A medical misdiagnosis occurs when a physician delays in or fails to properly diagnose a patient. A medical misdiagnosis may be legally actionable if that misdiagnosis results in injury to the patient or leads to further, unnecessary progression of the disease of the patient.
Medical misdiagnosis claims are governed by both medical malpractice and negligence laws. In order for an injured plaintiff to prove the physician’s liability, they must show that the medical professional:
- Owed a duty of care to the patient;
- Breached that duty of care; and
- Breaching that duty of care was the actual cause of the tangible injuries of the patient.
When a plaintiff is attempting to prove a medical misdiagnosis, causation may be the most difficult element to prove. In other words, it can often be very difficult to determine whether the physician actually caused the patient’s injuries because of their failure to properly diagnose the condition or their delay in diagnosing the condition.
For example, in cases where a patient has cancer, metastasis, or the spread of the cancer to other areas of the body can often be unpredictable. Therefore, if a doctor fails to diagnose the cancer, it may be difficult to determine whether the condition would have spread even if it was diagnosed properly and in a timely manner.
Parties that may be held liable for medical misdiagnosis may include:
- Hospital staff; and
- In some cases, entire medical institutions.
A medical institution may be held liable if the hospital has unsatisfactory diagnosis policies and procedures.
What Are the Types of Medical Misdiagnosis?
There are numerous different forms of medical misdiagnosis which may occur. It is important to note that medical misdiagnosis may also lead to other or additional errors by the medical staff or physician.
Errors which may occur include:
A failure to diagnose occurs when a physician completely fails to detect or properly diagnose an existing condition. For example, an individual may be suffering from various different symptoms but their physician misses the connection between those symptoms and the underlying condition.
In instances of misdiagnosis, a physician may list a cause of illness as one disease when, in fact, the patient’s condition is different. This may lead to numerous issues, including:
- Improper treatment;
- Lack of treatment; and
- Progression of the disease.
A delayed diagnosis occurs when a physician is unable to make a proper diagnosis until a much later time when further injuries have occurred. This issue may be caused by the inattention of the physician.
Improper treatment may occur when a physician has made an incorrect diagnosis. Although this is not necessarily a diagnosis issue, it may lead to unnecessary or erroneous treatments which result in further injury to the patient.
A failure to treat occurs when a diagnosis is made but the physician completely fails to treat the condition. For example, if the physician is, instead, attempting to treat a different condition.
The standard of care which a physician will typically be held to will usually correspond to the standards which are set by their particular field of practice. The proof required to show that the physician did not meet the standard of care, however, may vary according to the individual situation of each patient.
For example, a physician may be held liable if they failed to diagnose a disease which is known to be easily detected or diagnosed. If, however, the medical standards provide that a certain disease is extremely difficult to diagnose, the physician may be held to a different standard when issuing the diagnosis.
What Are the Legal Remedies for Medical Misdiagnosis?
In most cases, compensation for a medical misdiagnosis comes in the form of monetary damages. The injured party, or plaintiff, may be entitled to reimbursement for things associated with their misdiagnosis, including:
- Medical costs;
- Treatment; and
In addition, a plaintiff may be entitled to receive compensation for their lost wages and any other damages which may be related to the misdiagnosis. As previously noted, the most difficult part of obtaining a legal remedy is proving that the physician’s misdiagnosis was the actual cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
If, however, a plaintiff suffered measurable injuries as a result of the physician’s misdiagnosis, they will most likely succeed in obtaining monetary damages. An individual will likely have the best chance at obtaining compensation if they have the assistance of a medical misdiagnosis attorney, especially due to the complexities of cases involving medical issues.
It is important to note that some states have placed limits on medical malpractice awards. This may place a cap on the amount which a plaintiff is permitted to recover for their losses.
If a patient passes away as a result of their medical misdiagnosis, their family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim which may be brought by the family member of a deceased individual against the individual who caused their death.
It is important to note that the laws of each state vary regarding which individuals are permitted to bring wrongful death lawsuits, it is typically an immediate family member, such as a spouse or parent, who is permitted to file the claim.
- Wrongful death lawsuits may be brought against:
- Government agencies;
- Individual defendants; and
- Other types of organizations.
Because a wrongful death action is a civil matter, the standard of proof for these types of claims is lower than in a criminal case. In other words it may be much easier to prevail in a wrongful death lawsuit than it is to obtain a conviction in a criminal case.
An important issue for a plaintiff to be aware of is the statute of limitations on personal injury claims. A statute of limitations is a term which describes statutes which provide the amount of time plaintiffs have to file civil lawsuits or the amount of time prosecutors have to file criminal complaints against defendants.
In other words, it places a limit on the plaintiff by establishing a deadline for filing their claim. If the statute of limitations has run, or the time for filing has passed, a plaintiff may be barred from bringing their claim.
The deadline for filing a claim will vary depending upon the type of lawsuit being filed and the state statutes which apply in the state where the plaintiff is filing the lawsuit. Generally, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims ranges from 2-6 years, depending on the state.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Medical Misdiagnosis Claim?
Medical misdiagnosis claims are extremely important and should be taken seriously. A medical misdiagnosis often results in unnecessary injuries or, in some cases, even death.
If you or a loved one has been affected by a medical misdiagnosis, it is very important to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney for medical misdiagnosis will be able to advise you of the laws in your state, assist you in preparing your case, and represent you in court.
It is important to note that many of these types of cases settle outside of the courtroom. It is just as important to have an attorney during negotiations with any party involved in the cases to ensure that you receive the most compensation available for your injuries.