Many medical malpractice claims stem from delayed diagnosis or the misdiagnosis of an injury, medical condition or illness. When a physician’s diagnostic error results in delayed treatment, incorrect treatment or no treatment at all, the patient’s condition can get worse or lead to death.
However, it’s important to remember that a diagnostic mistake on its own isn’t always enough for a medical misdiagnosis lawsuit. Our misdiagnosis lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs can evaluate your case and help you determine your next steps.
Proving Medical Malpractice Due to Misdiagnosis
Doctors aren’t held legally responsible for every diagnostic error. Individuals must first prove three things to win a medical malpractice claim based on misdiagnosis:
- There was a patient-doctor relationship.
- The doctor acted negligently by not providing treatment in a reasonably prudent manner consistent with what other doctors would do in the same context.
- This negligence caused actual harm to the individual.
What Is a Doctor-Patient Relationship?
You can establish a doctor-patient relationship by proving that you went to the physician for care, after which the physician offered treatment. In many cases, the physician in question is an individual’s primary care physician, a surgeon performing an operation or the physician attending to their case. While these are clear-cut examples of a doctor-patient relationship, one can also exist between a patient and a doctor or specialist consulting on their case.
Was the Doctor Negligent?
A delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis on its own is not enough evidence that a negligent act occurred. You need to determine if the physician acted competently. This involves evaluating what the physician did and didn’t do when arriving at the diagnosis.
Differential diagnosis is the systemic method a doctor uses to identify a condition or disease. Based on a preliminary evaluation, a physician creates a list of possible diagnoses. The doctor then tests each diagnosis strength through additional medical observations, including:
- Detailed questions about symptoms
- Medical history
- Additional testing
- Referral to specialist
Ideally, several of the possible diagnoses can be ruled out through the investigative process, leaving only one diagnosis at the end.
In a medical misdiagnosis lawsuit, you need to prove that another doctor in the same specialty and under similar circumstances wouldn’t have misdiagnosed the condition or illness. Essentially, you must prove one of two possibilities:
- A doctor was negligent in not including the correct diagnosis on their differential diagnosis list, and under similar circumstances, another competent, reasonably skillful physician would have covered it.
- The correct diagnosis was on the doctor’s differential diagnosis list, but they failed to seek appropriate tests or opinions from other specialists to investigate the viability of said diagnosis.
Did the Misdiagnosis Cause Harm to the Patient?
Once you establish that the doctor acted negligently, you need to prove that their negligence in misdiagnosing or delaying diagnosis resulted in the following:
- The condition or injury progressed beyond what it normally would have if a correct diagnosis had been made in a timely manner.
- This progression resulted in a negative impact on treatment.
If a doctor misdiagnosed an individual with an illness or condition they didn’t have, that individual might also be able to prove harm in the way of expenses due to unnecessary treatment, medical problems caused by such treatment, stress, and anxiety.
There are multiple ways medical professionals can make diagnostic errors, including:
- Wrongfully diagnosing or misdiagnosing a condition
- Missing a diagnosis and giving an individual a clean bill of health when in reality they have a disease or illness
- Eventually making a correct diagnosis but with a significant delay
- Failing to recognize complications related to a correct diagnosis that aggravate or change the condition or illness
- Failing to diagnose a related disease that has an increased risk of incidence in an individual with the diagnosed condition
- Correctly diagnosing one condition but failing to diagnose another completely unrelated condition
Misdiagnosis in the Emergency Room
Not surprisingly, the number of misdiagnoses that occur in an emergency room setting is much higher. Increased pressures related to time often translates into a doctor having less time to investigate differential diagnoses. Also, the severe nature of most emergency room injuries and illnesses means an incorrect or missed diagnosis will most likely result in harm to the individual.
In emergency rooms, less common conditions and illnesses have an increased likelihood of being misdiagnosed or missed. Conditions that aren’t typically found in specific populations are also less likely to be diagnosed correctly. For example, a younger female experiencing gastric distress, a symptom of heart attacks, is less likely to be correctly diagnosed with a heart attack than a middle-aged, overweight male with the same symptoms. Other conditions routinely misdiagnosed in emergency room settings include:
- Pulmonary embolism
A medical misdiagnosis lawsuit can be complicated to understand. However, if you partner with our misdiagnosis lawyers from Janet, Janet & Suggs, we can explain your legal rights and options moving forward. Complete our online form to have our knowledgeable legal team evaluate your case and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.