A misdiagnosis from your doctor can be discouraging, stressful, or even traumatic. Unfortunately, however, diagnostic errors happen. Sometimes even highly experienced physicians make a mistake in diagnosing a patient. On its own, though, a misdiagnosis isn’t necessarily indicative of medical malpractice and generally won’t support a lawsuit unless the patient suffered in some way because of the misdiagnosis.
When a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose results in delayed medical treatment, improper treatment, or no treatment at all, a real medical condition the patient suffers from may occur or worsen as a result. For example, a patient whose doctor misdiagnosed a real heart attack as something else could have put the patient’s life at risk.
How Do Plaintiffs Prove Misdiagnosis Occurred?
As alluded to earlier, medical diagnostics sometimes go awry. Errors can arise from insufficient data, a patient providing an incomplete medical history, and often the doctor’s own human error. Because of these factors, a plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit must argue several important facts.
These facts include the following:
- There was a doctor-patient relationship formed between the physician and plaintiff.
- The doctor failed to live up to the standard of care when diagnosing the plaintiff’s condition.
- The doctor’s misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose actually and proximately caused injury.
We’ll discuss each of these points in a little more detail below.
How Is a Doctor-Patient Relationship Established?
The first thing a plaintiff must prove is that they were engaged in a doctor-patient relationship with the defendant. This requires more than having a casual conversation with someone who happens to be a doctor.
The doctor-patient relationship is typically formed when a doctor affirmatively acts to examine, diagnose, and treat a patient – or agrees to do so. In many cases, this occurs when patients complete intake forms immediately before seeing the doctor.
Failure to Live Up to the Standard of Care
This is a matter that neither the plaintiff nor their attorney can determine on their own. Often, it requires a medical expert to examine the method the defendant used. Typically, doctors will make a list of possible diagnoses and assign a probability to each. They will then make observations, ask the patient questions, and order tests to rule out diagnoses until only one is left.
The goal is to prove that the defendant acted negligently in their diagnosis. A plaintiff trying to prove a misdiagnosis should demonstrate that any other doctor in the same field wouldn’t have made the same mistake. This can be done by showing that the doctor didn’t even consider the patient’s actual condition when eliminating possible diagnoses, although another doctor would have. A plaintiff can also try to prove that the doctor was investigating the correct diagnosis, but ruled it out by failing to test for it.
Sometimes faulty equipment is to blame. In these cases, a doctor can still be held liable if they ignore clear signs that something went wrong with the tests and failed to order new ones. If the tests weren’t obviously flawed, then it may be the lab that conducted the test that is actually liable for the misdiagnosis.
Actual & Proximate Cause of Injury
After arguing that the misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose occurred, plaintiffs must demonstrate that either was the actual and proximate cause of injury. In other words, they suffered as a direct result of the doctor’s negligence.
In these cases, injury often results when the patient isn’t given treatment for the actual condition they have. For example, if a cancer patient is misdiagnosed, valuable time that could have been spent treating the cancer in its early stages may be lost. Injury, however, can also result from treatments a patient received for a condition they did not have, including taking certain medications or undergoing unnecessary surgery.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
If you believe you were misdiagnosed by your doctor and suffered an injury as a result, you may be entitled to pursue fair and just compensation. We at The Dickinson Law Firm, LLC can provide the legal support you need to verify your claim and hold the physician responsible for the misdiagnosis accountable.
No attorney can guarantee results, but we are confident that our clients’ best possible chances for success are secured when we apply a personalized and proactive approach to their case.