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Can I Sue My Doctor for Misdiagnosis?

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If your doctor is unable to make timely and accurate diagnoses of a dangerous medical condition, there’s a possibility that you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit to find a legal remedy. However, it’s always important to know that bad outcomes and mistakes don’t always equate to medical negligence, at least not to the law.

The main question that needs to be answered in these types of cases if whether your doctor failed to follow the appropriate “medical standard of care” in context. In simple terms, would another doctor with similar skill have identified it in a shorter amount of time or seen the health problem sooner? In this article, you’ll learn more about some common misdiagnoses and explain how a medical malpractice lawsuit would proceed.

Common Misdiagnoses

Many things can be misdiagnosed; however, this article is only going to touch on a few:

  • Asthma, which can be misdiagnosed as bronchitis
  • Cancer misdiagnosis, which can end with unnecessary, debilitating, and painful treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy
  • Stroke, which can be misdiagnosed as a migraine
  • MS misdiagnosis
cancer cell

These are just a few examples of things that can be easily misdiagnosed by doctors.

Lawsuits for Medical Malpractice

With medical malpractice lawsuits that deal with misdiagnosis, you usually have to follow the same steps for proof that you would in other medical malpractice cases. This typically means that you must show when your doctor failed to accurately diagnosis your harmful condition or disease, the doctor also failed to validate a level of ability that a doctor with similar experience would have under the same circumstances.

The details of treatment – what they should’ve done compared to what they did do – must also be explained, this is typically done by a qualified medical expert. You must show that the doctor’s provision of sub-standard care led to harm against you.

Can You Sue a Doctor for Misdiagnosis?

In the majority of cases, only doctors can be sued when it comes to a misdiagnosis. There are some rare cases when other healthcare professionals can be liable if it’s found that their negligence contributed to your harm – including specialists, lab techs, and nurses who have seen you.

doctor with patient

The healthcare facility or hospital where your doctor practices usually cannot be sued for misdiagnosis. This is because doctors are not employees of the hospital, but independent contractors, therefore the facility can’t be held liable for the negligence of the doctor.

Proving Harm to Patient

You can’t just show that your doctor unsuccessful diagnosed you correctly. A medical malpractice lawsuit can only succeed if you show that having the misdiagnosis led to serious harm being done. Delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis can be shown in several ways, including:

  • Exposing you to aggressive treatment that would have been required if the disease or condition had been diagnosed earlier
  • Exposing you to harmful treatments (i.e., chemotherapy) without having to do so
  • Performing surgical procedures that are later deemed unnecessary – especially if disfigurement or scarring resulted
  • Increased likelihood of harm and complications because of the misdiagnosis
  • Increased likelihood of death

These are just a few ways to prove that harm was done to you by a doctor because of a misdiagnosis. They can be because of treatments that you were put through, or things that you missed out on because of the delayed diagnosis.

Proving Negligence

You already know that a delayed diagnosis or a misdiagnosis isn’t enough evidence by itself. Doctors who practice reasonable care can still make mistakes when it comes to diagnosing a patient. The key to figuring out whether your doctor acted competently, this involves making an evaluation of what your doctor did or didn’t do to arrive at a diagnosis. This often means looking at the “differential diagnosis” method that doctors are to use when making treatment decisions.

Differential diagnosis refers to a systematic method that is used by doctors to figure out the condition or disease that a patient might have. Upon preliminary evaluations, a doctor should make a list of diagnosis in order of probability. The doctor then takes tests to determine the strength of each diagnosis by making further medical observations; this can be done by asking detailed questions about medical history and symptoms, ordering tests, or referring patients to specialists.

Ideally, with this approach, several potential conditions will be ruled out as this investigation continues, with only one left at the end. However, this isn’t always the case.

microscopes in lab

Sometimes, even after further investigations, a doctor will find out what new information leads to them adding a different diagnosis to the list.

In medical malpractice cases based on diagnostic error, the patient must be able to prove that another doctor who works in a similar specialty, under the same circumstances, wouldn’t have misdiagnosed the patient’s condition or illness. This means one of two things:

  1. Your doctor didn’t include the right diagnosis on the differential diagnosis list, while another doctor under similar conditions would have
  2. The doctor included the correct diagnosis on the list, but they failed to perform any of the appropriate tests or failed to seek opinions from specialists to be able to investigate the viability of the diagnosis

If you can prove these things, chances are you have a medical malpractice case on your hands.

Getting Help

Several complex rules go along with medical malpractice lawsuits, and they vary from state to state. It’s essential that you get representation or advice for a medical malpractice lawyer. Ask family and friends if they know of anybody, or you can do some research to find the best one near you.

Never try to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit by yourself – the laws and rules surrounding these cases are far too complex to understand if you’re not specialized in that area. Medical malpractice lawyers have been trained and equipped with knowledge surrounding this field and will be able to help you figure out if the doctor was at fault for your delayed or misdiagnosed condition.

If you have more legal questions, you can also chat online with a attorney where you’ll be instantly connected to a lawyer who can give you legal guidance on your specific case or question.

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