Medical misdiagnosis is more common than most people think. Research suggests that diagnostic errors affect over ten million people every year in the U.S. alone, with error rates as high as 5 percent.
Unfortunately, it’s a fact: even with a competent doctor at your side, mistakes happen, and patients can get hurt. With medical negligence occurring at such high rates, it’s no wonder that medical malpractice claims are so common.
Here’s what you need to know when your doctor fails to properly diagnose your medical condition, or provide you with the correct medical treatment.
Medical Malpractice Claims
The first thing to note is that not all negative medical outcomes will lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit. Sometimes, from a legal perspective, it’s not possible to make a valid medical malpractice claim.
What is not medical malpractice
If a patient has a condition and they go to see a doctor, the condition may get worse over time. Even with conditions that are typically treatable, there is no guarantee that a patient will respond to treatment. This type of negative outcome isn’t necessarily the doctor’s fault. The same is true for instances in which a patient’s condition is untreatable.
What is key here is the term “reasonable care and skill.” If a doctor or medical professional does not provide treatment in a reasonably skillful and competent manner, only then can they be said to have acted in a negligent manner. When the treatment falls short of what is considered “acceptable care,” someone can make a legitimate claim that a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis directly harmed a patient.
In other words, a doctor’s negligence is not always easy to prove.
When a medical malpractice lawsuit does have merit
To prove some form of medical negligence, a medical malpractice attorney would have to show that the treatment did not meet the expected medical standard. Another way to say it would be that a doctor did not provide the same care that another similarly-skilled and educated provider would have provided in similar circumstances.
Medical malpractice cases can often be made if any of the following situations occur:
- The doctor made unacceptable decisions and errors during a procedure (e.g. surgery)
- The doctor failed to diagnose a serious or harmful condition
- The doctor failed to advise the patient about the risks of a given treatment path’
- The doctor was negligent in their care by working under the influence of drugs
- The doctor accidentally administered dangerous levels of (or lethal) medication
Common misdiagnoses by medical professionals
A misdiagnosis can occur for the reasons listed in the bullet points above, but they can also occur when doctors fail to screen for a particular condition based on their medical history, when they misinterpret lab results, when they don’t send a patient to an appropriate specialist, or if they don’t follow up properly or investigate issues reported to them.
Common medical malpractice case examples relate to cancer diagnoses. The wrong choices can lead to patients undergoing costly, painful and unnecessary treatments (such as chemotherapy or radiation). Another one is asthma, which can sometimes be mistaken as bronchitis. Similarly, lymph node inflammation can be mistaken for appendicitis, and heart attacks can be misinterpreted as being related to anxiety or even indigestion!
Can you sue a medical professional for a misdiagnosis?
Yes, you can! Personal injury law covers the part of the legal field called medical malpractice. As long as someone has been injured or has died as the result of a misdiagnosis (or delayed treatment that leads to harm), you can sue for damages.
Compensation can be related to your current (or expected future) medical costs, any wages you lost due to an inability to work, the cost of medical devices or the cost of transportation to and from medical appointments.
Other elements to be considered when suing are related to non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, or in the case of losing a loved one, loss of companionship and emotional anguish.
And it’s not just doctors or surgeons that can be on the hook. The medical field is vast, and a medical malpractice case can be made by personal injury lawyers for the wrong diagnosis by a midwife, or chiropractor, nurses, technicians, other hospital employees, even pharmacies.
Is there a statute of limitations for a medical malpractice suit?
In Ontario, the limitation period for civil lawsuits is two years, and this includes medical malpractice suits. Any injured party has two years from the time they were injured (or became aware of their injuries), to launch a claim. Do you need a medical malpractice lawyer in Guelph or a medical malpractice lawyer in Hamilton?
Medical malpractice is complex
Being a doctor or medical professional is hard work, and making the correct diagnosis is not always easy. Because medical malpractice lawsuits so often hinge on complex medical and legal questions, it’s often best to retain a medical malpractice lawyer with plenty of experience to help you navigate the issues.
They will help you by investigating your claim, collecting the appropriate evidence, and obtaining justice for you in the form of a financial award. Click here to learn how to find a medical malpractice lawyer!