Imagine that you or a loved one are feeling “off” one day, or are even in pain.
You go to your physician, they give you a cursory once-over, and say you’ll be fine.
You’re not fine. Days go by, and you feel worse. So you go for a second opinion.
You find out you have a serious, potentially life-threatening condition.
12 million adults face this very real, scary scenario each year.
That’s one in every 20 adults.
Your doctor’s failure to diagnose your condition can be a permanent error, one that you might have to live with for the rest of your life.
Twenty-eight percent of 538 cases of misdiagnosis were found to have resulted in permanent disability – and in the worst cases, death.
Misdiagnosis is a frightening possibility.
If you or a loved one has suffered a similar situation, you might have a failure to diagnose case on your hands.
If you believe you have a failure to diagnose case in your hands, there are legal steps you can take.
You could even win some compensation for the suffering that resulted from the misdiagnosis, although nothing will ever recover your trust or mitigate the blow to your health.
What does a failure to diagnose case look like and how can you make your claim?
Let’s get down to the facts of the matter and find out what legal actions you can take.
Failure To Diagnose: The Facts
Some might wonder if doctors can be sued for a harmless mistake, but it’s not that simple.
A failure to diagnose case has to meet strict criteria before it can be admissible in court.
Here are the three basic elements you need to look out for:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed at the time of the diagnosis
- The doctor’s error was found to be negligent and completely different from what any other physician would do in a similar case
- The patient suffered injury, complications, or even death due to the doctor’s negligence
If you can prove a few of these elements, you might have a failure to diagnose case on your hands.
How Does Your Doctor Misdiagnose You?
It’s important to be able to recognize all of the ways doctors can misdiagnose you.
Do you suspect…
- …your doctor didn’t order the correct tests necessary?
- …didn’t read the lab results correctly?
- …failed to refer you to a specialist?
- …didn’t follow up after your examination?
- …didn’t spend enough time on the diagnosis or was dismissive?
If you have a feeling any of these happened, investigate further; they could lead to a failure to diagnose legal case.
There are other variables at play that might change the focus of your suit.
For example, if the equipment is in disrepair or faulty, you might have a case against the manufacturer.
Maybe the lab your doctor send your samples to mishandled them or there was a mix-up. Your case would be against the lab in that case.
Whatever your suspicions might be, go over the facts of your particular case with a trusted attorney to see if you meet all of the qualifications.
What Does A Misdiagnosis Look Like?
If you’re worried your situation doesn’t fit the qualifications, let’s review an example of what a misdiagnosis looks like.
Let’s imagine there’s a patient who’s been suffering from stomach issues – cramping, nausea, and weight loss from the pain.
Although the patient clearly tells the doctor she has a family history of celiac disease, the doctor ignores that fact and diagnoses her with an ulcer.
The doctor prescribes her very strong antibiotics and not only does the pain get worse, but new symptoms appear.
At this point, the patient goes to a specialist where they are diagnosed with liver failure due to strong antibiotic use.
Further testing reveals the patient probably didn’t have an ulcer when she was first diagnosed.
In this example, the doctor, by ignoring the patient’s family history and failing to read the chart, caused the patient long-term harm.
While that seems cut-and-dry, there are complicated cases, too.
In another example, let’s imagine a patient goes to a doctor complaining of headaches.
The doctor doesn’t feel the need to order tests and diagnoses them with a minor issue.
Six months later, the patient dies. It turns out their headaches were caused by a brain tumor.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
If the tumor was inoperable and the patient would’ve died at the same time, it doesn’t quite fit the failure to diagnose criteria.
Although the doctor was negligent, their actions were not directly responsible for the patient’s death.
The difference would be if the diagnoses would’ve changed the outcome.
Again, an experienced attorney will guide you in putting together a failure to diagnose case.
Once you’ve got your facts together, what comes next?
The Burden Of Proof Is On The Patient
With negligence, the patient is tasked with providing proof that the doctor didn’t act within reason.
The patient must prove that the level of care was insufficient and unlike what other doctors would do in the same situation.
Because of this, failure to diagnose cases need expert testimony.
Usually, your attorney will hire a doctor with experience with your particular diagnoses.
With their opinion, you’ll be able to demonstrate that the doctor who failed to diagnose you correctly acted outside the norm.
More often than not, the doctor will bring up what’s called “differential diagnosis”.
This is a technique many doctors use when confronted with an uncertain series of symptoms and they want to rule out the cause.
What this entails is a doctor will make a list of things they think are causing the symptoms.
They’ll order a battery of tests and start ruling things out.
If your doctor failed to seriously investigate your symptoms, they failed to achieve the standard that most reasonable physicians would’ve adhered to.
When you’re ready to present your case in court, make sure you’ve got the best legal counsel.
They’ll guide you every step of the way during this difficult time and make sure you get the justice you deserve.