Filing a Lawsuit for Misdiagnosis: The Basics

Filing a Lawsuit for Misdiagnosis: The Basics

Posted By Maher Law Firm || 28-Apr-2017

Many medical malpractice lawsuits derive from the misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of an injury, illness, or another type of medical condition. When a doctor’s diagnosis error results in incorrect treatment, delayed treatment, or no treatment whatsoever, a patient’s condition can worsen to possibly fatal proportions.

However, misdiagnosis or a diagnosis error on its own is not enough to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. The law does not hold doctors legally liable for all diagnostic errors.

Rather, patients typically need to prove the following three things in order to prevail in a medical malpractice lawsuit based on a misdiagnosis:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed
  • The doctor was negligent and did not provide treatment in a reasonably competent and skillful manner
  • The doctor’s negligence caused actual injury to the patient

Proving Negligence

The key to determining whether the doctor acted competently, which involves looking at the “differential diagnosis” method the doctor used in making decisions about treatments. It is a systematic method used by doctors to identify a condition or disease in a patient, where the doctor makes a list of diagnoses in order of probability. The doctor then tests the strength or each diagnosis by making further medical observations of the patient, asking questions regarding symptoms and medical history, ordering tests, or referring the patients to specialists.

Ideally, various potential diagnoses will be ruled out as the investigation progresses, and only one diagnosis will remain at the conclusion of the process. However, that is not always the case. In many cases, the doctor will find out new information which will result in adding to the differential diagnostic list.

When it comes to a diagnostic error during the differential diagnosis, the patient must prove that the doctor:

  • Did not include the correct diagnosis on the differential diagnosis list, and a reasonably skillful and competent doctor under similar circumstances would have.
  • Included the correct diagnosis on the differential diagnosis list, but failed to perform appropriate tests or seek opinions from specialists.

Diagnostic Test Errors

Sometimes a doctor fails to diagnose a condition correctly due to an inaccurate test result. This can occur if the diagnostic equipment was faulty or if human error occurred. While a doctor may not be liable for medical malpractice under these circumstances, another person might be to blame, such as the technician or manufacturer of the device.

For more information, contact our Orlando personal injury attorney at The Maher Law Firm today.

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