When we visit a doctor, we expect to receive a high standard of care. We do not expect doctors to fix all of our problems, but we do expect them to try to find a solution. However, negligence and medical errors can occur, with potentially dangerous consequences. One of the most common medical errors is misdiagnosis.
Misdiagnosis can be dangerous and lead to worsening injury or illness. If a doctor fails to recognize symptoms of a condition, the patient will not receive the care he or she requires. If the patient becomes injured or his or her condition worsens, the patient could hold a doctor liable for medical malpractice.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice refers to an act of medical negligence that leads to injury, illness, or death. Since a doctor owes a duty of care to his or her patients, a patient could file a claim or lawsuit against the doctor to compensate for certain losses.
To establish an incident of medical malpractice, an attorney must prove four conditions.
- Your attorney must prove that you and the doctor had an established patient-doctor relationship. The doctor must have been your official provider. You cannot file a claim against a medical professional who was not officially treating you, such as an acquaintance who provided informal medical advice.
- The doctor must have breached their duty of care to you. For example, he or she did not recognize the symptoms of your condition and misdiagnosed you. If a similarly trained and educated doctor would have provided a correct diagnosis, your doctor breached their duty.
- The breach of care must have led to your injuries. For example, the misdiagnosis led to an undetected condition, leading to permanent organ damage that would not have occurred if you received early treatment.
- Your injuries resulted in losses. You can claim damages for additional medical expenses, pain and suffering, disability, ongoing treatment, or lost wages.
The Risks of Medical Misdiagnosis
A court will consider misdiagnosis a form of malpractice if another doctor would have provided you with the correct diagnosis. In addition, your misdiagnosis must have caused you harm. Depending on the condition, misdiagnosis can lead to the worsening of your injury or the development of new issues. In some cases, misdiagnosis can lead to death.
For example, if you went to a doctor for a breast cancer exam and he or she incorrectly diagnosed a lump as benign, the cancer can spread and worsen. When the doctor finally catches the cancer, it can be too late to perform surgery. You may have to receive painful chemotherapy treatments and have a lower chance at survival than if the doctor correctly diagnosed the cancer at the first appointment. If your attorney finds that another doctor could have identified the initial lump as cancer, you may file a medical malpractice claim.
What To Do If You Experience Misdiagnosis
If you receive a harmful misdiagnosis from your doctor, take the following steps to seek assistance.
- Visit another physician to receive adequate treatment. Allow the physician to examine your condition and assess whether or not the misdiagnosis led to further injury.
- Collect documentation related to the misdiagnosis and your condition. Make sure to save all discharge paperwork, medical bills, doctor’s notes, receipts, records, and any other document related to the claim.
- Enlist the help of a medical malpractice attorney and discuss your legal options. Your attorney will evaluate your case and inform you if you have grounds for a lawsuit.
The Value of a Medical Malpractice Attorney
Hiring an attorney with medical malpractice case knowledge can provide many benefits for your claim.
- An attorney has access to resources, experts, and investigative pathways to craft a compelling case in your favor.
- An attorney can file all paperwork and handle all trial processes so that you can focus on recovery, not filling out forms.
- An attorney can help you prepare for the courtroom to best present the facts of your case.
- An attorney can evaluate your case and determine if it meets state requirements for a lawsuit.
In most cases, filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is low-cost and low-risk. Many personal injury law firms operate on a contingency fee basis. They will take a percentage of your settlement as payment. If you do not receive a settlement, you do not pay legal fees. If you experienced misdiagnosis, contact an attorney to discuss your claim.