Medical malpractice claims are most often associated with physicians or healthcare professionals who make errors when treating patients. The scope of medical malpractice issues, however, is much broader than that.

Medical malpractice issues include types of issues which cause harm to patients, including:

  • Patient treatment;
  • Lack of patient treatment; or
  • Other departures from the accepted standards of:
    • medical care;
    • health care; or
    • safety.

Medical malpractice liability refers to which individuals or entities should be held legally responsible for injuries to patients. In most cases, this is the party or parties who breached their duty of care and were the actual cause of the patient’s injuries.

In many cases, however, it may be difficult to determine exactly which entities or parties should be held liable for injuries a patient suffers. Because these types of claims are so complex and the laws governing them vary by state, it is very important to seek the advice of an attorney for any medical malpractice issues.

Who is Liable Medical Malpractice Claims?

Medical malpractice claims may be brought against any healthcare professionals who contributed to the injuries a patient suffers. Entities or parties who can be held liable for medical malpractice may include:

  • A doctor or physician if they strayed from the standard of care required by their position or from the generally accepted standards of practice;
  • A hospital may be held liable if it provided improper are or failed to adequately train the healthcare professionals it employed; and
  • Nurses or other healthcare staff who attended to a patient can be held liable for injuries which they contributed to.

Hospitals may also be held liable for injuries to patients under the legal theory of respondeat superior. Pursuant to this legal theory, employers may be held liable for the negligent acts of their employees if the actions of their employee was within the scope of their employment when the negligent conduct occurred.

In these cases, hospitals may be required to pay the plaintiff compensatory damages. If the case involved gross or reckless conduct, a hospital may also be required to pay punitive damages.

What is a Medical Misdiagnosis?

A medical misdiagnosis occurs when a physician fails to or delays in properly diagnosing a patient. These misdiagnoses may be actionable if they result in an injury to the patient or to a further, unnecessary progression of their disease.

Medical misdiagnosis claims are governed by two main bodies of law, medical malpractice and negligence. In order for the patient to prove the liability of the physician, they must prove that:

  • The healthcare professional, or physician, owed a duty of care to the patient;
  • The duty was breached; and
  • That breach of duty was the actual cause of the injuries to the patient.

The most difficult element of medical misdiagnosis to prove is causation. In other words, it may be very difficult to determine whether the physician actually caused the injuries to the patient due to the failure to properly diagnose their condition.

For example, metastasis, or the spread of cancer to other parts of the body in cancer patients may be highly unpredictable. Therefore, if a physician fails to diagnose the cancer, it may be difficult to determine whether or not the condition would have spread even if the patient had been properly diagnosed.

What are Misdiagnosis Claims?

A misdiagnosis claim is a type of personal injury claims involving:

  • A wrong diagnosis;
  • An incorrect diagnosis; or
  • A failed diagnosis of a medical condition.

Because of this, misdiagnosis claims usually involve some form of medical malpractice which results in:

  • Injury;
  • Financial loss; or
  • Long-term disease.

Parties or entities who may be held liable for medical misdiagnosis may include:

  • Doctors;
  • Physicians;
  • Hospital staff; and
  • In some cases, entire medical institutions, for example, if a hospital has unsatisfactory diagnosis policies and procedures.

What are Some Examples of Misdiagnosis?

There are numerous examples of medical misdiagnosis, which may include:

  • Failure to diagnose an existing condition, such as fibroids;
  • Diagnosing the wrong condition, for example, diagnosing asthma when the patient actually has popcorn lung disease;
  • Pregnancy misdiagnosis, or issues such as:
    • failing to diagnose a pregnancy;
    • not diagnosing twins; or
    • other pregnancy related issues;
  • Diagnosing the wrong patient;
  • Diagnosing an ailment more than once, leading to unnecessary surgery or prescription medicine; and
  • Diagnosing the wrong medicine, treatment, or surgery for a known condition.

As previously noted, misdiagnosis typically refers to a medical misdiagnosis. Because of this, expert medical witnesses may be required during a trial in order for a plaintiff to prove what actually occurred during the diagnosis process.

Can I Obtain Legal Compensation for a Misdiagnosis Claim?

Yes, it may be possible to obtain legal compensation for a medical misdiagnosis claim. These types of claims typically involve monetary damages awards.

The purpose of a monetary damages award is to compensate an injured plaintiff for losses they incurred which were caused by the misdiagnosis. This may include:

  • Medical expenses, such as:
    • additional costs for treatment and prescriptions;
  • Hospital bills; and
  • Any other bills related to the misdiagnosis.

When proving a medical misdiagnosis, it is typically necessary to prove which party is specifically liable for the injuries. In addition, the injuries suffered are required to be real, not imagined, and the plaintiff must be able to calculate the injuries in a measurable dollar amount.

It is also important to note that some states will enforce limits on medical malpractice awards. Because of this, there may be a cap on the amount of money a plaintiff will be permitted to recover for their losses.

How Difficult is it to Win a Medical Malpractice Claim?

It can be very difficult to win a medical malpractice claim. The majority of medical malpractice claims are extremely expensive because they involve expert medical witnesses as well as complicated facts.

Healthcare professionals are often unwilling to admit they made any errors. They also often have the resources available to contest lawsuits filed against them.

Additionally, as noted above, there are often state limits on medical malpractice awards. In most cases, individuals will hire an attorney to provide them with the expertise to win a medical malpractice case.

Also, because of the power and resources that many hospitals and physicians have in the healthcare industry, medical malpractice claims may be difficult for a patient to pursue. It is important to be aware that there is one obstacle a plaintiff must overcome before being permitted to file a medical malpractice case against a healthcare professional.

The plaintiff is required to obtain a certificate of merit. In order to obtain the certificate of merit, the plaintiff is required to have an expert, often another physician, review their medical records and certify that the healthcare provider may have committed medical malpractice.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Misdiagnosis Claim?

It is essential to have the assistance of a personal injury lawyer for any issues, questions, or concerns you may have with your medical misdiagnosis claim. As previously noted, these types of claims often involve complex legal concepts and ideas.

Your lawyer will be able to review your case, advise you of the laws in your state, and represent you when you are required to appear in court. Having a lawyer on your side will ensure that your rights are protected and help you obtain the best outcome for your case.