It’s crucial to have a sense of trust in our healthcare providers. The opinions and guidance of our medical physicians inform our most vital decisions about our health, from choosing which vitamins to take to deciding whether or not to undergo surgery. But doctors are human and, like anyone else, they can make mistakes. Unfortunately, sometimes a physician’s error can have dire consequences for their patient.
According to a recent study, at least 1 in 20 adult outpatients are misdiagnosed in the United States each year — equal to 12 million people nationwide. And up to 250,000 people die each year when emergency room doctors fail to identify life-threatening conditions such as sepsis, stroke, and pneumonia.
What is a Misdiagnosis?
A misdiagnosis occurs when your doctor fails to diagnose you with the correct medical condition or injury. This can happen as a result of your doctor misreading your test results, misinterpreting your symptoms, having incomplete knowledge of your medical history, or, in some cases, medical negligence. If you are misdiagnosed, your condition may worsen and severe damage can occur, up to and including death.
Commonly misdiagnosed conditions include:
- Myocardial infarction
- Heart Attack
- Lyme disease
- Pulmonary embolism
- Brain hemorrhage
Should I Sue if I’m Misdiagnosed?
If you are misdiagnosed, your first priority should be to seek appropriate care and mitigate any harm caused by the misdiagnosis. Depending on the severity of your condition and the damages you suffered as a result of being misdiagnosed, you may also want to explore your legal rights.
To bring a claim against your doctor for negligence, you need to satisfy four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. To help figure out if your situation meets the criteria for a claim of medical negligence, consider the following questions:
- Did the doctor owe you a duty of care? If you established a doctor-patient relationship, then in all probability your doctor had a duty to provide you with competent medical care, known as the “medical standard of care.”
- Did the doctor breach their duty? The answer to this question depends on the circumstances of your case. Making a medical diagnosis can be tricky, and not every misdiagnosis is caused by negligence. But if most competent doctors would have made the correct diagnosis based on the same information, you’re more likely to have a claim.
- Did the misdiagnosis cause you harm? If your doctor fails to diagnose you with sepsis and you end up dying as a result, the harm to you is obvious. But if you are diagnosed with a cold instead of allergies and you end up feeling better in a few days, it could be tough to prove you were harmed as a result of being misdiagnosed.
- Did the misdiagnosis cause you damage in measurable ways, such as loss of wages, additional medical complications, or additional medical expenses?
If your answer to the above questions is yes, you may have a claim of medical negligence against your doctor.
I Think I Have a Legal Claim – What’s the Next Step?
If you think you have a claim for medical negligence or malpractice against your doctor, it is important to speak to an experienced, knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can help you to understand your rights and legal options. But there are some things you can do right away to help build your case, such as gathering all documentation supporting your claim of the misdiagnosis. This documentation may include discharge or home care instructions, notes or voicemails from your doctor’s office, and copies of your medical records. Collecting as much documentation as you can early on will help your attorney to get a clearer view of the merits of your case.