Radiology is a type of medical specialty that uses a variety of imaging techniques to diagnose and treat diseases of the body. These include methods such as X-rays, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and other techniques.
As the main goal of radiology is usually to diagnose diseases, the main type of radiology malpractice is a failure to diagnose a condition that requires treatment. This can occur if the radiologist is negligent either during the radiology process or in interpreting the results of a radiological procedure.
Reportedly, studies show that most instances of malpractice by radiologists involve errors in diagnosis. Cancer is the disease that is most often misdiagnosed and, therefore, the subject of malpractice lawsuits. Breast cancer, lung cancer, and cancer of the ovaries and pancreas are the types of cancer that are most often misdiagnosed. In addition, in most of the cases of misdiagnosis of these cancers, serious injury or death is the result of the misdiagnosis.
Other conditions that are often missed by radiologists are non-spinal fractures, spinal fractures, and vascular disease. Additional problems that have led to claims for radiologist malpractice are a radiologist’s failure to communicate their findings adequately or to recommend further testing when it was, in fact, needed.
Other examples of radiology malpractice can include:
- The patient suffers an abnormal injury as a result of the radiology procedure;
- There is poor documentation of the patient’s condition and progress;
- Lack of consent from the patient;
- Medication and treatment errors;
- Clerical and administration-related errors;
- Failure to follow the proper standard of care for radiology procedures.
Radiology malpractice can be particularly dangerous as it can lead to a patient suffering long-term or potentially fatal conditions. For example, if a radiologist fails to diagnose breast cancer, the cancer can advance to a stage at which it can longer be treated successfully. This can be fatal for the patient.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Radiology Malpractice?
In many cases, a licensed physician who specializes in radiology, a radiologist, can be found liable for malpractice. What constitutes malpractice is defined by states, and some states define it differently than others. But in general, the “standard of care” for medical professionals is defined as the level or degree of care and skill of the average medical professional who practices the same specialty as the doctor whose performance is at issue in a given case.
In the case of radiologists, that would be other radiologists. The standard of care is defined in reference to the hypothetical practices of a reasonably competent medical professional in the same community.
Nurses, hospital staff, and the administration of medical facilities can also be held liable for medical negligence, especially if there is some sort of deficiency in the way the hospital or facility, e.g., a surgical center, is run. An example of this is when hospital staff disregards proper follow-up procedures or fails to properly review a patient’s radiology files.
Lastly, in some cases, manufacturers of radiology devices or equipment can be liable for strict product liability for producing or distributing products that are defective. These types of issues can affect large groups of people, and class action lawsuits sometimes result from these cases.
A person who is the victim of malpractice is very likely to need the help of expert witnesses in order to make a successful case. The person would need a professional radiologist to testify to the standard of care and support the claim that the defendant’s doctor failed to meet the standard in their treatment of the victim.
They might also need an expert doctor to testify about the treatment the person received for their injuries, that it was necessary, and why. They might also have to retain the services of an expert economist to testify about the impact of the person’s injury on their ability to earn a living in the future and the economic impact that this could have on their life.
Are There Any Legal Remedies for Radiology Malpractice?
Radiology malpractice claims can be complex and may lead to a lawsuit in which the victim seeks to recover an award of monetary damages to compensate them for their losses.
An award of money damages covers two kinds of losses: economic and non-economic losses. Economic damages cover such losses as the cost of all necessary medical treatment for the injury the victim suffered as a result of the malpractice. This would include medical costs, i.e., such expenses as the cost of doctors, hospital stays, medication, rehabilitation, and any other type of medical care that was necessary to treat the victim’s injuries.
In addition, economic losses include lost work wages, i.e., the wages or salary that a victim loses when they are not able to work because of their injuries. This would include the wages a person loses because they must miss work in order to receive medical care. Or, of course, a victim might miss work because they are unable to work.
Also, if a person’s capacity to work is affected by their injury, they may recover a sum of money to compensate for this loss of earning capacity.
In addition to economic losses, an award of compensatory damages should cover a victim’s non-economic losses also. This is compensation for the pain and suffering they experience as a result of their injuries. In rare cases in which the conduct of the party who is liable, the radiologist or the manufacturer of defective equipment, was especially reckless, a person might win an award of punitive damages. However, this is unlikely.
An award of compensatory damages would be the remedy provided by a case for medical malpractice and a case for strict product liability as well.
As noted above, cases involving product defects can result in class action filings, and the product will typically be subject to a recall by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA is the federal agency that is authorized to regulate the sale of medical devices and medical equipment, including diagnostic tests. Among its jobs is the monitoring of the safety of all regulated medical products.
A medical device cannot legally be sold in the U.S. unless the person or company that wants to sell the device has sought approval from the FDA. To gain approval for a new device, they must present evidence to the FDA showing that the device is safe and effective for a particular use. If a device proves to be faulty, then the FDA would become involved.
Finally, if a person should die as a result of medical malpractice, their close family members would file a suit for wrongful death.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Radiology Malpractice Issue?
Different states may have different laws regarding medical malpractice, how it is defined, and how it is compensated in lawsuits.
If you have been injured by malpractice, you want to consult a personal injury lawyer in your area. LegalMatch.com can connect you quickly to a qualified lawyer who can review the facts of your case. Your lawyer has experience in working with the necessary experts and can get an expert opinion as to whether there was malpractice in your case. Your attorney can provide you with advice and guidance for your claim, and can represent you in negotiations and in court as well.