What is a malunion fracture, and when is it classed as surgical negligence?

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Terry Regan

Director and Head of Medical and Clinical Negligence

Malunion fractures are bone fractures that have healed with a deformity as a result of the two ends of the broken bone being incorrectly aligned. Sometimes, malunion fractures occur due to medical negligence and in these cases, patients could be entitled to compensation for the complications that subsequently arise.

If you have experienced a malunion fracture and believe medical negligence caused or worsened the condition, it's helpful to seek legal advice to establish whether you could make a medical malpractice claim. In this article, we'll explain in more detail what malunion fractures are, the cases in which clinical negligence is to blame for them, and how to seek compensation.

What is a malunion fracture?

When a bone breaks, the body begins the healing process straight away, provided that the right conditions are in place. If the two ends of the bone don't line up correctly, the bone can heal in an improper position. This can cause the bone to be crooked or rotated, or in some cases shorter than it was before the fracture.

Around 20% of fractures result in malunion, with bones in the hand, arm, ankle and foot being most commonly affected.

Causes of malunion fractures are varied. Complex fractures are more likely to lead to malunion because they're more difficult to treat. Complex fractures are those in which bones break at an angle, break into multiple pieces, or rotate as they break.

Malunion fractures can also occur when:

  • Bones are aligned incorrectly when being set

  • There is a delay in treatment

  • Bones become unaligned after being set

  • An infection of the bone occurs (osteomyelitis)

How do you know when a malunion fracture is a result of surgical negligence?

Sometimes, malunion fractures occur as a result of clinical negligence. If medical professionals did not provide suitable treatment for a fracture or provided poor quality or incorrect treatment, this could be classed as medical malpractice and the patient could be entitled to compensation.

For example, if a fracture was not immediately diagnosed due to a failure to take, or correctly interpret, X-rays and a malunion occurred from delayed treatment, the patient has a good case for medical negligence. Another example of malpractice is if, after diagnosis, a healthcare professional opts to treat the fracture by setting the bone with a splint when surgery is necessary, and this leads to incorrect alignment during healing.

If a medical professional misses an infection or fails to treat an infection quickly, this could lead to malunion and be classed as medical negligence. If orthopaedic surgery takes place to set a fractured bone and poor hygiene practices occurred during surgery leading to an infection of the bone and subsequent malunion, this can be classed as surgical negligence.

Ultimately, in any instance where malunion could have been avoided if it weren't for delayed, improper or inadequate treatment, there is a case for medical negligence.

To discuss your case with a professional solicitor, you can contact us directly here.

What complications can a malunion fracture cause?

Malunion fractures can lead to a variety of complications. Many patients experience pain and tenderness in the affected bone long after it has healed. In some cases, deformity can occur which can cause both aesthetic and mobility problems in the affected limb. Sometimes, malunion fractures can cause complications several months or years later, particularly if joints are affected and gradually degenerate as a result, leading to post-traumatic arthritis.

Malunion fractures often require additional treatment to correct them, including invasive surgeries that could have been avoided if the fracture had healed correctly. In some cases, patients with malunion fractures can find their lives impacted by their injury in serious ways. Chronic pain and mobility issues might affect their ability to work, take care of their family or continue with their usual daily activities.

How can I make a medical negligence claim when I have a malunion fracture?

The first step in making a medical negligence claim following a malunion fracture is to collect evidence of the negligence. This might include any letters or emails relating to your medical appointments and treatments, and your medical notes from your GP practice or hospital. Next, make a note of the consequences of the malunion fracture, the harm that it has caused and the impact it has had on your life.

Following this, it's important to consult a personal injury law firm such as Wake Smith for assistance in making a claim for compensation. A lawyer will provide advice on whether you have grounds to make a claim and will proceed with legal action on your behalf.

How much compensation could I get?

The level of compensation you could get for a malunion fracture caused by medical negligence varies depending on the severity of the injury and the extent to which the injury has impacted your life. For example, if you can no longer work as a result of the injury, you could be entitled to significantly more compensation.

Compensation can also be claimed for any financial costs you have suffered due to the injury. For instance, if you have experienced permanent disability as a result of the malunion fracture and have had to have your home renovated in order to make it more accessible, you could claim these renovation costs. If you've lost earnings due to the injury these could also be claimed as compensation.

How can a medical negligence solicitor help me?

A medical negligence solicitor can firstly advise you on whether you could be entitled to compensation for a malunion fracture and estimate the value of the claim. They will then help you to gather appropriate evidence and submit a claim on your behalf. They will strive to settle the case out of court if liability is admitted. If the case does have to go to court, they will represent you and provide you with all the support you need throughout court proceedings.

How Wake Smith can help

Wake Smith can pursue a huge variety of medical negligence claims including those related to malunion fractures. We have a specialist team of clinical negligence solicitors who are highly experienced in these cases and have an excellent track record of successfully representing medical liability claimants.

We will provide you with a free consultation with one of our solicitors so that we can advise you on the next steps. If we believe you have a good case and you wish to proceed, we'll gather appropriate evidence and submit a personal injury claim. Should the negligent party admit liability, we'll negotiate a suitable settlement outside of court.

If you think you could be entitled to compensation for a malunion fracture, contact Wake Smith medical and clinical negligence solicitors to arrange a consultation.

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Director and Head of Medical and Clinical Negligence

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