If a doctor fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses an existing medical condition, illness, or injury that worsens after the failure or misdiagnosis, you may be able to assert a claim of medical malpractice. However, it is not enough to show that you had a condition or illness that the doctor failed to identify or treat. There is a higher standard of proof for which you will need an experienced medical malpractice attorney to satisfy.
What Are Some Common Types of Misdiagnosis?
There are many diseases and symptoms that are commonly misdiagnosed. These may include:
- Cancer.When cancer is falsely diagnosed, patients can undergo painful and unnecessary chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
- Heart attack. Heart attacks sometimes can be mistaken for indigestion or panic attacks.
- Stroke.Strokes are often overlooked as intense migraines or other less significant issues.
- Asthma.Patients with asthma may commonly be diagnosed with recurring bronchitis.
- Staph infection.Staph infections may be overlooked as the common flu.
How Do Doctors Misdiagnose a Patient?
A misdiagnosis is not always simply the failure of a doctor to identify an illness. Misdiagnoses can result from:
- Offering an incorrect diagnosis
- Delaying a proper diagnosis (perhaps because of delayed testing results)
- Misinterpreting diagnostic tests
- Failure to screen for a specific medical conditions that may impact a diagnosis or treatment
- Failure to anticipate complications that aggravate a condition
- Failure to refer a patient to a specialist for more specific care
- Botched or misinterpreted lab results
- Failure to obtain accurate and relevant information from patients, such as presentation of symptoms or medical history
- Failure to test appropriately based on symptoms
Although there may have been other factors or missteps by others that contributed to your misdiagnosis, you likely will assert your claim only against your primary physician, since they are the one who offered the misdiagnosis. To sue other providers, like nurses, lab technicians, X-ray technicians, etc., you must prove that they were negligent and that their negligence contributed to any harm you may have suffered as a result.
What Are the Most Common Claims for Medical Malpractice?
In a study conducted at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, researchers determined that as much as 63% of medical malpractice claims are related to a missed diagnosis.
The most common reason why patients sue their doctors is delay or failure to diagnose a disease, like cancer. In the study, the most frequently missed diseases were:
- Cancer (breast, colon, melanoma, and lung cancers)
- Heart attacks (in adults)
- Meningitis (in children)
The most common outcome of failure to diagnose these diseases was death.
The second most common reason for medical malpractice claims was failure to properly prescribe medication resulting in adverse drug reactions.
However, most patients that are misdiagnosed do not file medical malpractice claims, and of those that do file in the United States, only about 1/3 of the claims are successful.
What Must You Prove to Show Medical Malpractice?
To assert a claim of medical malpractice, you must show that your doctor was negligent in diagnosing you. This means that you must show:
- That you had formed a doctor-patient relationship that obligated your doctor to the professional standard of care required of doctors to patients.
- That your doctor failed to satisfy the standard of care that was owed to you by diagnosing you the way they did. This means that a similarly trained and experienced doctor under the same circumstances would not have made the diagnosis that your doctor made.
- That your doctor’s diagnosis caused you actual and proximate harm.
What Type of Harm Is Required to Prove Medical Malpractice from a Misdiagnosis?
To properly assert a cause of action for medical malpractice, it is not sufficient simply to show that the doctor should have made a different diagnosis or even that any other doctor would have made a correct diagnosis. You must show that the misdiagnosis that your doctor gave caused you to suffer some harm. This may include:
- Aggravation of the existing condition
- Complications developed from the misdiagnosis
- Increased risk of death
- Undergoing aggressive or invasive treatment that otherwise would not have been performed
- Suffering harmful effects from unnecessary treatment, such as radiation or chemotherapy treatment for misdiagnosed cancer
- Undergoing unnecessary surgery or medical procedures that result in scarring or reduced functioning
If you can prove that the doctor was negligent, you may be able to recover for the damages that your misdiagnosis caused you.
How Soon Must You Assert Your Claim for Medical Malpractice?
As with any type of civil lawsuit, your claim for medical malpractice will be subject to the statute of limitations applicable to the cause of action you are raising. Normally, you must file your claim within the statutory period, which begins to run from the date your injury occurs or possibly from the date that you first discovered your injury. Each state will have its own statute of limitations for specific claims. For example, Missouri has a 2-year statute of limitations period for normal medical malpractice claims.
Why Do You Need an Medical Malpractice Lawyer to File a Medical malpractice Claim for Misdiagnosis?
Succeeding in a medical malpractice claim is difficult. To prove your claim, you must show that the doctor was negligent. The most difficult part of this proof is showing that your doctor’s misdiagnosis caused the harm that you suffered. This is difficult because you must show that the harm you suffered, such as an aggravation of your condition, would not have occurred if you had been properly diagnosed. This requires extensive and detailed evidence presented by expert witnesses.
To recover for medical malpractice, you need a law firm that has experience in medical malpractice claims, knows the kind of expert evidence that is necessary to show causation, and is willing to fight for your right to recover the compensation that you deserve. At Foster Wallace, we are dedicated to every case and every claim.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Case? Our Medical Malpractice Attorneys Can Help.
If you or a loved one has experienced medical malpractice in Kansas City you should speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.249.2101 to schedule your free consultation.