Can Someone Sue A Chiropractor For Medical Malpractice?

Attractive chiropractor touching hand of patient in grey t-shirt

Chiropractors Owe a Duty of Care

Despite practicing outside the realm of traditional medicine, chiropractors are licensed health care professionals under applicable laws. Just like any doctor, nurse, or medical specialist, they are responsible for exercising reasonable care during diagnosis and treatment. When they fall short of these professional standards, patients who are harmed as a direct result may be able to bring a malpractice lawsuit.

Common Scenarios

While chiropractic manipulations have proven useful for certain musculoskeletal problems, the following types of issues might be professional negligence:

Excessive or Aggressive Treatment

Patients sometimes undergo a program of adjustments far exceeding medical necessity or appropriate limits based on their specific presentation. In these cases, it may be argued the chiropractor acted irresponsibly and ignored clear patient signs and symptoms.

Preexisting Condition Flare-up

Chiropractic manipulation on individuals with certain undiagnosed conditions (bone diseases, tumors, spinal disk protrusions) can cause significant injury. Failure to order an MRI or appropriate imaging prior to initiating a plan for spinal adjustment potentially opens the door to liability if later medical intervention shows worsened spinal cord compression, disk injuries, nerve damage, and other significant medical problems.

Stroke Following Treatment

While it’s important to note that a correlation between strokes and chiropractic manipulation remains debatable in the medical community, there is some evidence supporting a causative link in some circumstances.

When this rare complication occurs, particularly in younger patients and within a short time following neck adjustments, it may be possible to bring legal action. It all depends on the specifics of your case: learn more here about how to find a qualified malpractice lawyer.

Proving a Case of Chiropractic Malpractice

Just like any lawsuit stemming from medical negligence, chiropractic malpractice claims require certain legal components to be proven to be successful. While some of what will be argued looks very similar to claims against a traditional medical doctor, certain specifics differ because of the nature of chiropractic manipulation as a practice. Here’s an overview of what evidence might be used to make your case:

Duty and Standard of Care

Your legal team needs to show that the chiropractor had a duty of care to you, as well as show what the standard of care expected from a chiropractor is and how yours failed to meet this benchmark. In these cases, courts examine factors such as prevailing techniques for diagnosis and treatment of specific musculoskeletal problems, patient health history forms filled out and reviewed by the chiropractor, and expert review of any diagnostic tools (images, x-rays, etc.) the chiropractor employed or should have used prior to initiating treatment.


It’s necessary to prove a direct link between a chiropractor’s treatment and the harm you experienced. In cases of strokes, for example, a timeline will need to be constructed. Did manipulation within a short time window likely impact blood flow in specific ways? In injuries involving musculoskeletal structures in other areas of the body, experts on tissue healing, nerve function, and the limits of manipulation often become vital participants on the legal team.

Finding the Right Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Chiropractic malpractice lawsuits require a level of understanding most generalist lawyers can’t bring to the table. Seek an attorney specializing in medical malpractice cases with ample experience dealing with complex back, neck, spinal or joint injury cases. Chiropractic treatments vary widely from provider to provider and sometimes involve techniques less frequently employed by others in the practice or only used within chiropractic medicine.

This can create extra complexity when attempting to prove to a judge or jury that specific care crossed the line into the sort of harmful error justifying compensation. Having a skilled attorney in your corner with direct experience representing similar clients gives you the greatest odds in what may be an uphill battle.

Benefits of a Knowledgeable Attorney

Dealing With Chiropractors’ Insurance Providers

Most doctors and chiropractors carry specialized malpractice insurance policies designed to cover litigation costs for covered negligence claims. Don’t fall prey to a smooth adjuster seeking to close the matter at its earliest stages with a small offer designed to cut potential losses. Having an attorney helps you combat that tactic and forces those on the other side to take your claim seriously.

Locating Essential Experts

Chiropractic malpractice often requires highly specialized testimony on the nature of specific manipulation techniques, whether an average practitioner should have identified existing risks for you based on your specific pre-treatment presentation, and how the injuries relate to any deviation from industry standards, prevailing norms, and recognized safe ranges of motion and force to apply within spinal adjustments. It’s nearly impossible for most lawyers lacking malpractice experience to find qualified experts in this area. A skilled medical malpractice attorney will assess your individual case and advise you about the next steps to take.

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