When Is a Misdiagnosis Malpractice?

doctor, nurse, and patient in hospital

Not every medical mistake is severe enough to be considered malpractice, even if a mistake was clearly made, and a patient clearly suffered for it. This is true even in cases where a physician failed to give their patient the diagnosis and treatment they needed. However, if you can establish that you suffered a costly misdiagnosis that was the result of a medical professional’s negligence, you may be able to recover compensation through a malpractice claim.

Before we discuss when misdiagnosis can be considered malpractice, we should first specify what the term “misdiagnosis” covers.

What Is a Misdiagnosis?

A misdiagnosis can be a failure to diagnose a patient with anything, or providing a seriously delayed diagnosis that means that treatment was provided too late to be of help to the patient. An example of this could be a missed cancer diagnosis that wasn’t caught until it had progressed to an advanced stage.

Misdiagnosis can also mean that you were given the wrong diagnosis altogether, which meant that you given treatment you didn’t need all why the true cause of your ailments was not getting addressed and getting worse.

Getting a second opinion can help you to get the diagnosis and treatment you actually need, though unfortunately, this could look more like getting a third, fourth, or subsequent opinion before finally getting the right medical care. It’s important to hold onto medical records throughout the entire process.

How to Prove That a Misdiagnosis Amounts to Malpractice

Again, it’s not just enough to be able to officially document that a medical professional failed to give you the right diagnosis. In order for the misdiagnosis to be considered medical malpractice, there are four things you have to prove.

You would need to prove that:

  • There was a patient-doctor relationship between you and the medical provider in question
  • There was a level of care that the medical provider should have met, something competent professionals in that same field would have done if you were their patient, such as ordering certain tests, accurately reading the results, etc.
  • The medical professional failed to meet that level of care
  • This breached duty of care was the direct cause of harm to the patient

Patient-Doctor Relationship

In many cases, this type of relationship is fairly clear cut. In other cases, such as where a specialist comes in for a consultation or provides advice, things can get hazy. Generally speaking, this is hardly a sticking point in a medical malpractice case. The doctor who provides your care and treatment is understood to have the type of doctor-patient relationship that’s the basis of medical malpractice claims.

The Level of Care You Should Have Received

If there is a patient-doctor relationship, there is a certain level of competence in medical care that the doctor is expected to provide you with. This does not mean that a doctor is never allowed to make a serious mistake, but that does mean that the errors a doctor commits shouldn’t serious enough that other medical professionals in their shoes would not have made that type of mistake under similar circumstances.

For instance, an EMT responding to an emergency would not be held to the same rigorous standard for diagnosing a patient as would a doctor in the ER.

Failure to Meet That Level of Care

An obvious example of this could be a doctor misreading test results, something that a competent medical professional should have been able to avoid. If a doctor missed obvious signs of a stroke that other physicians could reasonably be expected to catch, then this too could be considered negligence. In many cases, it will take the testimony of a medical expert to establish what level of care a doctor should have been able to provide, and when a failure to diagnose a patient amounts to negligence in their duty of care.

What can complicate the issue is when another professional made the negligent error, such as a tech lab who made a mistake on the test or some other professional who didn’t read test results correctly and passed that misinformation on to the doctor who then made the wrong diagnosis. In this case, the hospital could be on the hook for the failed level of care and misdiagnosis.

If a patient has a diagnosis that is notoriously difficult to spot, however, something that many other competent professionals with similar training and experience would have missed, then it might be difficult to prove that you have a malpractice case.

Direct Harm to the Patient

Even if everything above has been clearly proven, that a doctor or hospital have negligently misdiagnosed you, but it didn’t result in you having to undergo an unnecessary surgery, suffering a worsening of your condition, or any other measurable harm, then proving negligence won’t be enough. You have to prove that their negligence directly caused you to suffer additional or worsening illness and injury. This could mean something like your condition got significantly worse because a failure to diagnose left you without the treatment you needed, or a wrong diagnosis meant you received treatment that made your health deteriorate further.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim for Misdiagnosis

If you’ve suffered from a misdiagnosis, you may have legal options for demanding compensation. Usually speaking, you have two years within which to file such a claim, two years from when the malpractice occurred, or two years from when the misdiagnosis was discovered (or should have been discovered by the patient). Even if there’s a significant delay between the injury caused by misdiagnosis, and the discovery of being misdiagnosed, you could still have up to 7 years to file a medical malpractice claim for misdiagnosis.

Through a misdiagnosis claim, you might be able to recover compensation for:

  • Surgery costs
  • Hospital bills
  • Rehabilitation
  • Prescriptions
  • Future medical expenses
  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of companionship
  • Income losses
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • And more

Just as with many medical malpractice claims, a misdiagnosis case can be difficult to prove, but it can be done with the right lawyers. At Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC, we’ve been successfully representing clients in difficult cases since 1922. We have the experience, resources, and devotion it takes to help the people we advocate for get the answers, justice, and compensation that they deserve.

Learn more by calling (888) 498-3023 today or contacting us online to request your free consultation.

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