A large portion of medical malpractice complaints originate from medical diagnostic errors on the part of negligent doctors. While exact numbers are sparse, it is estimated that over 10% of medical malpractice claims name misdiagnosis as the cause of damage. Misdiagnosis of a condition or the failure to diagnosis a condition is extremely dangerous. If the patient's condition is not diagnosed in a timely fashion, the necessary treatment is delayed due to the error of the doctor. Furthermore, if the diagnosis is mistaken and the doctor's assessment is inaccurate, not only does the patient not receive the treatment they need but they can undergo medical procedures and treatment that have no relevance to their actual condition.
One frightening aspect of misdiagnosis is that the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions can be potentially fatal to the patient if the treatment is delayed long enough. The Institute of Medicine created a list of the top five conditions that have the highest risk of malpractice and almost all of the lawsuits that are associated with the conditions are over disputes of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. The conditions included breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, appendicitis and myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Unfortunately, not all instances of mismanaged diagnostic practices are grounds for legal action. Like other personal injury and medical malpractice claims, there are several elements that must be demonstrated in order to prove liability and claim damages. Because medicine does not claim to be an infallible science, error is sometimes inevitable. The key to showing that the doctor or medical professional supervising the patient's treatment committed medical malpractice lies in the legal theory of negligence.
In order to prove medical malpractice in a claim of misdiagnosis, there are three main factors that the plaintiff must prove. The first is that there was a duty owed to the patient by the doctor allegedly guilty of malpractice. The duty of care in the medical field is of a different nature than other personal injury claims because of the great influence that doctors have over the health and well-being of their patients. However, in order for a doctor to be held liable for injury to an individual, there must have been an actual doctor-patient relationship established prior to the alleged malpractice.
The next element in a misdiagnosis claim is to show that the doctor in that relationship breached his or her duty to exercise care towards the patient according to the standard required of medical professionals of the same kind. When performing methods of diagnosis, doctors will list possible conditions in order of probability according to the symptoms of his or her patient. Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is not evidence of negligence in and of itself. In order to prove that the doctor was negligent in his or her method of diagnosis, the complaining party will have to prove that another doctor in the same position and under similar circumstances would have made the correct diagnosis.
Lastly, in order for a claim of malpractice concerning misdiagnosis to be valid, there must be damages included in the case. This means that a diagnostic error that caused no physical injury to the patient does not qualify as grounds for a malpractice claim, even if the doctor was negligent in his or her diagnosis of the patient. The purpose of filing a claim is to recover damages, but if there was no injury, there is nothing to compensate. The negligence that occurred at during diagnosis must be the direct cause of injury to the patient in order for damages to be compensated.
The information included above may be overwhelming to anyone who was made victim to misdiagnosis. However, a strong case for malpractice can be made for such a victim if they are represented by a personal injury attorney who has experience in the area of medical malpractice and is aggressive in his or her approach to the case. If a doctor or medical professional failed in their duty to promote your health and safety by performing careful and thorough diagnostic practices, you deserve to be compensated for your troubles.
Misdiagnosis can lead to more serious injuries to the patient because it delays the treatment they need for the condition that they are already suffering from. This can worsen existing conditions, compile additional complications and even affect the patient's chances for survival. If all of this trouble was the result of negligence on the part of the doctor, he or she should be held responsible for the mistake.
At The Law Offices of Gerald L. Marcus, we can analyze the facts surrounding your situation and pursue legal action in order to recover the damages you deserve in order to cope with your injuries. Let us be your advocates and fight for your rights. Contact a Santa Clarita personal injury attorney from our firm to discuss your case and learn more about how we can help you recover damages after suffering from misdiagnosis.