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Filing a Lawsuit for Misdiagnosis: The Basics

Published on Apr 6, 2017 at 6:38 pm in Medical Malpractice.

Medical professionals have a legal duty to treat patients in accordance to a recognized “standard of care.” When they deviate from this standard, such as when they fail to properly diagnose a condition that should have reasonably been identified, they can be held accountable for their negligence and liable for harm and damages patients suffer as a result.

At Shrager & Sachs, our Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers have recovered millions of dollars in compensation on behalf of patients who were injured at the hands of a physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals. These include patients who suffered preventable harm as the result of a misdiagnosis for a condition that should and could have been correctly detected.

While medical malpractice cases are hinged on proving that a medical care provider failed to uphold their legal duty, there are a number of unique circumstances and elements that must be addressed depending on the particular type of case involved. In regard to a misdiagnosis, there are a few important basic elements that must be met in order to create a successful case:

  • Legal Duty – The first step in determining whether an injured patient has grounds to pursue a medical malpractice case for a misdiagnosis is establishing that the doctor owed the patient a legal duty to treat them according to the accepted standard of care. If a patient were to overhear a diagnosis given by a doctor to another patient, there would be no legal duty. Instead, this element is typically satisfied when it is shown that a doctor is the treating physician of a patient.
  • Breach of Duty – When a doctor fails to treat a patient in accordance to the standard of care, they breach their duty. In the case of a misdiagnosis, this can involve a physician who informs a patient that they have a condition they do not really have, when according to the standard of care, a doctor who takes reasonable measures to identify a condition should have made the correct diagnosis. If it can be shown that a doctor was negligent and failed to treat a patient in a reasonably competent manner by providing a misdiagnosis, they have breached their legal duty.
  • Causation – Victims must demonstrate that the breach of duty, or misdiagnosis, caused them harm. In the civil justice system, the burden of proof is referred to as a “preponderance of evidence,” which means “more likely than not.” It must be shown that a misdiagnosis “more likely than not” caused a patient harm. If, for example, a misdiagnosis was made, but a condition cleared up on its own shortly after without resulting in harm, a patient would not satisfy this element of their claim.
  • Damages – Victims must show that they suffered damages, including physical and emotional injuries for which they should be compensated. Given the fact that a misdiagnosis can lead to a worsening of the true underlying condition, damages may be extensive. Our legal team works closely with clients and the necessary experts to ensure their all of their damages are accurately accounted for.

It is important to remember that Just because a misdiagnosis occurred does not mean that a medical professional was negligent. Even the most experienced doctors can make diagnostic errors when using reasonable care. As such, it becomes important to evaluate all aspects of how a doctor conducted diagnostic testing and arrives at their diagnosis. A doctor who does not include the true diagnosis when evaluating a patient or does not perform appropriate tests or get assistance from specialists to investigate the potential diagnosis may have failed to uphold their legal duty. Doctors can also make a misdiagnosis when they use inaccurate test results, either as a result of defective equipment or human error.

Misdiagnoses and diagnostic errors are serious concerns for patients. When a condition is labeled as something it is not, patients may receive treatment they do not need, including treatment that can cause them harm or have debilitating results. It also means that the underlying condition a patient truly suffers from will not receive the treatment it requires, which in turn can have disastrous consequences when injuries or illnesses are left untreated and progress.

If you or someone you love have suffered harm as a result of a misdiagnosis, our medical malpractice attorneys at Shrager & Sachs are available to review your case and discuss how we may be able to help you pursue full and fair compensation. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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