Medical misdiagnosis generally refers to a physician’s failure or delay in properly diagnosing a patient. It may be actionable at law if the misdiagnosis has resulted in injury of the patient or a further, unnecessary progression of the disease in question.
Misdiagnosis claims are governed by negligence and medical malpractice laws. In order to prove the physician’s liability, it must be proven that the medical professional owed a duty of care to the patient, that they breached their duty, and that the breach was the actual cause of the patient’s tangible injuries.
When proving medical misdiagnosis, it is generally most difficult to prove causation. That is, it can sometimes be very difficult to determine whether the doctor actually caused the patient’s injury due to their failure to properly diagnose their condition. For example, in cancer cases, “metastasis” or spread of the cancer to other parts of the body can be unpredictable. Thus, if the doctor failed to diagnose cancer, it is difficult to say whether the condition would have spread even if it was properly diagnosed.
What are the Types of Medical Misdiagnosis?
Medical misdiagnosis can take many forms and may lead to other errors by the physician or medical staff. These may include:
- Failure to diagnose: This is where the physician completely fails to properly diagnose or detect an existing condition. For example, the person may be suffering from various symptoms, but the doctor misses the connection between the symptoms and the underlying condition
- Misdiagnosis: The physician lists the cause of illness as one disease when in fact the condition is different
- Delayed diagnosis: This is where the physician is unable to make a proper diagnosis until much later when further injury may have occurred. May be caused by the physician’s inattention
- Improper treatment: Not necessarily a diagnosis problem, but if the physician has made a wrong diagnosis, it may lead to erroneous or unnecessary treatment resulting in further injury
- Failure to treat: This is where a diagnosis may have been made, but the physician completely fails to treat it (for example, they were attempting to treat a different condition)
The standard of proof that the physician will be held to usually corresponds to the standards set by their particular field of practice. However, the proof might be different according to the individual patient’s situation.
For example, a physician might be held liable if they fail to diagnose a disease that is known to be easy to diagnose or detect. However, if the medical standards dictate that a particular disease is very difficult to diagnose, they may be held to different standards when issuing a diagnosis.
What are the Legal Remedies for Medical Misdiagnosis?
Compensation for medical diagnosis usually takes the form of monetary damages. The injured person may be entitled to reimbursement for medical costs, treatment, and medications associated with the misdiagnosis. Also, they may also be entitled to receive lost wages and other damages that might be related to the misdiagnosis.
As mentioned, the most difficult part of obtaining legal remedies is proving that the physician’s misdiagnosis was the actual cause of injury. However, if the patient clearly suffered measurable injury as a result of a misdiagnosis, then they will likely be successful in obtaining monetary damages.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Medical Misdiagnosis Claim?
Medical misdiagnosis claims are important and should be taken very seriously. A misdiagnosis can often result in unnecessary injury or even wrongful death. If you or your loved ones have been affected by a medical misdiagnosis, it is important that you contact a personal injury lawyer for advice. An experienced attorney can help you prepare the necessary information and documents when filing your claim.