Compensation May Be Possible for a Delayed or Missed Diagnosis in the ER

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“Most people will experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences.” This worrisome statement is taken from a report written by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in an effort to shed light on the pervasive problem of a delayed or missed diagnosis prevalent in our health care system. Indeed, preventing diagnostic errors is a serious national public health concern, and helping families recover from the devastating effects of a delayed or missed diagnosis is our top priority at Weltchek, Mallahan, and Weltchek. If you or a member of your family has suffered physical, financial, or emotional damage as the result of a missed diagnosis, we can help you hold the responsible party responsible.

A Delayed or Late Diagnosis Can Be Life-Changing

There are distinct differences between a missed diagnosis, failure to diagnose, and failure to treat.   A delayed diagnosis is a complex and challenging situation. In actuality, the patient may initially be unaware of this scenario and the repercussions. While waiting for the physician to find the correct diagnosis it is possible to have been subject to unnecessary tests, pain, and expense. Any delay in treatment can have devastating effects. Cancer can spread quickly if not caught in a timely manner. Additionally, irreparable damage occurs when a heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, or aortic dissection goes untreated.

The Standard of Care in an Emergency Room

No law requires a physician to guarantee results. Emergency medicine was not recognized as a specialty until 1972. These doctors receive specific training to provide urgent and emergency care, requiring a definitive diagnosis of emergent conditions. Indeed, they have a plethora of diagnostic technology at their disposal, and it is reasonable to expect, as a standard of care, for an emergency room doctor to have the skills and training to diagnose and manage acute and urgent illness and injury. Any deviation may be considered negligent behavior, and medical negligence is compensable.

Malpractice in the Emergency Room After a Missed Diagnosis

An overwhelmed healthcare system, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, leads to poor patient assessments, communication failure, and human error. Staffing shortages, elevated stress levels, and staff fatigue compromise patient safety. Some common issues include a failure to:
  • Admit a patient for treatment
  • Order necessary radiological scans or lab tests
  • Diagnose and treat life-threatening conditions in a timely manner
This missed diagnosis and failure can result in:
  • Permanent damage from a heart attack or stroke
  • Infection (sepsis), pulmonary embolism

The Pervasiveness of Diagnostic Errors

An article was written In February 2020 and published in  Healthline, stating12 million of us are affected by diagnostic errors each year in the United States, and an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 people die each year from complications of a misdiagnosis. Some causes for diagnostic errors are:
  • Scans read by a general radiologist vs subspecialties
  • Ordering the wrong test
  • Failure to order follow-up tests
  • Lastly, errors in diagnostic test interpretations
Of the diagnostic errors causing the most harm, 74.1% were attributed to just three categories—referred to in the paper as “The Big Three”: cancer (37.8%), vascular events (22.8%), and infection (13.5%). (article published in FIERCE Healthcare)

The Failure to Diagnose Health Issues Early Can Lead to More Serious Complications

Incorrect or delayed diagnosis in an emergency room setting can ultimately be a fatal mistake. Failure to properly identify a serious medical condition can potentially cause an illness to exacerbate to the point where effective treatment is not possible. Further, a patient who feels the scope of the treatment they received in the ER made their condition worse may have a viable medical malpractice claim for delayed diagnosis. This is possible when the:
  • Delay resulted in a worsening of the initial problem
  • Patient developed complications as a result of the missed diagnosis
  • Delay resulted in an increased risk of death
  • Patient ultimately had unnecessary and painful treatments or procedures
  • Lastly, patient exposed to harmful effects of radiation or chemotherapy

Proving Emergency Room Malpractice After a Missed Diagnosis

Mid adult nurse helps a senior man fill out a medical form after a missed diagnosis

Mid adult nurse helps a senior man fill out a medical form.

Establishing a malpractice claim is much more complicated than showing a failure to adhere to an acceptable standard of care. Malpractice requires more than a doctor’s services falling below a standard of care. Our legal team will leverage our combined experience to show:
  • An established doctor-patient relationship
  • Unmet standard of care
  • Negligence resulted in harm
  • Lastly, the injuries as a result of the negligence are relevant

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act Gives Patients a Measure of Protection

In 1986, Congress enacted the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) requiring Medicare-participating hospitals to provide emergency treatment regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. This allows for:
  • A medical screening exam
  • Timely consultation, treatment, and hospitalization if appropriate
  • Lastly, a transfer to an appropriate facility
A physician may not suspend care to a patient once it is initiated, and facilities are required to report non-compliance by hospitals or physicians.

The Benefits of Consulting Medical Malpractice Lawyers Like Weltchek, Mallahan, and Weltchek After a Missed Diagnosis

Compensation is possible for a delayed diagnosis, a missed diagnosis, or a failure to diagnose. If you or a member of your family have been affected by the negligence of an emergency room staff member our team of expert medical negligence lawyers can help you determine if a lawsuit is possible. We specialize in those legal claims resulting from an unnecessary delay in diagnosing an illness. Further, we know that any delay can result in devastating consequences. Our firm has a reputation for taking on complex cases, and we have won over $6 million in verdicts and settlements for our clients. Indeed, we succeed where others have failed, and we stand ready to take on large medical facilities and insurance carriers. Call 410-941-3416 for a free medical malpractice consultation

Who Can You Trust with Your Case?

Have you or a loved one been injured due to negligence? We want to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you believe you have a case; time is an important factor. Interested in learning more? Get in touch with us so we can better evaluate and serve your needs in getting the justice your loved one deserves. You may very well be entitled to compensation.


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