How to Legally Deal With a Medical Misdiagnosis

How to Legally Deal With a Medical Misdiagnosis

How to Legally Deal With a Medical Misdiagnosis
How to Legally Deal With a Medical Misdiagnosis

As public speakers, it is our responsibility to use our skills to make the world a better place. There are times that we may be called on to speak on important social issues. When we are presented with an opportunity like this, it is our responsibility to make sure that we take the time to fully research the topic that we’ll be talking about. Since these types of topics can affect so many different people, making sure that we have all of the information that they are going to need is critical. In order to show you how to go about collecting the information that you would need for a speech like this, let’s take a look at an important topic: medical malpractice.

There are up to 200,000 malpractice cases filed in the country every year, which doesn’t encompass every case of malpractice. Some people don’t realize that their case qualifies as malpractice until it’s too late. If misdiagnosis happens to you, it’s important to know what your options are.

Here’s everything you need to know about this type of malpractice.

What Constitutes Misdiagnosis

If you’re worried that you worked with a doctor who could have diagnosed something earlier, there’s a term for that. Misdiagnosis is when a doctor hasn’t made the accurate and timely diagnosis that you’ve trusted them to. Thankfully there are legal remedies through the help of malpractice.

Mistakes can happen and bad faith is never useful in trying to deal with your health, but a legal remedy ensures that you are better able to recover. A mistake doesn’t constitute misdiagnosis but there are ways to discover negligence.

If the doctor failed to provide a medical standard of care, they may have breached their own doctrine. If a similarly trained doctor would have been able to clearly see the diagnosis, there could be a case here.

What’s a Common Misdiagnosis

There are a few types of misdiagnosis that occur again and again in the medical world.

If you’re always dealing with something doctors are calling recurring bronchitis or the common flu, you could be dealing with asthma or a staph infection. When people have a stroke, especially if they’re young, it might be seen as a migraine or something similarly small.

In serious cases, cancer can be misdiagnosed. If someone doesn’t actually have cancer, they could go through chemotherapy and radiation for no reason. It’s vital for patients to have a clear diagnosis when dealing with things so serious.

Indigestion or panic attacks are often blamed for symptoms that are closer to a heart attack. This, again, happens commonly in younger people who aren’t at the age where heart attacks are common.

If your doctor isn’t screening for medical conditions, referring you to a specialist, or reads that specialist’s results incorrectly, it could lead to misdiagnosis. They need to be talking to you and listening to you talk about your symptoms. When you have issues that come with symptoms, they should be following up with you.

Knowing Who Can Be Sued

Before you can sue someone, it needs to be proven that the doctor failed to diagnose a condition. They need to be shown to be displaying a lack of skill and attention. Treatment should be laid out by a medical expert and compared to what the doctor recommended that lead to sub-standard care.

Usually, the only person who can be sued is that patient’s primary physician. In some cases, other professionals might be liable if their negligence had anything to do with the outcome. If the problem was glaringly obvious, then anyone who offered treatment, from nurses to specialists could be dragged into the case.

Hospitals and healthcare facilities where doctors practice usually can’t be brought into the case. Most doctors work as independent hospitals. If the doctor is an actual employee of the hospital, the facility may be able to be held responsible for negligence.

You Have to Prove Harm

If you want to ensure you have a strong case, it’s important to show how the wrong diagnosis led to harm. A misdiagnosis that doesn’t lead anywhere isn’t going to prove to be a strong case. The unfortunate consequences need to measurable.

If the patient was exposed to aggressive treatments that wouldn’t have been otherwise required, that’s a strong angle. If an earlier diagnosis would have allowed for easier treatment, judges will take this as strong evidence.

If the patient was unnecessarily exposed to treatment they didn’t actually need, that can be proof of harm. Anything that leads to scarring or disfigurement because of misdiagnosis builds a strong case.

Increased complications or increased risk of fatality are also strong factors in proving that malpractice was performed via misdiagnosis.

Statues of Limitations Matter

In many states, there are time limits for filing a malpractice suit. While there are a few types of cases where the statute doesn’t matter, most cases require paperwork to be filed before a certain amount of time passes.

The complaint needs to be on file and then deadlines are drawn by the state. The injury might not be noticed for some time. In most states, that’s when the clock starts ticking. In other states, it starts when the malpractice is performed.

Most statutes of limitations give patients a window of time that’s around a year to three years long. It’s vital to get on top of a case with the right lawyer once you realize that malpractice has been performed.

Waiting not only delays the time it takes to recover but it can also allow the body to heal from the harm done. If scans or images are to be used as evidence, it’s best to have a fresher issue to show to the court as proof.

There are lawyers with specialties to cover all kinds of malpractice. For example, you can find a cancer misdiagnosis lawyer to handle that specific type of case.

Misdiagnosis is Dangerous

Misdiagnosis might be written off as a simple mistake or an oversight on the behalf of medical professionals, but it’s much more than that. It can often be a situation where someone is unnecessarily harmed or hurt all because a doctor or specialist was careless with their patients.

If you want to learn more about medical malpractice, check out this guide.

2 thoughts on “How to Legally Deal With a Medical Misdiagnosis”

  1. Dr, Anderson, I sincerely hope the topic of your column, which was quite a departure from your usual topics, was not motivated by a catastrophic and mishandled medical event that you or a loved one experienced. I was 20 when I learned my mother had stage IV breast cancer, which had been misdiagnosed by her ob-gyn over the course of several years. She passed away when I was 22. For various reasons, my dad convinced himself not to pursue a legal case. When I finally had the opportunity to meet the physician, he was utterly without remorse, and I deeply regretted that my dad hadn’t pursued a case. Unfortunately, the statute (which you inadvertently spelled, “statue” in one of your subtitles) of limitations had passed. As a health care practitioner and policymaker myself, now, I do need to make a couple of points about medical malpractice. Medicine remains a very imperfect science, and most actual malpractice is (and should be) challenging to establish. In addition, the seemingly never-ending, frivolous, highly publicized lawsuits pursued by medical liability attorneys do a huge disservice to people with legitimate cases. What’s more, I believe strongly that medical malpractice cases, as well as pharmaceutical liability cases, should be exempt from jury trials and should instead be decided by subject matter experts without conflict of interest. I have seen far too many jury trials involving medical liability decided entirely on the basis of emotion by juries with a completely inadequate understanding of the science underlying the cases.

    • Sydne: Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. I had not heard of the idea of having cases like this settled by an impartial group of people who really understand the subject. That does sound like a great idea. You probably know more about this than I do and the selection of people to serve on such a board could be a challenge. Let us hope that things will get better and with a little luck we can both elect officials who move to put the right laws into place.

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