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Medical Malpractice Claims: Misdiagnosis & Delayed Diagnosis


Many medical malpractice claims stem from a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of a patient’s medical condition, injury, or illness. Delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis can be a significant issue since it can lead to patients receiving the incorrect treatment, delayed treatment, or even no treatment. If the patient’s true condition or injury isn’t being treated appropriately, it can grow worse, which can cause permanent harm or be fatal. Because of the serious nature of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, it is possible that injured patients may have a medical malpractice claim.

Proving Medical Malpractice After Diagnostic Errors

Because the law doesn’t automatically hold doctors responsible for all cases of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, you will need to prove several factors in order to prevail in a medical malpractice claim. Here is what you will need to prove during the course of your claim:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed, meaning that you had sought treatment or diagnosis as a patient, and the doctor had engaged in their duties as a medical provider.
  • The doctor was negligent, meaning they did not provide treatment to you in a reasonably competent and skillful manner, as another doctor would in the same circumstances.
  • The doctor’s negligence caused injury to you, such as a worsening condition or other injuries.

It is easy to establish the first factor with medical record alone, so most medical malpractice claims hinge on the second and third factors. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help you investigate these factors and find proof that your doctor is responsible for your injuries.

Was My Doctor Negligent?

This is a very important question since the answer can determine whether you have a medical malpractice case or not. Evidence of a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is not necessarily enough to demonstrate negligence. Even skillful doctors using all reasonable care can make diagnosis errors. What matters is whether your doctor didn’t show competence and reasonable care when going through the diagnosis processes.

Many doctors rely on a process called the “differential diagnosis” method to make diagnoses. This method requires doctors to take specific steps to address all possible diagnoses and narrow it down to the right decision. The first step is discussing the patient’s symptoms and carefully observing them. Based on this preliminary evaluation, the doctor will make a list of possible diagnoses, organized by most likely to least likely. Once they have their potential diagnoses listed, the doctor should make further observations, order tests, and refer the patient to specialists to eliminate incorrect diagnoses. During this process, they may also add more diagnoses if evidence for them turns up.

Ideally, at the end of the differential diagnosis method, there will be only the correct diagnosis remaining. Due to the unpredictable nature of medicine, however, this may not be the case. Even if the diagnosis is incorrect, a doctor who took all the measures their peers would have in their situation should be protected from any claims of negligence. If they did demonstrate reasonable skill and a duty of care for their patient while making their diagnosis, they may be considered negligent.

A patient wishing to bring a medical malpractice claim will need to show that another doctor in a similar specialty, under similar circumstances, would not have misdiagnosed the patient or would have arrived at the diagnosis in a reasonable time. This means proving one of two things:

  • The doctor did not provide the correct diagnosis on their initial list, while a competent doctor would have under similar circumstances.
  • The doctor included the correct diagnosis but failed to appropriately test the patient or seek the opinions of specialists to investigate the possibility of the diagnosis.

Can Diagnostic Test Errors Be to Blame?

While doctors play a big role in the diagnosis, they also rely on tests to make these diagnoses. A faulty or inaccurate laboratory test, radiology film, or other tests can lead a doctor to make an incorrect diagnosis. Some errors that can lead to misdiagnosis or delay diagnosis are:

  • Faulty diagnostic equipment, which produced inaccurate tests or unclear images.
  • Human error, which means the test results were read incorrectly, the technician used the wrong procedure, something was missed by the doctor or technician, or samples were contaminated or mixed up.

While your doctor may not be liable for these types of mistakes, it is possible that another person, such as the specialist, technician, or other personnel are responsible. You may have a claim against them, rather than your doctor.

Was I Harmed By Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis?

In order for you to file a medical malpractice claim, you need to have suffered harm due to the status of your diagnosis. Even reversible damage may be considered harm, but you will need to demonstrate some form of injury that was the result of a delay in your diagnosis or receiving the wrong diagnosis.

Some examples of harm from an incorrect or delayed diagnosis include:

  • Your condition worsened due to a lack of timely treatment.
  • You received inappropriate treatment, which caused injury.
  • Surgery was performed in the wrong location or for an incorrect treatment.
  • The patient passed away due to a lack of appropriate treatment.

Because misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can have deadly consequences, it is clear why victims or their families should receive compensation for these injuries. If you have been injured by stress, anxiety, and extra medical expenses that stemmed from your inappropriate medical care.

Do You Have a Claim? Speak with Our Anchorage Medical Malpractice Lawyer – (888) 295-6566

Medical malpractices are among the most challenging injury cases. At The Law Offices of David Henderson, my team is ready to help you address your case, no matter how complex. I have more than 17 years of legal experience, so you can trust I have the extensive knowledge necessary to help your case succeed.

Contact my team to schedule a free consultation by calling (888) 295-6566.