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Elements of a Misdiagnosis Medical Malpractice Claim

doctor discussing options with patientMisdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a disease can have severe consequences, from permanent injuries and disabilities to death if your condition is not diagnosed soon enough.

Unfortunately, this is one of the more common medical errors that occur in hospitals and health care facilities across the nation, often involving life-threatening conditions like cancer, heart attack, stroke and staph infections.

Misdiagnosis accounts for 10 to 20 percent of medical errors, a higher percentage than drug errors and surgery on the wrong patient or part of the body, according to a Kaiser Health News report on misdiagnosis.

If you have been a victim of misdiagnosis, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to obtain compensation for the damages you have suffered.

Below, our Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys review the elements of a viable claim for misdiagnosis of an illness. These are complex cases, so you should strongly consider contacting an attorney to represent you.

At Schmidt Kramer, we offer a free, no obligation legal consultation so you can find out if you have a case.

Your Doctor Had a Duty of Care

A duty of care is established when a doctor or other medical professional agrees to provide treatment or provides treatment without an agreement.

The duty of care obligates the health care professional to provide treatment that meets accepted standards in the medical community. The accepted standard for your situation would be treatment that is similar to what you would have received from a similarly trained medical professional in a similar situation.

For example, your doctor’s duty of care may have created a legal obligation to run certain tests or refer you to a specialist for further testing or examination.

Your attorney will likely need to consult medical experts to determine the specific duty of care for your situation.

Your Doctor Breached the Established Duty of Care

This is one of the most important components of a medical malpractice case, without it, there is essentially no basis for a claim.

You must establish that your doctor did not uphold the established duty of care for your situation. This can occur through the doctor’s actions or his or her failure to act as it relates to the diagnosis of your illness.  

Differential Diagnosis

This is the method most health care professionals use to diagnose a medical condition and it is often where the breach of duty of care occurs in a misdiagnosis claim.

Differential diagnosis is a scientific process of elimination for diagnosing a disease. When you meet with the doctor, he or she will evaluate you and create a list of potential diagnoses in order of probability. The doctor will continue to evaluate you to test each potential diagnosis.

This could include:

  • Questioning you about your symptoms
  • Reviewing your medical records
  • Conducting tests, like MRIs and CT scans
  • Referring you to specialists

As this process moves along, the doctor crosses some diagnoses off the list. In some cases, the doctor may add diagnoses as new information becomes available.  

Eventually, the doctor narrows the list down to one diagnosis, and hopefully it is the correct one.

Proving Negligence During Differential Diagnosis

In most cases, there are two ways a doctor can breach duty of care in differential diagnosis:

  • Not including the correct diagnosis on the diagnosis list
  • Failing to correctly evaluate the patient to determine the proper diagnosis, including failure to perform tests, ask questions or seek information from other medical professionals  

Testing Errors

There are other cases where misdiagnosis was caused by an error with tests used to determine the diagnosis. In these situations, the technicians could be held liable if:

  • They used defective equipment to conduct tests
  • They caused contamination of samples or false reading of test results

Your Doctor’s Actions were the Primary Cause of Injury

It is not enough to establish a breach of duty of care. You must also show a causal link between misdiagnosis of your illness and an injury or aggravation of your condition.

There are numerous examples of injuries caused by misdiagnosis of a condition. For example, if a doctor fails to diagnose your cancer, it could become much worse and reach the point where it is untreatable.

If it is treatable, your treatment options could be very dangerous and potentially life-threatening. For instance, surgery exposes you to the risk of infection and internal damage.

If you are diagnosed with the wrong disease, you could suffer injuries as you undergo treatment for a condition you do not have.

Your Injuries Resulted in Damages

You must show that the injuries or harm you suffered caused physical, financial or emotional damages, such as bills for medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering, or loss of companionship. Establishing damages requires receipts and other records of the costs you have incurred. Your attorney can advise you on how to document emotional damages like suffering and loss of companionship.

Contact Schmidt Kramer’s Experienced Lawyers Right Now

Our personal injury attorneys in Harrisburg understand how misdiagnosis of a disease can have a disastrous effect on a patient’s health.

We are committed to helping victims of misdiagnosis obtain the compensation they need to recover and attempt to put their lives back together.

We have the resources needed to build a strong medical malpractice claim that helps improve your chances of a favorable outcome.  

Our attorneys take cases on contingency, so your initial consultation is free and there is no charge for our services unless you receive compensation.

Click here to schedule your free legal consultation right now.