What Options Do I have if I Received a Medical Misdiagnosis

When a doctor gives you a diagnosis and a treatment plan, it’s normal to just follow it and not really think the doctor could be wrong. However, if you have received a medical misdiagnosis, you do have legal options. 

How Does a Misdiagnosis Happen?

A misdiagnosis can happen for different reasons. Doctors can misunderstand a symptom or miss a crucial detail that leads to the wrong conclusion about your condition. 

  • Laboratory Results: Doctors may ignore or misread the results of a test. 
  • Patient History: Your doctor should take into account your medical history. They should also know how certain medicines affect you and how significant issues you had previously could explain your symptoms now. 
  • Tests: Doctors sometimes don’t order the right test needed to solve the problem or may not order a test that helps find the problem.
  • Symptoms: Doctors may fail to recognize symptoms of some illnesses. 

Common Types of Misdiagnoses

There are many different potential scenarios since there are so many illnesses and health problems, but there are some common types of misdiagnoses. 

Asthma can be misdiagnosed as bronchitis, a stroke can be misdiagnosed as a migraine or another minor issue, especially if you are younger, a staph infection might be mistaken for the common flu, a heart attack can be misdiagnosed as other things, such as a panic attack or indigestion, and cancer can also be misdiagnosed. A misdiagnosis can lead to unnecessary treatments that are painful, such as radiation and chemotherapy. 

Many misdiagnoses involve not referring a patient to a specialist, getting lab results wrong, not consulting with the patient about his or her symptoms, not investigating potential causes of symptoms the patient reports, or failure to screen for certain medical conditions. 

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits for a Misdiagnosis

When it comes to a lawsuit for a misdiagnosis, a plaintiff needs to follow the same steps that they would in any other medical malpractice cause. It needs to be shown that the doctor failed to demonstrate a skill level that a similarly trained and experienced doctor would have shown under the same circumstances. The treatment details, what was actually done, and what should have been done need to be laid out. 

Who Can Be Sued for Misdiagnosis?

In most cases, it will only be your doctor, the primary physician, who you can sue for a misdiagnosis. In some rare cases, other health care professionals may be liable if negligence contributed or caused harm. These professionals include lab techs, nurses, or another specialist you saw. The health care facility or hospital where the doctor practices typically can’t be sued for any harm caused by a misdiagnosis. This is because doctors aren’t usually employees of the hospital and are independent contractors, so the facility isn’t legally responsible for any negligence caused by the doctor. 

How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice?

Working with a medical malpractice lawyer can help you but it improves your chances of a favorable result if you are able to prove a few things. The law doesn’t hold doctors legally responsible for all diagnostic errors. You first need to show that a patient-doctor relationship existed. 

The Medical Professional Didn’t Follow Standard of Care: Standard of care is the medical treatment a doctor would have followed for their patient. 

The Medical Professional Acted Negligently: You will need to show that the doctor’s negligence caused your injury. This means that if the doctor did follow the standard of care then you would be healthy right now. A misdiagnosis or diagnosis that was delayed is not evidence of negligence. A skillful doctor can still make a diagnostic error when using standard of care. The important part is determining whether or not the doctor was acting competently. This typically means an evaluation of what your doctor did and did not do when he or she came to the conclusion of your diagnosis. It’s necessary to look at the differential diagnosis method your doctor used when making your treatment recommendations. This is a systemic method used by a doctor to identify a condition or disease in the patient. Based on an evaluation of the patient, the doctor makes a list of the diagnoses and orders them by probability. Then the doctor tests each diagnosis by making medical observations about the patient, asking questions about medical history, monitoring symptoms, and ordering tests. A number of potential diagnoses are ruled out and then only one remains. In order to prove negligence, the doctor didn’t have the correct diagnosis on the list when a competent and skillful doctor would have, or the doctor did include the correct diagnosis but then didn’t perform the right test to learn the viability of the diagnosis. 

The Negligence Hurt You: You will need to show how your injury from this medical misdiagnosis hurt you and how it results in significant damages. Medical malpractice cases are expensive so you may not want to pursue a case if damages are small. Many medical malpractice cases will depend on either the fact that the doctor was negligent or that the doctor’s negligence resulted in actual injury to the patient. In some cases, both of these are important. Working with a lawyer, such as Stephenson Rife, is important for the case.

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