Necrotizing Fasciitis (aka “Flesh Eating Bacteria”)

Misdiagnosis Lawyer

A native of Atlanta, Mr. Freeman is dedicated to protecting our community’s right to basic, competent medical care and to obtain justice for clients who have endured tragedy and loss as a consequence of medical incompetence. Mr. Freeman’s success comes from his dedication to his clients and from his belief that holding the medical system accountable for its mistakes is the only way to make it better.

Mr. Freeman only takes a small number of cases at a time, which allows him to dive deep into each client’s personal tragedy. While nothing can reverse the unspeakable losses inflicted by necrotizing fasciitis (aka “Flesh Eating Bacteria”), Mr. Freeman brings all of his resources to bare to make medical providers take responsibility for the harm they have caused and to change their methods. He has a proven track record of winning over $36 million for his necrotizing fasciitis clients.

In his work over the last 25 years, Mr. Freeman prides himself on his ability to truly listen and hear what his clients are saying, what they have lost and how they have suffered. He is at home in the courtroom, empowering the jury to see the wrong that has been done and to make the right choice.

He is known as an expert litigator. In his previous career as a defense attorney for insurance companies informs his understanding of how insurance companies operate and what factors make them give up their defenses and make a fair settlement offer.

With the small number of cases he accepts, his knowledge and experience, and his expert care and concern for his clients, Mr. Freeman is the right attorney to advocate for you in your necrotizing fasciitis misdiagnosis case.

What is Necrotizing Fasciitis?

Necrotizing fasciitis is a life- and limb-threatening disease that involves deep-tissue infections that can overwhelm our body’s immune system.

Necrotizing means to cause the death of tissues and fasciitis refers to the inflammation of the fascia. Fascia is the tissue under the skin that surrounds the muscle, nerves, fat, and blood vessels. When a doctor fails to properly diagnose this disease, our immune systems can become overwhelmed, sending us into a downward spiral of sepsis and septic shock. Render Freeman of Andersen, Tate & Carr, help victims whose necrotizing fasciitis diagnosis is delayed due to incompetence, costing precious time to save life and limb.

Everyone asks, “How do you get the flesh-eating bacteria? Where does it come from?” The horrifying answer is that there is no such thing as “the” flesh eating bacteria. Many different kinds of bacteria – ones that you’ve never heard of – can cause it:

  • Aeromonas hydrophila
  • Clostridium
  • Escherichia coli (“E Coli”)
  • Klebsiella
  • Pseudomonas
  • Prevotella
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Vibrio vulnificus

But the most common bacteria to cause necrotizing fasciitis is Group A Streptococcus, the bacteria that gives us strep throat.

Necrotizing fasciitis occurs when one of these bacteria gets into our deep tissues either though our blood stream or an open wound. Once the bacteria kills a small amount of tissue, that dead tissue then becomes a hiding place for the bacteria. From that hiding place, the bacteria continues to wreak havoc on our bodies, killing more tissue and overwhelming our immune systems with toxins. Neither our immune systems nor antibiotics can get to the bacteria inside the dead tissue because the bloodstream is the only delivery mechanism, and there is no blood-flow to dead tissue.

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Symptoms of

Necrotizing Fasciitis

Common symptoms in the beginning stages of necrotizing fasciitis include red or purple skin, with swelling. The disease spreads rapidly causing a variety of symptoms, including extreme pain, fever, high heart rate, rapid breathing, diarrhea and vomiting.

If a doctor is not seen right away, second stage symptoms begin to develop, including ulcers, blisters or black scabs (necrotic scars) on the skin, increased intense pain at the site, crackling sensation under the skin, sepsis, changes in the color of the skin, pus or oozing fluid from the affected area, dizziness, and fatigue.

Causes of

Necrotizing Fasciitis

The most common way for the harmful bacteria to enter the skin is through a cut or scrape, burn, insect bite, puncture wound (this includes the use of IV medications or IV drug use), or surgical wounds. It is uncommon, but possible, for necrotizing fasciitis to develop after a slight trauma that does not result in the skin breaking.

Once a cut or opening of the skin has occurred, proper cleaning of the wound and dressing is necessary to prevent infection. People who have a compromised immune system—such as patients with diabetes, cancer, obesity, drug use, and alcoholism—are more likely to contract necrotizing fasciitis. Proper handwashing can prevent exposure to many different types of bacteria, including the ones that cause infection.

Do I Have a Necrotizing Fasciitis Case?

There are four elements that must be proven for a jury to find that medical malpractice was committed.

The first element is generally easy to prove: that a doctor-patient relationship existed. This is typically shown through medical records and visits.

Second, you must prove the doctor provided care that was “negligent” or below the standard of care. This depends on how a reasonable doctor would have treated you under similar circumstances. If a reasonable doctor would have caught the necrotizing fasciitis, then this element is met. Experts are used by the litigants during this phase of the case to prove this element.

The last two elements are related. You must prove that you suffered actual damages (medical bills, physical therapy, renovating home for a wheelchair, permanent physical impairment) and that the doctor’s failure to diagnosis the necrotizing fasciitis was the direct cause of the damage. Another way to phrase it would be: if the substandard care had not happened, the harm would not have occurred.

Once all the elements are met, a jury simply must decide the amount of money that is necessary to justly compensate the victim for their altered life.

It is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible if you have suffered as a result of necrotizing fasciitis misdiagnosis. In Georgia, most medical malpractice cases must be filed within two years from the date of the injury. This is called the “statute of limitations”.

Investigation, review of medical records, interviews, and negotiation typically take place before a claim is even filed. In order to make sure you maximize the compensation you deserve due to your doctor’s negligence, it is important to contact an attorney right away to preserve your rights.

Results from Past

Necrotizing Fasciitis Misdiagnosis Cases

Approximately 700 to 1,200 cases of necrotizing fasciitis are reported each year in the U.S., and only some of those involve medical malpractice. Throughout the U.S. the amounts that juries award to victims of misdiagnosis, reflect the seriousness of the condition.

In 2013, a Virginia jury awarded $7,650,000 to the plaintiff who was a 47-year-old man, whose doctor failed to monitor wounds developed after a car accident and subsequently had a full amputation at the hip on one leg, amputation above the knee on the other leg, and below the elbow amputation on the left arm.

Previously in 2012, the U.S. District Court in Baltimore awarded a $1,500,000 verdict to a 38-year-old man who went in complaining of a cyst on his back that was swelling, redness lead from his back to the perineum. A CT scan was performed and the patient was misdiagnosed with cellulitis. Another doctor expressed concern over the CT scan, believing it was necrotizing fasciitis. However it had been over two days since the patient presented to the Baltimore Urgent Care, and by then the necrotizing fasciitis had spread. The man lost a testicle and had to have five surgeries to repair his reproductive organs.

Necrotizing Fasciitis Statistics

Dermatological Signs of Necrotizing Fasciitis vs. Cellulitis

  • NF
  • Cellulitis

FAQs

Why do doctors fail to diagnosis necrotizing fasciitis?


Because they don’t trust their patients!

The classic symptom of necrotizing fasciitis is pain that is “out of proportion” to the physical appearance of the patient. For example, a patient has a red patch of skin on their shoulder, has a fever, a high heart rate and has been having diarrhea and vomiting for the last 12 hours. The pain is described as 8 or 9 out of a possible 10, “excruciating,” “on fire’,” or “burning.” The doctor looks at the red patch of skin and chooses to simply not believe the patient, sending them home with some mild prescription pain medication and maybe a weak antibiotic.

Doctors also fail to diagnose necrotizing fasciitis because they fail to recognize that their patient is also in the early phases of sepsis. For more information about sepsis, click here.

Doctors (especially urgent care and emergency room doctors) need to familiarize themselves with necrotizing fasciitis. Knowledge of the early signs of necrotizing fasciitis, such as pain that is out of proportion for a simple skin infection, should be a red flag. Retaining a high degree of suspicion if the patient does not improve is critical.

What Happens if a Doctor Fails to Diagnosis the Disease Properly?


Immediate treatment must begin if a patient is suffering from necrotizing fasciitis to prevent the spread of the infection and potential death. This condition is considered a life-threatening disease. Aggressive surgical and medical treatment is needed to decrease the chance of limb loss, disfigurement, scarring, and permanent disability. In addition, delayed treatment can result in sepsis, multi-organ failure, and death.

The ultimate determination in a patient’s outcome is dependent on how quickly the disease was diagnosed and treated, the type of bacteria, how quickly the bacteria spread, and how well the patient is responding to antibiotics. Without immediate proper treatment, the spread of infection will continue, leading to tissue damage, sepsis, loss of function in extremities, and as previously mentioned, death.

The only way to successfully treat necrotizing fasciitis is with surgical removal of the affected dead tissue and intensive and powerful IV antibiotics. The outcome for a patient that does not receive this treatment can be life altering or, worse yet, deadly.

Is the Disease Contagious?


Necrotizing fasciitis is not considered to be a contagious disease. However, bacteria can be shared to another person in close contact with the infected patient. If the patient infected with necrotizing fasciitis has an open wound that comes in contact with another individual’s open wound, it is possible the bacteria can cross skin barriers. However, this is rare. For example, if the strain of bacteria causing the necrotizing fasciitis is the MRSA strain, then a new MRSA infection can emerge. MRSA can affect any organ in the body and many strains are resistant to most antibiotics. MRSA can cause necrotizing fasciitis and presents similar signs and symptoms.

Proper handwashing and wound care around others with necrotizing fasciitis will typically prevent any spreading of the disease to others.