When a Misdiagnosis Justifies Legal Action
Thoughts of filing a medical malpractice suit, following a visit to the doctor, is rarely at the forefront of a person’s mind, especially if he/she is seeking an explanation of mysterious symptoms. Anyone who has experienced the sudden onset of uncomfortable, painful or disruptive bodily sensations knows how scary this situation can be. This person is entirely reliant on the expertise and skill of the examining doctor, and the diagnosis offered is commonly accepted without question. However, a misdiagnosis or the complete failure to give a diagnosis can lead to significant harm that could result in permanent impairment. Missing a diagnosis often results in receiving the wrong type of treatment, which could exacerbate problems, or receiving no treatment at all, which could allow the condition or disease to freely develop. When a wrong diagnosis causes harm, it may be time to contact a medical malpractice attorney about a person’s legal right to sue for compensation. A discussion of common issues that could result in a wrong diagnosis, and what a successful injured party must prove in court, will follow below.
Why a Misdiagnosis Can Happen and Commonly Involved Conditions
Diagnosing a medical condition is frequently a complicated process that involves many steps, and if any of these steps are overlooked or misinterpreted, the likelihood of harm to the patient increases. No doctor intends to give a wrong diagnosis, but that does not mean he/she escapes liability because the inaccurate conclusion was a mistake. The following are common reasons a misdiagnosis occurs:
- ordering the wrong tests;
- not recognizing and treating all symptoms;
- improper interpretation of test results;
- not identifying the underlying disease;
- inaccurate/inconclusive medical tests; and
- lack of communication with patients.
Additionally, several diseases/conditions, such as heart attacks, late-stage cancer and appendicitis, are more prone to a misdiagnosis because not everyone exhibits the same signs, and the signs most commonly reported are also present in less serious conditions that do not require immediate treatment. Failure to correctly identify and treat any of these conditions can lead to death.
Establishing Medical Malpractice
As noted above, not all mistakes by a doctor will result in legal responsibility if a patient is harmed. An injured party must prove the doctor’s actions were unreasonable and breached his/her duty of care. Specifically, a patient must establish the following:
- the existence of a doctor/patient relationship;
- the doctor was negligent by failing to provide the correct treatment due to incompetence (what the doctor did/did not do when assessing the patient’s condition); and
- the negligence caused the patient’s injury.
In Florida, doctors are evaluated in medical malpractice claims based upon what other doctors with the same degree of experience and skill would do in a similar situation. Essentially, evidence must be produced, usually in the form of expert testimony, that the doctor’s evaluation process for assessing the patient’s condition and the probability of which disease/condition was the source of a patient’s symptoms was faulty or inadequate, and that the flawed evaluation process led the doctor to either leave out the correct diagnosis or to ignore the need for additional testing/consultations with specialists.
Call a Medical Malpractice Attorney
Your health is precious, and if a doctor’s negligent actions compromised your wellbeing, talk to a medical malpractice attorney about pursuing legal action. Medical malpractice cases are very complex and involved, and the earlier you seek legal advice, the more time an attorney has to build a strong case. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado handles a wide variety of medical malpractice cases, and is available to evaluate the merits of your claim. Contact us for a free consultation.