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Can You Sue a Doctor for Misdiagnosis?

Medical malpractice is a common crime in healthcare settings. Although doctors strive to provide the best care to their patients, sometimes malpractice can lead to illness or injury.

In such cases, individuals can file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor, nurse, or hospital involved in the problem. A medical malpractice lawsuit is a civil suit that occurs when harm or injury results from the negligence of someone involved in a patient’s care.

It’s a complex case that requires skills beyond handling day-to-day health matters. Therefore, many people find it helpful to hire an attorney to help them navigate the legal aspects of a compensation claim.

Many other factors play a crucial role in medical malpractice. For example, some people who file a medical malpractice claim may also seek compensation for their injuries from their insurance company if they had health insurance coverage at the time of the incident.

Here’s the central question: can you sue a doctor for misdiagnosis? Below, we answer this in detail, along with discussing other aspects of these lawsuits.

Misdiagnosis Doctor Error Cases

Medical negligence cases involving misdiagnosis can be some of the most complex and difficult malpractice lawsuits to win.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical Malpractice is a situation in which a doctor or health care professional breaches the standard of care in their field. Typically, the doctor cannot provide the required level of care to the patient, leading to problems such as misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

This negligence by doctors is sometimes due to ignorance and failure to take necessary steps for the treatment. The below list highlights few common types of errors committed by doctors during treatment:

  • Surgical mistakes result in severe damage to internal organs, such as removal of a healthy organ or dissecting cancerous tumor from the wrong site
  • Surgery without an apparent necessity
  • Damage made while treating disease
  • Failing to provide proper counseling before carrying out any surgical procedures
  • Delay in diagnosis leads to irreversible loss or damage
  • Performing a procedure without the patient’s signed consent

What is Misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis is a type of medical malpractice that refers to both diagnostic error and mistreatment. Diagnostic errors are misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, failure to diagnose, wrong or inappropriate treatment given for a particular condition.

If a doctor failed to diagnose you correctly, that mistake could lead to a severe personal injury, including:

  • Worsening of the medical condition
  • Delay in giving a correct diagnosis
  • Death (legally called ‘wrongful death‘)

A misdiagnosis can also be due to a doctor’s negligence, such as failure to examine the patient properly or follow proper diagnostic procedures that identify an illness.

Misdiagnosis may lead to worse health problems requiring more treatment, costing more money, and extending the time frame for getting treatments done. A misdiagnosis may, in turn, result in higher insurance payments and workers’ compensation claims.

Can I Sue My Doctor for the Wrong Diagnosis?

If a doctor gives you a wrong diagnosis, you can file a lawsuit against them under medical malpractice civil tort law. For example, the doctor might misdiagnose a patient’s condition because of the following reasons:

  • Failed to conduct a thorough clinical examination on the patient
  • Performed an inadequate investigation of medical history, symptoms, and findings
  • Did not refer the patient to another specialist for a second opinion or consultation
  • Misinterpreted imaging studies such as x-ray, CT scan, MRI, echocardiogram, etc

The main types of misdiagnosis are:

Failure to Diagnose in Time

A doctor failing to diagnose a patient suffering from a particular disease could result in delayed or wrong treatment, leading to severe complications or death.

Were you or your family member harmed because of a late diagnosis? If so, you can file a lawsuit against the responsible physician and demand compensation for damages such as pain, suffering, hospitalization charges, etc.

A Wrong Diagnosis Leading to Complicated Treatments

Suppose you go to an emergency room complaining of abdominal pains, and the doctor diagnoses you with appendicitis after doing tests like ultrasound examination and CT scan. But, it turns out later that your appendix was not infected at all.

You might undergo your doctor’s recommended surgery, which might result in several complications such as internal bleeding or bowel perforation. You can sue your doctor for these damages if they are a consequence of their incorrect diagnosis.

Unnecessary Surgeries

In some cases, doctors mistake obvious symptoms for something severe and perform unnecessary surgical interventions on people under their care by making incorrect diagnoses.

Typically, misdiagnosis occurs due to rushed doctors who don’t have enough time with their patients, so they make assumptions about the nature of the problem without adequately investigating all possible causes.

If this happens to you, it is time to file a lawsuit against your doctor because they have unnecessarily put you through an operation that led to severe injuries or even death.

Wrong Medication Administration

In some cases, doctors give incorrect medications to people under their care, resulting in severe unwanted side effects that lead to further complications.

To prevent this situation, all you need to do is check the tablets and pills by yourself before consuming them to avoid getting into trouble later on. Prescription drug errors can have severe consequences, including death.

A study published in 2000 in the American Journal of Medicine found that between 3% and 5% of all individuals admitted to medical facilities experience medication errors. That translates to 2 million cases a year where prescription errors are responsible for life-threatening injury or death.

In some cases, if a doctor has misdiagnosed the problem, they may also prescribe you a higher dosage than you need. That’s also detrimental to the body and can cause further health issues.

Common Misdiagnoses In a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

In most cases, doctors are successful in treating their patients correctly. However, one in twenty people being diagnosed with a medical condition may be misdiagnosed, where the doctors’ negligence caused injuries.

Here are some illnesses that doctors commonly misdiagnosed:

  • Parkinson’s is often misdiagnosed as stress, stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Asthma is often misdiagnosed as recurring bronchitis
  • Lupus is misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Stroke is misdiagnosed as migraine, especially in young adults
  • Lymph node inflammation is misdiagnosed as appendicitis
  • A patient could be misdiagnosed with a panic attack or indigestion when they are experiencing a heart attack
  • Lyme Disease is often misdiagnosed as mononucleosis, depression, or the flu

Proving Harm

A medical malpractice lawsuit can only be successful if you prove you were harmed due to the misdiagnosis in a doctor-patient relationship. To file a lawsuit against your doctor for medical malpractice, you should meet two conditions:

  • You feel physical pain or mental distress after receiving medical treatment
  • The condition is related to the treatment you received from your doctor

Here are some ways to prove medical malpractice:

  • Exposure to unnecessary and aggressive medical care and treatment
  • Failed to perform surgical procedures were immediately necessary or should have been completed much sooner (in cases of late diagnoses)
  • Likelihood of death
  • Likelihood of significant life-long harm

What Should You Know About Medical Malpractice Cases?

Before you file a lawsuit against a doctor, you should know if you even have a case or not based on your legal standing (based on law), the harm you endured, and if the evidence substantiates the claim.

Here are some essential things to know about bringing a claim or suit against a facility or medical professional to prove it was negligent.

Is There a Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice and wrongful diagnosis is two years from the date of injury (in Illinois and many other states). Thus, you need to file a medical malpractice claim within two years of the date of tests and treatments for your illness.

However, the statute of limitation could differ from one state to another and may be extended in certain circumstances. Therefore, it’s best to hire a medical malpractice attorney in these cases for legal advice on how to move the case forward.

How Long After a Medical Procedure Can I Sue My Doctor?

Typically, individuals injured by medical malpractice must wait for at least six months to a year from the date of the medical procedure. Six months is typically how long it takes for the symptoms of misdiagnosis to appear.

If it is a severe misdiagnosis, you should act quickly and discuss your situation with an attorney to identify your legal opportunities. Typically, the injured patient must prove that the doctor’s misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or differential diagnosis caused your injuries or worsened your medical condition, leading to a medical malpractice case.

What if My Doctor Did Not Mention Any Potential Risks or Complications? Can I Sue Them Anyway?

Yes, you can file a lawsuit against your doctor for not mentioning this possible risk because they breached their duty to inform the patient about any risks involved in treatment. However, if there was no way they could have known that there would be a complication, you likely do not have cause for taking legal action.

The party with a personal injury must show that the doctor failed to provide adequate care that led to the misdiagnosis, differential diagnosis, or delayed diagnoses (like on diagnosed cancer) that led to a complication in their medical malpractice case.

What to Do When a Hospital Makes a Mistake?

If a hospital makes a mistake, a law firm representing the injured party can file a lawsuit against them as per the statute of limitations. Often, it is due to the lack of protocol in the hospital that a medical condition arises due to differential diagnosis.

If a doctor fails to provide proper patient care and the medical center does not take action against them, you can file for medical malpractice. Data shows that many medical malpractice cases are built on diagnostic errors.

These cases involve a patient or their attorney proving how another doctor would have accurately diagnosed a condition under similar circumstances while working in a similar specialty.

Getting Help in Misdiagnosis Cases

If a doctor made mistakes during your diagnosis and the error resulted in injury, death, or damages, you may be eligible for compensation.

However, the patient must prove that the negligence by the competent doctor caused the injuries. Therefore, you should consult an attorney who is experienced in such cases.

It is important to remember that misdiagnosis can happen to the layperson and trained medical professionals. So, it would be best if the injured patient got legal assistance before the term of the statutes of limitations is over to ensure you can be compensated for your damages caused by the medical professional in charge of your health.

Any patient who believes that they are a victim of medical malpractice should discuss their case with a medical malpractice attorney immediately to initiate a compensation claim and seek justice for damages.

Statistically, 95% of all medical malpractice cases are resolved out of court. Typically, a law firm specializing in medical negligence can accurately identify negligent behavior through the patient’s medical records, test results, and expert testimony.

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