Research indicates that up to 30 percent of all medical diagnoses in the United States are wrong. For certain diseases including Lyme disease, glaucoma, breast cancer and others more than 60 percent of diagnoses may be missed or delayed. Diagnostic errors have real and tragic consequences, including incorrect choices of treatments, illnesses that continue to advance, permanent disability, and deaths.
A misdiagnosis occurs when a healthcare provider considers a patient’s medical status including test results, symptoms and other clinical information and reaches the wrong conclusion about the underlying disease or source for the medical evidence. A number of factors can lead to incorrect diagnoses:
- Flawed data from medical tests.
- Incomplete or wrong information given by a patient.
- Erroneous or incomplete knowledge on the part of a medical professional.
- Medical professionals reaching conclusions too quickly or failing to consider all possible medical explanations.
Serious Effects for Patients and Doctors
Multiple studies suggest that problems with diagnostic processes cause significant harm to patients, including an increased number of deaths, notes the National Institutes of Health.
But diagnostic errors also create major problems for medical providers; many malpractice lawsuits result from delayed or incorrect diagnoses of illnesses and injuries. From 1986 to 2010, diagnostic errors cost the medical industry nearly $39 billion in payouts for malpractice claims.
Table of Contents
- Types of Diagnostic Errors
- Proving a Diagnosis Error
- Diagnostic Errors in the Emergency Room
- How Do You Know if You’ve Been Misdiagnosed?
- Statute of Limitations
- Work with an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney
Types of Diagnostic Errors
Medical professionals can make diagnostic errors in several different categories:
- Misdiagnosis, or choosing the wrong illness.
- Delays in diagnosis. A physician eventually may make a correct diagnosis after a significant period of time has passed.
- Missed diagnosis. A doctor finds that a patient has no medical problems, but the patient actually suffers from a disease or illness.
- Failing to diagnose an associated illness. A doctor may correctly diagnose one condition but fail to diagnose another illness that is related.
- Failing to diagnose an unrelated illness. A doctor may correctly diagnose one disease but fail to diagnose another condition that is unrelated.
- Failing to identify medical complications or other factors that can make an existing condition worse.
Proving a Diagnosis Error
You must prove four elements to prevail in a diagnosis error case. The elements your medical malpractice attorney must meet include the following.
Existence of a Legal Duty
A legal duty exists in any professional relationship between a patient and physician. In other words, the patient must have sought treatment for symptoms or an illness from the doctor.
A doctor who has agreed to accept a patient for care in an office has a legal duty. Similarly, a doctor assigned to a patient in urgent care or a hospital has a legal duty to care for them responsibly.
Breach of Duty
Breach of duty occurs when the treating physician fails to adhere to the standards of care expected for their practice.
For example, a neurologist is responsible for conducting specific tests after a patient experiences a seizure. However, if the neurologist does not submit their patient for testing, and those tests would have exposed an underlying condition causing seizures, a breach of duty would occur.
Causal Relationship Between Breach of Duty and Injury
Next, a lawyer must establish a causal relationship between the breach of duty and the patient’s injury.
Following the example of the neurologist, if the lack of testing results in the patient’s seizure condition going undiagnosed and worsening, it would establish a causal relationship.
No causal relationship is evident if a breach of duty does not cause subsequent injury.
Existence of Damage
Damage sustained by the patient because of the doctor’s actions (or inactions) is the fourth required element in a diagnosis error complaint.
For example, if the patient’s worsening condition leads to a preventable surgery, the doctor may be held liable for the surgery’s costs and the patient’s emotional distress.
A medical malpractice lawyer will work with you to ensure that you have the proof for your diagnosis error claim.
Diagnostic Errors in the Emergency Room
Misdiagnosis and other types of diagnostic errors occur more frequently in emergency treatment facilities for a number of reasons:
- Pressure on medical professionals to act quickly.
- Injuries and illnesses that are more severe than in other medical settings.
- Uncommon conditions and illnesses are seen less frequently than in other medical settings.
Conditions that are frequently misdiagnosed in emergency rooms include strokes, heart attacks and meningitis. In children younger than 12, appendicitis is misdiagnosed between an estimated 28 and 57 percent of the time; in infants, the rate of misdiagnosis is estimated at nearly 100 percent.
How Do You Know if You’ve Been Misdiagnosed?
To protect yourself from a possible misdiagnosis, it’s important to trust your intuition. If you feel that a medical professional has made a diagnostic error, consider having additional tests conducted or getting a second opinion from a different doctor.
In addition, don’t be afraid to ask for more information about your diagnosis from a medical professional. Helpful questions can include:
- What other conditions could be causing my symptoms?
- How confident are you about your diagnosis?
- What additional tests could improve your confidence level in the diagnosis?
- Would additional tests change your proposed treatment of my condition?
- Do any of my symptoms contradict your diagnosis?
- What are some resources that can help me learn more about my diagnosis?
Conduct research of your diagnosis on your own, and make note of any information that does not jibe with your symptoms or with information your doctor has provided.
Statute of Limitations
Each state has a statute of limitations governing the time a plaintiff has to file a medical malpractice case. The state of New York gives the plaintiff two years and six months to file a claim following the last treatment they received from the physician. You cannot file a claim after that deadline.
Documentation to Substantiate a Diagnosis Error
Once your medical malpractice attorney decides to pursue your claim, evidence to prove your case becomes necessary. Gather all of the records concerning the care you received from your initial physician. Records include lab tests, X-rays, notes, prescriptions, medical bills, and other information concerning your treatment.
You’ll also need to assemble records from other physicians who treated you after the initial doctor. Your medical malpractice attorney will compare the documentation between the two doctors to determine how they handled your case differently.
Expert testimony from physicians in the same field can help medical malpractice cases. Expert testimony can identify where your physician deviated from the appropriate standards of care, resulting in your injuries.
Your medical malpractice attorney will locate doctors who can review the facts of your case and determine whether a treating physician made mistakes.
Length of a Medical Malpractice Case
Many people wonder how long it takes to get a settlement or court verdict in a medical malpractice case. Unfortunately, it varies. Lawyers cannot provide strict timelines for case resolution. Cases that settle often resolve more quickly than those that go to court.
A medical malpractice case that goes to trial may take a year or more to resolve. Court cases often take longer because medical malpractice lawyers on both sides call witnesses and experts to testify. Motions to continue a case or dismiss a claim, as well as a limited court calendar, can cause delays in the process.
Your medical malpractice lawyer can advise you what to expect for your case, including whether they believe a settlement is possible or if they think your case will likely end up in court.
Compensation for Diagnostic Errors
Despite the significant human toll of medical diagnostic errors, mistakes alone typically do not result in successful litigation against doctors, hospitals and other medical providers.
To win a lawsuit based on a diagnostic error, your medical malpractice attorney will need to demonstrate that a medical professional’s actions or lack of action differed from how other doctors within the same field would have handled your case. If a reasonably competent doctor would not have made the same diagnostic mistake under the same circumstances, the medical professional who misdiagnosed you may have liability.
If a doctor or hospital is determined to be liable for a diagnostic error, you may be entitled to both economic and noneconomic compensation, including:
- Lost salary or wages.
- Loss of future earning potential.
- The future value of your lost earnings.
- Current and future medical bills.
- Mental anguish.
- Pain and suffering.
- Intangible benefits that you can no longer provide to your spouse and children.
Our Case Results
When looking for a medical malpractice lawyer, seek someone with prior experience with medical malpractice cases. Experienced attorneys will share examples of the settlements and verdicts they obtained for their clients.
The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond have won:
- $6.25 million for a medical malpractice victim who did not receive proper treatment at a New York City hospital, resulting in a traumatic brain injury
- $1.975 million for a New York City couple whose hospital and gynecologist failed to diagnose fetal congenital heart defects, leading to developmental delays
- $862,500 in a case where a woman was given the wrong medication while in the hospital
You can count on Mr. Diamond’s experience and knowledge of New York law when he acts as your medical malpractice attorney.
Cost for Representation
The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond operate on a contingency fee basis in medical malpractice cases. Under a contingency fee arrangement, no upfront fees or hourly charges are due. Instead, payment for services occurs upon the successful completion of the claim.
As determined by agreement, a percentage of your award goes to the Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond. The remaining balance is yours to keep to use for medical expenses or other costs.
Preparing for Your Consultation
If you believe you have a medical malpractice case, consult an attorney.
To ensure that you make the most of your time, outline the facts of your case on paper and bring documentation of your medical history and treatment. Documentation should include medical bills, diagnoses, and lab or test results. Bring any other relevant information you have as well.
If you have questions, make sure to list them on paper. The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond will be happy to answer all of your inquiries.
We’ll decide whether to take your case based on the facts presented in the consultation. Sometimes, we may need to reach out to medical professionals to gain their expertise. Following our analysis, we’ll let you know if we believe your case has merit and what steps to take next.
Work with an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney
If a doctor or hospital has made a medical diagnostic error, you may suffer harm both now and in the future. Working with an experienced medical malpractice attorney is vital for ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive compensation to which you’re entitled.
To schedule a free consultation, please contact The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond.
The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond
888 Grand Concourse Suite #1L, 10451
“Mr. Ivan Diamond is the definition of professionalism hard work. He’s my first experience with a lawyer (I retained him to represent me in two separate instances) … and he made it a pleasant one! He’s VERY hands on, very attentive, asked the questions, consistently checked up on me and prepared me for any and every possibility. Extremely knowledgeable. I recommend Mr. Diamond to friends and family who we’re all happy with outcome of their personal injury case’s. I consider Mr. Diamond to be family, because that’s how hard he worked for me and expressed real compassion for my circumstances. Hiring Mr. Diamond is a decision you will never regret..” – Bia S.
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