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Snake Bite Deaths & Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A Snakebite Resulted in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit: Here’s Why

Believe it or not, people often do not die of snakebites. But that was not the case for 64-year-old Priscilla Meredith of Georgia. On May 17, 2019, Meredith was bitten by a poisonous canebrake rattlesnake when she was gardening at her home. She went to the ER for treatment, except, she didn’t necessarily get the treatment she needed.

Instead of administering antivenom, the ER doctor called the Georgia poison control helpline for advice. The helpline staff told the doctor not to treat the bite with antivenom unless he saw swelling and bruising around the bite. However, Meredith was showing obvious symptoms of a snakebite reaction, such as nausea, heart problems, and more. Meredith went into cardiac arrest at the hospital soon after, but the staff believed her incident was not related to the snakebite in any way and treated Meredith accordingly.

She died 2 days later.

As a result, Meredith’s husband filed a wrongful death claim against Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick campus, Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, and Emory University, along with several doctors. This preventable tragedy demonstrates the fatal impacts of negligence. Ironically, Meredith died at the hands of those who were supposed to save her life. Although these doctors and healthcare professionals did not have criminal intent, they surely displayed negligence and carelessness in the fatal situation.

Meredith’s husband recently filed the lawsuit in May of this year, and while no amount of money can ever repay him and his late wife for the damage that was done, maximum compensation can help ease some of the burdens.

As personal injury lawyers, we are shocked and saddened to learn about Meredith’s incident. This tragedy can teach us a thing or two about the dangers people can suffer from those who owe them a duty of care, at the very least.

With snake season in full swing in South Carolina, there is no better time to discuss snakebite risks, remedies, and what you can do if you suffered a bite through no fault of your own.

Symptoms of Venomous Snakebites

Of the 38 snake species in South Carolina, only 6 are venomous. These venomous snakes include:

  • Copperhead
  • Coral snake
  • Cottonmouth
  • Pigmy rattlesnake
  • Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake
  • Timber rattlesnake

Rattlesnake bites are the source of most venomous bites in the U.S., although, coral snakes and imported exotic snakes bite much less frequently. With this in mind, we list the typical symptoms of a snakebite below:

  • Bloody wound discharge
  • Excessive bleeding and difficulty with clotting of blood
  • Fang marks in the skin and swelling at the site of the bite
  • Severe pain at the bite site
  • Discoloration, such as redness and bruising
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the area affected
  • Diarrhea
  • Burning
  • Convulsions
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Increased thirst
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness and tingling, especially in the mouth
  • Rapid pulse
  • Altered mental state
  • Shock
  • Paralysis
  • Breathing difficulties

Treatment for Snakebites

As you can see, the list of snakebite symptoms is extensive. These reactions can be scary and life-threatening if treated improperly, which is why we encourage you to be mindful of how to treat a snakebite should you ever need to.

First and foremost, call 9-1-1 immediately if you or someone you know has been bitten by a snake. While waiting for help, The Johns Hopkins Hospital advises you to do the following:

  • Wash the bite with soap and water
  • Keep the bitten area still and lower than the heart
  • Cover the area with a clean, cool compress or a moist dressing to ease swelling and discomfort
  • Monitor breathing and heart rate
  • Remove all rings, watches, and constrictive clothing, in case of swelling
  • Note the time of the bite so that it can be reported to an ER healthcare provider if needed
  • Try to remember to draw a circle around the affected area and mark the time of the bite and the initial reaction, as well as redraw the circle around the site of injury marking the progression of time
  • Try to remember what the snake looks like, its size, and the type of snake if you know it, in order to tell the emergency room staff
  • Don't apply a tourniquet
  • Don't try to suck the venom out

Once you arrive at the ER, you may be treated with the following:

  • Antibiotics to prevent or treat developing infections
  • Medicine to treat your pain
  • A special type of antivenin depending on the type of snake that bit you and the severity of your symptoms

It’s beneficial to know these facts because, as you could see from Priscilla Meredith’s case, you may have to assert which medical treatment you receive if circumstances call for it. Time is of the essence in these situations, so it’s imperative for both you and your healthcare providers to be on top of it.

Snakebites and Wrongful Death

As you now know, healthcare workers and other professionals could be held responsible for wrongful deaths arising out of snakebites. In Priscilla Meredith’s case, it was obvious that she needed antivenom but was denied the much-needed treatment to save her life. As a result, her husband had grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospitals and doctors involved in the situation.

Similarly, a property owner could be held liable if their snake is improperly contained and bites someone, resulting in their death. The outcomes of wrongful death claims in situations like these vary based on the circumstances involved, but the bottom line is that it’s important to speak to a lawyer about the legal options you have if you believe you have a wrongful death claim.

Snakebites and Premises Liability

Snakebites can call for other types of personal injury claims, besides wrongful death. Premises liability claims are one example. This is because property owners are responsible for removing hazards that could cause or create a risk of injuries or death. When they fail to remove those hazards, their guests are at risk of getting hurt or killed. For instance, zookeepers would likely be held responsible if one of their snakes bit a visitor on the premises. The same concept applied to homeowners with pet snakes. They would likely be held responsible if their snake escaped its cage and bit someone who was at the home. These are examples of situations in which property owners could be liable for snakebites and the resulting damage.

We Hear You, and We Will Fight for You

In our years of experience as personal injury attorneys, we’ve seen the devastating impacts an injury and wrongful death can cause for the victim and their loved ones. This is why we go the distance to help achieve maximum compensation on behalf of our clients, as no one should suffer at the hands of another’s negligence and carelessness.

To discuss your situation and learn how we can help, schedule a consultation online or at (803) 938-4952! You are not alone.