.

A healthcare provider who fails to recognize the signs of a heart attack could definitely be considered negligent under these standards. If you are successful in a medical malpractice lawsuit, you stand to be compensated for:

  • Medical and rehabilitative care made necessary by the malpractice
  • Payment of ongoing care in cases of permanent disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Lost income
  • Lost ability to earn a living

New Mexico caps non-economic damages (this refers to anything other than payment of medical bills and other tangible costs) at $600,000. In order to get fair compensation for these losses, you will need the assistance of an experienced medical malpractice attorney to fight with the hospital’s insurance company.

In New Mexico, Contact Keller & Keller

If you suspect that an avoidable and significant mistake was made when a medical professional failed to recognize the signs that you or a loved one was having a heart attack, contact our medical malpractice lawyer in Albuquerque for a free case evaluation. We will be honest about the strength of your case. We don’t believe in frivolous lawsuits, but if you are owed compensation by a negligent doctor, we will go to the mat for you. Call us or fill out the contact form on this page to get started.


James R. Keller
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Partner at Keller & Keller