When you visit your doctor with bothersome symptoms or for a regular checkup, you trust that if you get a clean bill of health, you can go home with the assurance that all is indeed well. We all put our trust in our doctors. We have to rely on their training and expertise to determine if we are healthy or not, and if we need treatment or not. We expect them to ask the right questions, order the right tests, and prescribe the right treatments. When a doctor makes a diagnostic error because he or she has neglected to do this, if you suffer harm as a result, you may be able to receive compensation for the harm done to you by making a claim for medical malpractice.
“Failure to diagnose” may mean the doctor makes no diagnosis and declares the patient to be in good health when that is not the case, or it may mean that the doctor misdiagnoses the condition as something else or takes so long to make a correct diagnosis that the condition worsens and becomes more difficult to treat, does permanent harm to the patient’s health, or results in death.
Elements that Must Be Present to Prove Negligent “Failure to Diagnose”
It's important to keep in mind, in order to have a solid medical malpractice claim your doctor must have been negligent in performing their services or diagnosis. Not every case will qualify as medical malpractice.
If any of these diagnostic errors happen, does this mean there has been medical malpractice? Not necessarily. In law, to show that there was malpractice, there are elements of a case that must be proved.
First, that the doctor owed you a duty to provide the standard of care that is expected of any reasonably competent physician in the same area of medicine. Every doctor is expected to have certain knowledge and skill, accumulated through years of training–medical school, internship, and residency. The doctor is required to use these skills and knowledge to provide a reasonable standard of care to every patient.
Second, you must be able to prove that the doctor breached that standard of care and failed to do everything a reasonably competent physician knows to do to make a correct and timely diagnosis.
Third, you must demonstrate that as a result of that breach, you suffered injury or damage to your health.
Fourth, you must be able to show that the doctor’s error was the actual cause of the harm that was done to you.
All of these elements must be present to make a malpractice case. If the doctor did everything that should have been done and was unable to make a timely diagnosis, you may not have a case. If the doctor failed to do something that should have been done, but no harm resulted, you will not have a case. If you failed to mention certain symptoms to the doctor and he or she misses a diagnosis, you may not have a case.
Commonly Missed Diagnoses that Give Rise to Malpractice Lawsuits
These are a few of the common diagnostic errors that can have dire results:
- Failure to diagnose a heart attack; diagnosed instead as indigestion, anxiety, gallstones, or muscle strain
- Misdiagnosis of bacterial meningitis; diagnosed instead as migraine, influenza, tension headache, neck muscle strain
- Failure to diagnose ovarian cancer; diagnosed instead as gastroenteritis
- Misdiagnosis of a stroke; diagnosed instead as vertigo
- Failure to diagnose pulmonary embolism; diagnosed instead as a heart attack or high blood pressure
- Misdiagnosing appendicitis as gastroenteritis
- Failing to order appropriate screening tests: Pap smear, mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.
- Misreading imaging test results
Anyone who has been harmed by a doctor’s failure to diagnose a life-threatening condition should consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney. In Florida, there is a strict time limit in which to file a medical malpractice suit, so it is essential to speak with an attorney early on.
If you believe you've been subjected to medical negligence or malpractice, contact us online or call us directly at 888.815.6398 to schedule your free consultation.
Due to the nature of our small practice, we are unable to take every case, but we always strive to connect clients with the right attorney for them. We are happy to set up referrals to other attorneys who may be better suited to assist you.