Can you file a misdiagnosis claim against your doctor?
In 2019, a 15-year-old girl was awarded $9.6 million by a Berks County jury in Pennsylvania. The doctors had failed to diagnose early symptoms of cancer that could have meant a significant chance of survival had she been diagnosed in a timely fashion.
Life does not give us too many warnings. When a doctor fails to identify problems correctly or does not fully identify the extent of the underlying diagnosis of a patient, an obvious medical warning has been missed.
This unfortunate misdiagnosis can have drastic and even fatal consequences for the patient. Some reports state that around 12 million people in the US are affected by diagnostic errors annually. Furthermore, 33% of misdiagnosed cases result in severe damage or death.
Can a patient sue his doctor in such a circumstance? Yes.
Here are some basics you should consider if you are facing a potential misdiagnosis claim.
What is a misdiagnosis?
Simply put, misdiagnosis means incorrectly diagnosing an illness. It can have severe adverse effects for the patient – by worsening an existing medical condition, requiring unnecessary treatment (for the misdiagnosed condition), or delaying the treatment for the actual diagnosis. In certain instances result may be fatal as well.
Some common examples of misdiagnosed diseases include lupus, Parkinson’s, and fibromyalgia, which are confused for conditions that share similar symptoms.
How does misdiagnosis occur?
Misdiagnosis occurs for various reasons, including but not limited to:
- Not spending enough time with patients
- Lack of requisite devices
- Failure to order the required tests
- Inaccurate interpretation of test results
- Not referring patients to specialists
Proving misdiagnosis in a court
Proving misdiagnosis requires four elements:
- There was a doctor-patient relationship, whereby the doctor owed the patient a duty of care.
- The doctor breached this duty, such that any other reasonably competent doctor would have correctly diagnosed the disease.
- The misdiagnosis harmed the patient (physical, monetary, etc.).
- The harm was directly related to the breach.
Note that doctors are not held responsible for all diagnostic errors. If the doctor can prove that they adhered to the reasonable standard of care, the lawsuit may not result in a misdiagnosis verdict.
What can you do to avoid a misdiagnosis?
Here are some tips to reduce the chances of a misdiagnosis:
- Try to research the medical professional and the medical problem beforehand.
- Speak freely and frankly with the doctor during the consultation.
- Ask questions if there are any concerns.
- If you still feel that something is off, trust your instincts and consider looking for a second opinion.
Finding expert witnesses to prove your case
Proving misdiagnosis in a court of law may require a qualified expert witness to testify that the doctor in question misdiagnosed the patient, did not meet the standard of care, and the misdiagnosis caused the patient harm.
Statute of Limitations
Another compliance aspect to keep in mind is the period within which the lawsuit needs to be filed. Each state has its own statute of limitations, which means that you will need to file a legal claim within a certain period of time from the misdiagnosis. This period is generally two years but can differ on a state and case basis. Consult an experienced medical malpractice lawyer for more information on this.
Finding the right medical misdiagnosis lawyer
A key aspect in receiving compensation in any personal injury lawsuit is choosing a well-equipped and experienced attorney. Thankfully, there are many medical misdiagnosis attorneys that can represent you. They understand the dynamics of these types of cases and will be able to walk you through each step of the process.
Medical doctors are a necessary part of our well-being. the vast majority of the time, these medical professionals act in our best interest and help us live our lives to their fullest. However, in case of a misdiagnosis or other medical malpractice, make sure to be compensated appropriately.