I suffered permanent foot drop to avoidable compartment syndrome. Do I have a personal injury case?

by Vera Voelter
(San Jose, CA 95136)

My leg was put in a brace after an operation. During the night it started to swell excessively. The nurses - instead of loosening/adjusting the brace - had me wait for my doctor to come next morning.

By then I had developed compartment syndrome. The blood flow was blocked too long and the muscle that moves the foot was permanently damaged because of this.

I filed for arbitration and wonder, a) do I have a case, b) could I expect an award for damages (not to mention pain and suffering) and how should I go about it?


Answer by Guy Parrinello

Hello Ms. Voelter. I am not licensed in California and so can only give you general information. Your story, however, is compelling; compartment syndrome is a very serious and usually preventable condition.

You don’t say what prompted you to have the operation in question. Since the website you are perusing has to do with auto accidents, I will assume your operation resulted from an injury that arose out of an auto accident.

If that is the case, a general rule of law is that usually the at fault driver (or his or her insurance) is at fault for all foreseeable damages that flow from the negligence.

Another general proposition of law is that medical malpractice in the treatment of an injury is foreseeable. Therefore, if the compartment syndrome flowed from the auto accident, it is likely compensable in a lawsuit or other claim against the at fault driver.

If, however, your operation was not prompted by an auto accident, you may still have a claim for medical malpractice or other negligence against the nurses, hospital or other professional who failed to recognize the signs and symptoms of compartment syndrome or otherwise didn’t treat you properly to prevent it.

In either case, if this set of facts came into my office in New York, it would seem to me you have a case. In New York, if you can prove negligence or malpractice, you would be able to claim damages, including pain and suffering.

I’m not sure of the law in California, so I would immediately check with a local injury attorney to make sure you are proceeding correctly and in a timely fashion. Good luck.

Disclaimer: The author of this posting is a lawyer licensed to practice law in the State of New York. This posting is intended as general information only, is not provided as legal advice in connection with any specific case, and should not be construed to create an attorney-client relationship.

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