ERNST & YOUNG
Failure to diagnose is the number one reason patients sue doctors for medical malpractice. After all, the most common result of this type of error is death, with cancer and heart attacks being some of the most frequently missed health conditions.
Are you curious about what failure to diagnose is, and how you can receive compensation after you or a loved one did not receive the proper diagnosis? Here are some answers to the questions you might have about failure to diagnose.
What is Failure to Diagnose?
When patients go to the doctor, they expect prompt treatment for their health conditions. When a doctor fails to diagnose, the patient doesn't get the treatment he or she needs, which can cause serious injurt or death. That's why so many medical malpractice cases revolve around failure to diagnose, as this mistake can be fatal for so many people.
The following issues could lead to a failure to diagnose case:
- A doctor fails to test for a possible medical condition.
- A doctor or other medical practitioner conducts the test incorrectly.
- A doctor interprets the test results wrong.
- A doctor fails to realize the urgency of the medical condition.
In some cases, a doctor might fail to diagnose an issue during pregnancy or birth. Some examples of this include:
- Failure to detect fetal distress
- Failure to run common tests and screenings during pregnancy
- Failure to notice or monitor infections, preeclampsia and other conditions in the mother during pregnancy
- Failure to review the medical history of the mother
- Failure to realize the fetus is too large or in the wrong position for a normal delivery.
Any of these might lead to a failure to diagnose as quickly and accurately as possible. If this error leads to improper medical treatment, delayed medical treatment or no medical treatment at all, there's a chance the condition will get worse. If you can prove this is what occurred, causing the patient to face further medical complications or even pass away, you might have a failure to diagnose case.
Failure to Diagnose Compensation
If you're considering bringing a failure to diagnose suit against a medical practitioner or hospital, it's a good idea to know what kind of damages you may be awarded. Keep in mind that the compensation available to you can vary based on the facts of your case. But in general, they may include:
- Medical bills incurred as a result of the failure to diagnose
- Death-related costs, including funeral expenses
- Lost wages from missing work
- Other costs for damages from failure to diagnose, including punitive damages
These types of compensation might not make the patient well again, but they can ensure the patient and/or his or her loved ones are not financially harmed by the doctor's failure to diagnose. So if you're interested in finding out what compensation may be available to you, it's important to talk to a lawyer who will work with you to begin proving your case.
Proving Failure to Diagnose
In order to prove that the doctor failed to diagnose, you must show proof of a few elements of the case. First, you need to show there was a doctor-patient relationship. This means the patient didn't just talk to someone who was a friend who happened to be a doctor. The doctor needs to have been the patient's doctor.
You also need to show the doctor was negligent in the standard of care he or she provided. In general, this means the doctor did everything possible to provide proper treatment. So if the doctor ignored symptoms or refused to run any tests, or simply waited too long to take any action, he or she did not provide an acceptable standard of care.
Finally, you need to show that the doctor's actions--or lack of actions--caused further medical problems or even death for the patient. This is because some conditions would result in serious injury or death regardless of treatment, so it's imperative that you show that the condition only worsened due to the doctor's failure to diagnose. This is where an experienced lawyer comes in, as he or she can help you prove this crucial element in the case.
Burden of Proof
As you can see, proving these three major elements in a failure to diagnose case requires a certain burden of proof. Granted, since this is a civil suit, you'll find that the burden of proof is easier to fulfill than with a criminal case. You just need to show that it's more than likely that the medical practitioner caused further injury or death to the patient due to the failure to diagnose. On the other hand, with a criminal case, the defendant would be innocent until proven guilty, in which case you'd need to prove that he or she was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
That being said, in rare cases, a failure to diagnose lawsuit could result in criminal charges. In fact, you can bring both a civil and criminal lawsuit against a medical practitioner if you and your lawyer agree that the case warrants this course of action. Just note that a civil suit can only lead to financial compensation, not jail time or other penalties like a criminal case would.
Don't Wait to File a Lawsuit for Failure to Diagnose
Failure to diagnose cases come with a statute of limitations that varies by state. In Maryland, you have to file the suit within five years from the time the medical problem worsened or death occurred, or three years after you discovered the issue--whichever one comes first. So you don't want to wait too long to initiate your case, which is why you should contact our office as soon as you realize the doctor may have failed to diagnose a medical problem.
Who Can You Trust with Your Medical Malpractice Case?
If you're not an expert on the laws surrounding medical malpractice, you need to talk to someone who is. At Weltchek, Mallahan, & Weltchek, we've been providing legal assistance to clients for years, attaining more than $600 million in settlements and verdicts during that time. So if you have any reason to believe you might have a failure to diagnose case, please contact us for a consultation to discuss your options today.