Post-accident Hospital Treatment Causes Injury: Wrong Drug Administered

Our client, a 68-year old man with a history of chronic back pain and coronary artery disease, was rear-ended near his home in Phoenix, Arizona. Although his car was badly damaged in the accident, our client chose to go home rather than being transported to the hospital from the scene. Later in the evening, when our client’s wife got home from work, she found him to be uncharacteristically disoriented, confused, and incoherent, and he was having problems walking. Accordingly, his wife took him to the emergency room, where a workup was done to determine the cause of his altered mental status.

The hospital determined that our client suffered a minor head injury from the motor vehicle accident, but also inexplicably diagnosed him as an opiate addict (presumably due to the presence of the drug Vicodin in his system, which he had taken for back pain). He was admitted and administered the drug naltrexone, an opiate blocker typically used to treat lethal heroin overdoses. Our client suffered an adverse reaction to the drug, and his physical and mental health deteriorated thereafter. He was hospitalized for eight days after the accident, during which he underwent surgery to implant a pacemaker.

Our client’s gait abnormalities, confusion and disorientation failed to improve over time and his cardiologist referred him for a neurological evaluation. The neurologist opined he had suffered a traumatic brain injury and referred him for neuropsychological testing, which revealed significant neurocognitive impairment with lateral deficits to the right hemisphere.

We retained a psychiatrist to evaluate our client and review his medical records. The psychiatrist determined that the hospital’s administration of the drug naltrexone for opiate overdose was not validated, and that it was an adverse reaction to the drug with aggravation of his heart condition (requiring implantation of a pacemaker) that likely caused the cascading deterioration of our client’s health.

Because our client’s post-accident health problems likely were caused by the treatment he received at the hospital after the accident, we successfully argued that the other driver was liable for his injuries regardless of whether they were caused by the accident itself or his resulting hospitalization. The other driver’s insurance company offered the full policy limits of $100,000 to settle the case.

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