Medical misdiagnosis is a type of medical malpractice, and it can be just as damaging as a botched surgery or poorly administered medication. If a doctor misdiagnoses a major illness, such as cancer, as a minor condition, you could miss out on the period of time in which the cancer would have been operable. You could also be harmed by subsequent or wrong treatment that does not help your actual condition.
You may wonder what to do if you have been misdiagnosed. Can you sue for misdiagnosis? If the doctor who misdiagnosed you failed in their standard of reasonable care, you may be entitled to compensation in a misdiagnosis lawsuit. However, it may depend on the type of medical misdiagnosis.
What Is Medical Misdiagnosis?
Medical misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor fails to properly diagnose your condition or diagnoses you with a condition that you do not actually have. Sometimes misdiagnosis happens even with the best of intentions. Many medical conditions have similar symptoms, which may leave even competent, attentive doctors scratching their heads. However, when a misdiagnosis occurs because the doctor was negligent, this is considered medical malpractice.
Types of Misdiagnosis That You Can Sue For
You can take legal action. The important thing is to be able to prove that the doctor's or medical professional's care fell below a reasonable standard of care and that they were negligent or careless with your diagnosis. Certain diagnoses that you can sue for include:
You go to see your doctor, complaining of a stomach ache. The doctor asks if you have been dealing with any undue stress at work or home. When you say yes, they tell you that you have ulcers and they give you a prescription without testing or further investigation. Months later, your "ulcers" worsen to the point that you have to go to the emergency room - at which point you realize that what you had were gallstones.
In treating a condition that you don't have, you leave the actual condition to fester, which can lead to complications and higher medical bills down the road.
In the case of a missed diagnosis, rather than making a wrong assumption about the condition you have, your doctor misses the diagnosis altogether. This could happen when you go in for a checkup or during one of those visits in which you ask your doctor if a particular symptom is "normal." Because the doctor misses the diagnosis, you are given no treatment and the condition only worsens. A lawyer familiar with failure-to-diagnose claims can help you file a failure-to-diagnose lawsuit.
A delayed diagnosis means that the doctor makes the correct diagnosis... eventually. A delayed diagnosis typically happens after the condition has worsened to a disruptive or potentially dangerous point. There are many conditions where a timely diagnosis can make a difference between life and death. With a delayed diagnosis case, it's important to be able to prove that the diagnosis could have reasonably been caught earlier, but, due to negligence, was not diagnosed. This, too, can be a medical malpractice claim.
Failure To Recognize Related or Unrelated Conditions
Many medical conditions go hand-in-hand or interact with each other. For instance, eczema can increase the risk of food allergies. A high BMI can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack. Doctors are trained to recognize these patterns. If you are diagnosed with one condition, it is important for a competent doctor to consider other related conditions.
Similarly, doctors have to be careful not to rule out unrelated conditions. For instance, assuming a patient with a high BMI is feeling lethargic or under the weather because of their weight could ignore a whole host of unrelated conditions.
Common Liable Parties in Misdiagnosis Cases
Who is responsible when a misdiagnosis happens? Can you sue an emergency room for misdiagnosis?
Doctors are not always the only liable parties in a misdiagnosis case. For instance, a nurse or EMT may fail to properly communicate some of your symptoms to the doctor or record those symptoms in your file. If the medical facility uses old and outdated equipment, and that equipment misreads your symptoms, the medical facility can also be held responsible. Similarly, if the diagnostic equipment is mishandled by technicians, they may also be a liable party in a misdiagnosis case.
How To Know if You Have a Strong Medical Misdiagnosis Claim
A strong medical misdiagnosis claim relies on the following truths:
- That the doctor or medical professional had a duty of reasonable medical care to correctly diagnose your symptoms (or those of a loved one);
- That they fell short of the level of care and proper treatment through negligence, prejudice, or maliciousness;
- That the negligence caused the misdiagnosis;
- That you were injured, physically and/or emotionally, due to the misdiagnosis.
From there, you must also be able to prove the severity of your injuries. When asking the question, "How much can I sue for misdiagnosis?" the severity of your case will be the most relevant factor. You can seek damages for things like medical bills, lost wages, funeral expenses (in the event of wrongful death), or disability. You can also seek noneconomic damages for things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, or loss of consortium. For noneconomic damages, a mental health professional must be able to evaluate you and speak to your mental state.
A medical misdiagnosis lawyer can help you figure out if you have a strong medical misdiagnosis claim. Keep any and all medical records, pay stubs, and pictures of injuries or worsened conditions. These can serve as evidence in proving your case.
Speak to a Team of Specialized Medical Malpractice Lawyers
The Moore Law Firm has skilled, experienced attorneys who know medical malpractice cases like the back of their hands. If you were the victim of a medical misdiagnosis, we're here to help you. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you and to schedule a free consultation with a lawyer for medical misdiagnosis.