Can You Sue Your Doctor for a Misdiagnosis? Who Is Liable for a Wrong Diagnosis?
Catastrophic Injury/Wrongful Death - September 18, 2020
We rely on medical professionals to ensure we are healthy. Whether we need to seek emergency medical treatment or undergo routine medical care, the last thing that anyone expects is that they will be harmed due to a misdiagnosis. However, at Horwitz Horwitz & Associates, our Chicago injury attorneys understand that a misdiagnosis can significantly affect a person’s well being. If you or a loved one have been harmed due to a misdiagnosis, our team is going to help you secure the compensation you deserve.
What is Misdiagnosis?
A misdiagnosis, at its most basic form, is an incorrect diagnosis of an injury or illness. A misdiagnosis can occur in a variety of ways, often due to a doctor misreading test results, failing to perform proper tests, or arriving at the wrong conclusion based on the knowledge they have. An incorrect diagnosis could:
- Make a medical condition worse
- Delay the correct diagnosis of a condition
- Result in that patient’s condition becoming worse
- Result in the death of a patient
The term misdiagnosis is also regularly used to indicate a situation in which a doctor fails to give any diagnosis at all, though sometimes these cases are called “failure to diagnose.”
In general, a misdiagnosis can be seen as a violation of the “medical standard of care” that you expect to receive when working with medical professionals. However, for a medical malpractice case to be successful, the misdiagnosis must have caused an injury (or death).
Common Types of Misdiagnosis
There are numerous situations in which a misdiagnosis can occur. However, some of the most common types of misdiagnoses include the following:
- Asthma (which is often diagnosed as recurring bronchitis)
- Various cancers (a misdiagnosis can lead to unnecessary and painful treatments)
- Lymph node inflammation (could be mistaken for appendicitis)
- Staph infections (often diagnosed as common flu)
- Heart attack (could be misdiagnosed as gastrointestinal problems, panic attack, etc.)
- Stroke (often misdiagnosed as a migraine or other minor underlying issue)
- Organ failure (could be seen as gastrointestinal issues, the flu, etc.)
A misdiagnosis usually involves either a delayed diagnosis of a condition or the mismanagement of diagnostic testing, which can result in an incorrect or delayed diagnosis. A misdiagnosis often involves:
- A failure of the medical provider to perform necessary tests
- Inadequately trained medical professionals
- Doctors failing to properly consult based on patient signs and symptoms
- Not performing a complete patient and family history
- Not taking a patient’s individual concerns seriously
- Failing to follow up on a patient’s test results
Can You Sue For The Failure to Diagnosis?
Yes, it is possible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in the event you are misdiagnosed or if a medical professional fails to diagnose your condition. As mentioned above, a “failure to diagnose” is another form of misdiagnosis. If a medical professional fails to diagnose a serious injury or illness, the patient could indeed suffer from severe long-term consequences.
It is important to note that the Illinois medical malpractice statute of limitations is two years from the date the patient knew or should have known a misdiagnosis caused them harm. There are a few exceptions to this two-year window, so please speak to an attorney about your case as soon as possible.
How to Prove Misdiagnosis or the Failure to Diagnose
Proving a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose is going to involve four elements for the medical malpractice claim to be successful. This includes the following:
- Duty. This is typically established when there is a doctor-patient relationship involved. When this is the case, the doctor has a duty to act as a reasonably competent medical professional on behalf of the patient.
- Breach. In order for a medical malpractice lawsuit to be successful in these cases, it needs to be shown with the doctor breached their duty of care to the patient. Just because there has been a misdiagnosis does not necessarily mean that the doctor was negligent in their duty. It will need to be shown that a different, similarly trained doctor would have been able to diagnose the illness or injury correctly.
- Causation. It will need to be proven that the misdiagnosis of the injury or illness actually caused the patient harm.
- Damages. Finally, it will need to be shown that the patient suffered some form of loss, including additional medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs, pain and suffering damages, etc.
Who Is Liable?
There are various parties that may be liable in the event you are misdiagnosed. In general, only the primary physician can be sued for misdiagnosis. That is because this is the individual ultimately responsible for ensuring correct diagnosis and prescribing follow-up treatments. However, it may be possible that other health care professionals are liable if their negligence caused or contributed to the misdiagnosis. This can include nurses, any specialists that treated the patients, lab technicians, and more. It is unlikely that the hospital or health care facility where the doctor practices medicine can be held liable unless they knew or should have known that the doctor presented a risk to patients.
How To File A Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose Claim
The first step to take if you believe you have a medical malpractice lawsuit due to misdiagnosis it to seek a free consultation from a lawyer as soon as possible. These cases can become incredibly complicated, and you want to have an attorney with extensive medical malpractice experience by your side.
At Horwitz Horwitz & Associates, our team has the resources to conduct a complete investigation into your case. We will work with trusted medical professionals who can serve as expert witnesses by examining the facts of the case and testifying on your behalf in court. Our medical malpractice attorneys in Illinois will handle all negotiations on your behalf in an attempt to reach a fair compensation settlement. If the other parties refuse to offer a fair settlement amount, we will not hesitate to take your case to trial. When you need an attorney, please call our Chicago office at (312) 372-8822 or our Joliet office at (815) 723-8822. You can also call our toll free number at (800)-985-1819.