Do I have a malpractice claim if I was exposed to harmful radiation from an X-ray or a CT scan?

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X-rays and CT scans are generally considered safe and effective, but serious harm can result if the risks of radiation exposure are not minimized. If you've suffered injuries due to radiation exposure, you may be eligible for compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering in either a medical malpractice or product liability case. Radiation exposure malpractice

Injuries Caused by Radiation Exposure

X-rays and CT scans allow doctors to get a better view of your bones or internal organs before diagnosing an illness or injury. However, the radiation used to perform these tests does carry a degree of risk.

Potential injuries linked to radiation exposure include:

  • Organ and tissue damage
  • Cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Fetal abnormalities

The dangers of radiation exposure are increased when several tests are performed in a relatively short time period. CT scans carry a higher risk than X-rays because they use higher doses of radiation.

Responsibility for Radiology Equipment

In a hospital or imaging center, the person in charge of ensuring that the radiology equipment is used correctly and that patients receive the right dosage of radiation is called a medical physicist. Medical physicists are certified by The American Board of Radiology in one of three subspecialties: diagnostic medical physics, nuclear medical physics, or therapeutic medical physics.

Frequency of Radiation Overexposure

There is no federal agency that tracks radiation exposure related to X-rays and CT scans performed on the general public. However, the federal government funds a testing service known as the Imaging and Radiation Oncology Core (IROC) that must inspect any radiation center seeking federal funding for clinical trials. In 2008, IROC found almost 30% of hospitals undergoing inspection were not able to properly irradiate a test dummy. This statistic alone suggests a legitimate cause for concern.

Proving a Malpractice Case

Some examples of conduct that might be considered malpractice include:

  • The doctor neglected to minimize the risk of radiation exposure by using ultrasound or other non-radiation diagnostic tests before ordering the X-ray or CT scan.
  • The radiation dose wasn't properly calibrated for your body size.
  • You weren't provided with a protective lead apron to shield the parts of the body the doctor didn't need to see.
  • Your doctor recommended tests with unnecessarily high risk and minimal benefit such as a whole-body CT scan.
  • Your doctor was sending patients to an imaging center he had a financial affiliation with—which could be a conflict of interest.
  • You were pregnant at the time, and your doctor didn't inform you of the risks to the fetus associated with radiation exposure.

Malpractice claims involving radiation exposure can be difficult to prove. Tissue or organ damage and cancer related to medical radiation don’t appear until several years after exposure. Miscarriage or fetal abnormalities will be apparent much sooner, but these effects can also have a number of other causes.

Finding relevant expert witnesses to testify is essential in proving a causal link between your injuries and the radiation exposure. This testimony can also help establish negligence, which means that your doctor failed to follow the accepted standard of care for your condition.

Product Liability Claims

If your injuries are due to equipment failure or improper calibration, this non-medical cause wouldn't be considered malpractice. However, you may be able to seek compensation from the manufacturer or servicer of the equipment as part of a product liability claim.

Product liability law requires companies to be held legally responsible for the harm people suffer due to faulty manufacturing or design errors in a product. Failing to warn of the dangers associated with a product can also be considered evidence of negligence in a product liability claim.

Contact Neblett, Beard & Arsenault to Evaluate Your Options

If you've suffered harm that you believe was caused by exposure to excessive medical radiation, Neblett, Beard & Arsenault can help. Our attorneys have extensive experience assisting Louisiana residents in settling both medical malpractice and product liability claims. Cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis, so there is no upfront cost for obtaining quality legal representation. To learn more, please contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 for a free consultation.


Richard J. Arsenault
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Recognized by several legal associations, Richard Arsenault has vast experience in complex litigation cases.