August 19, 2019

When Your Misdiagnosis Becomes a Medical Malpractice Case

Doctor and patient

Medical malpractice laws exist to guarantee that patients receive competent and sufficient care. Physicians are charged with making assessments of the physical health of their patients, developing a treatment plan that works based on an accurate diagnosis, and executing that plan to provide the best possible outcome for the patient. We all expect the best from our physicians, but like any other vocation, there are times where a professional may make a mistake. In this case, they can range from surgical errors to misdiagnosing or not timely diagnosing a serious illness. These mistakes can be the difference between life and death. It is important that anyone that may have a potential claim understands what they can do after they discover a misdiagnosis. See our recommendations for handling a medical malpractice case below.

Errors in diagnosing illnesses are a large percentage of medical malpractice cases. There are three basic elements that have to exist for a claim for misdiagnosis:

  • A doctor-patient relationship at the time that there was a misdiagnosis
  • The was harm suffered because of the misdiagnosis
  • The physician’s misdiagnosis was negligent

If a physician meets with a patient and provides treatment, it is generally understood that there is a doctor-patient relationship. The establishment of that relationship requires that the physician provide sufficient care to the patient. This duty of care, as it is commonly called, requires that a physician reasonably diagnose potential health issues and inform their patients accordingly. 

If a physician fails to diagnose their patient properly or fails to provide the proper care that any other reasonably competent doctor would have provided under similar circumstances, they have likely committed malpractice. To prove negligence, the testimony of an expert will likely be required. Plaintiffs attorneys work with these experts to determine what a reasonably competent doctor would have done under the circumstances. An expert may also use the differential diagnosis standard. This is a systematic way of identifying different conditions or diseases in a patient. Further, they may offer their opinions on the process that they would have used to come to either a different or timely diagnosis for the patient.

To prove the damages in a misdiagnosis case, the patient has to prove that the negligence or the failure to properly diagnose caused foreseeable harm. The patient has to prove that another doctor, under similar circumstances, would not have made the same error. This can be proved by showing that a physician did not perform the necessary tests to come to the correct conclusion or they did not seek the appropriate opinions from other specialists to come to the proper diagnosis. 

Misdiagnosis is not limited to testing and observation in a clinical setting. Physicians often misdiagnose their patients in emergency room situations. Given the pressure and often scattered environment of an emergency room, physicians can misdiagnose what is causing distress for the patient. It is not uncommon for individuals to come into emergency rooms with lesser-known symptoms of cardiac distress and be diagnosed with indigestion or heartburn. This misdiagnosis can lead to catastrophic results. 

Let Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs Help You Through Your Medical Malpractice Case

While misdiagnosis cases are complex and difficult to prove, it is essential that you have an attorney assess your case and determine whether or not your physician could be at fault for damages in your case. Call the offices of Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs to have your case assessed today.