Delayed diagnosis is a specific type of medical malpractice where a medical professional, for example, a doctor, fails to properly diagnose a patient at an early stage when it was reasonably possible. Although the patient may eventually have been diagnosed with a condition, due to the delay in diagnosis, the patient unnecessarily suffered additional complications or injuries.
Examples of medical professionals that may be involved in these types of cases include:
- Other types of healthcare:
In these cases, the medical professional’s failure to diagnose may not have been the direct cause of the patient’s illness or injuries. A proper diagnosis, however, could have prevented the patient from experiencing additional injuries or prevented the disease from advancing to a more serious stage.
In general, delayed diagnosis is considered to be one part of an overall medical misdiagnosis, as is incorrectly diagnosing the patient. In a case of common misdiagnosis, a physician may have identified something that was concerning with a patient, but their diagnosis was incorrect.
For example, the medical professional may have diagnosed the wrong condition or the wrong part of the patient’s body. Typically, a delayed diagnosis is associated with the medical professional missing a diagnosis that they should have reasonably been able to detect.
If a medical professional fails or delays in properly diagnosing a patient, it may justify legal action under certain circumstances. For example, if the misdiagnosis results in injury to the patient or an unnecessary progression of the patient’s disease.
Medical professionals are held to higher standards of care compared to the standard of care that is required by other professions. Due to this, a deviation from the standards may result in the medical professional being held liable for medical malpractice.
Is Delayed Diagnosis Different Than Failure To Diagnose?
Failure to diagnose, in contrast, is a specific type of medical malpractice that arises when a doctor fails to take the proper steps to determine the nature of a patient’s medical issue. In these cases, the doctor completely fails to properly diagnose or detect an existing condition.
One example of failure to diagnose would be if a patient is suffering from various symptoms. However, the doctor fails to notice the connection between those symptoms and an underlying condition.
If an individual believes they have experienced an issue with their medical provider that led to an unnecessary progression of their illness or injury, they should consult with a delayed diagnosis lawyer who can evaluate their case.
What Are Some Examples of a Delayed Diagnosis?
As noted above, a delayed diagnosis may be the result of negligence of a healthcare professional. Examples of medical treatment delays that may be the basis for a claim include, but are not limited to:
- An individual went to their doctor for a routine checkup, and their doctor failed to diagnose a condition that needed treatment;
- An individual went to their primary care physician with symptoms, and that physician failed to accurately diagnose the condition based on the symptoms or failed to refer the individual to a specialist;
- An individual went to a specialist who misdiagnosed their condition, which resulted in a delay in medical treatment; or
- Laboratory test errors occurred, which resulted in a delay in medical treatment.
It is important to note that the patient must have suffered as a result of the treatment delay in order to have an actionable claim. Examples of actionable injuries resulting from a delay include, but are not limited to:
- The disease spread as a result of the delay;
- The individual needed more invasive or expensive treatment as a result of the delay; or
- The individual endured greater bodily or psychological anguish as a result of the delay.
An individual must also file their claim within the statute of limitations period in their state, which is typically within two years for a personal injury claim.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Delayed Diagnosis Issues?
Medical malpractice liability refers to the individuals and organizations that may be held liable for a patient’s injuries. In general, this includes the party who breached their duty of care and who was the actual cause of the injuries the patient suffered.
Determining which party is liable, however, may be very difficult, as medical malpractice cases often involve more than one party. For example, liability may be split between a physician and a nurse when their combined negligence resulted in the patient’s injury.
In addition, a hospital organization or similar organization may be held liable for medical malpractice. This applies especially in cases involving a medical organization’s overall policy or quality of care for patients falling below the necessary standard of care.
Common examples of parties who may be held liable for medical malpractice include, but are not limited to:
- General practitioners;
- Clerical staff.
In most delayed diagnosis cases, the diagnosing physician may be held liable for injuries or losses that resulted from the patient’s delayed diagnosis. In delayed diagnosis cases, it is necessary to show that:
- The physician had a doctor-patient relationship with the patient;
- The doctor was negligent in their actions and breached the duty of care they owed to their patient;
- The doctor’s negligence was the cause of injury to the patient; and
- These patient’s injuries resulted in a quantifiable loss that could be remedied with a monetary damages award.
In terms of negligence, liability may be asserted if the plaintiff is able to prove that any other reasonable physician who practices medicine in the same field would have made a diagnosis sooner. In addition, some delayed diagnosis cases may be further impacted by faulty or defective medical equipment. When this occurs, the manufacturer of the equipment may be held liable under the legal theory of product liability.
Are There Any Legal Consequences for a Delayed Diagnosis?
Delayed diagnosis cases closely resemble personal injury cases. Personal injury cases arise when an individual suffers a physical, mental, or emotional injury or property damage.
When the injured individual files a lawsuit, they typically request some type of financial compensation from the party that was responsible. This is referred to as compensatory damages, as the responsible party compensates the recipient for the injuries that they suffered.
There are some states that place limits, or damage caps, on the amount of compensatory damages a plaintiff can receive. In addition, there are certain states that prohibit damage caps in cases that involve wrongful death lawsuits.
Typically, a delayed diagnosis lawsuit is remedied with a monetary damages award. This award compensates the plaintiff for losses, including:
- Medical bills;
- Hospital expenses;
- Costs of additional treatment;
- Medicine expenses; and
- Other losses, such as lost work wages.
If a product defect lawsuit is filed, the product in question may be recalled, and, in some cases, a class action lawsuit will result. For cases that involve widespread health or safety issues in a hospital organization, the hospital may be required to change its policies and practices, including terminating negligent employees. These measures are taken to prevent the parties responsible for committing similar future acts.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Delayed Diagnosis?
Suppose you believe you have suffered an injury as a result of a delayed diagnosis on the part of a medical professional. In that case, you should consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can.
Your attorney can advise you of your rights and options in your state. In addition, your lawyer will represent you in court during what is usually a complex case to present to a judge or jury.