Health

Can you sue your doctor for a misdiagnosis?

Can you sue your doctor for a misdiagnosis?

If your doctor misdiagnosed your illness or illness, you may be wondering if you can sue for a misdiagnosis. The answer to this question is complicated.

In Florida, a misdiagnosis is not enough in itself for medical malpractice. Many factors must be in place for your case to succeed.

A lawyer in charge of the law practices of a firm can evaluate your application to determine if you have a case. We will analyze the details of your particular situation to ensure that all the elements necessary for malpractice cases are in place.

 What factors must be in place? 

An error of your health professional does not necessarily mean that you have a case of malpractice on your hands. It must be proven that your doctor has not complied with the “standards of care” required by the state of Florida and that his mistake has directly caused a deterioration of your health.

 Below are the four factors that must be in place for you to sue your doctor for a misdiagnosis:

  • You must prove that there was a doctor-patient professional relationship between you and your health care provider.

  • There must have been some failure in the standards of care that your doctor has provided you, which is a violation of the doctor-patient contract.

  • You must prove that because of your doctor’s mistake, you have suffered a medical injury.

  • The damage must result from the medical damage you have suffered due to the negligence of your doctor.

 For example, your doctor may not have diagnosed cancer. While you were being treated for something else, you lost precious time on cancer treatment, which put your health at risk.

If a physician fails to make an accurate and timely diagnosis of a critical illness, patients can seek legal redress by filing an action for malpractice. A key question in this type of case is whether the doctor has breached the “standard of medical diligence” applicable in the circumstances. In other words, would a doctor who had been following similar training in the same medical community have detected the health problem?

In the sections that follow, we will discuss some common misdiagnosis scenarios and illustrate how a case of medical malpractice could unfold.

 Common types of erroneous diagnosis

 Although there are many potential diagnostic error scenarios, diseases, and other health problems, the most common types of diagnostic errors are:

  • Asthma (may be mistaken for recurrent bronchitis)

  • Cancer (misdiagnosis can lead to painful, debilitating and unnecessary treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy)

  • Heart attack (may be confused with indigestion, panic attack or other problem)

  • Inflammation of the lymph nodes (may be confused with appendicitis)

  • Staphylococcal infection (can be misdiagnosed as the common flu)

  • Stroke (may be considered a migraine or other relatively minor problem, especially in younger patients)

 Generally, a case of misdiagnosis involves late diagnosis or poor management of diagnostic tests.

A misdiagnosis may also involve:

  • Failure to detect a particular medical condition

  • Failure to refer a patient to a specialist

  • Misinterpretation of laboratory test results

  • Failure to properly consult the patient regarding his symptoms, and

  • Failure to provide adequate follow-up and to investigate potential causes of reported symptoms.

 Medical prosecution for misdiagnosis 

With respect to misdiagnosis proceedings, complainants must follow the same steps to prove medical malpractice as in any other type of case. It must be shown that, in the absence of a clear diagnosis of a prejudicial health problem, the physician has not demonstrated the level of competence that such a skilled and experienced physician would have demonstrated in the circumstances.

It must also be shown that the sub-standard care provided by the doctor has harmed the patient.

 Who can be sued? 

In most cases, only the doctor (your doctor) can be prosecuted for misdiagnosis. In rare cases, other health professionals may also be held liable if their negligence has caused or contributed to the harm of the patient – including nurses, laboratory technicians and any specialist who may have seen the patient. The hospital or health facility where the doctor practices can usually not be sued for harm caused by a misdiagnosis. This is because most doctors are independent contractors and not employees of the hospital. The establishment cannot be held legally responsible for the negligence of the latter.

 Showing harm to the patient 

It is not enough to show that the doctor has failed to make the correct diagnosis. A case of medical malpractice will only succeed if it is shown that the erroneous diagnosis caused harm to the patient. An erroneous or delayed diagnosis can cause harm to the patient in many ways, including:

  • Expose the patient to more aggressive treatment that would have been required had the disease or condition been diagnosed earlier

  • Unnecessarily exposing the patient to harmful treatments (such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy)

  • Perform unnecessary surgical procedures (especially when scarring or disfigurement results)

  • Increased risk of complications, and

  • Increased risk of death.

The statute of limitations in a case of misdiagnosis 

Finally, in any medical malpractice case – in any type of legal proceeding – complainants must be aware of the time limits for going to court and initiating the prosecution process. You must file the original document (the complaint) within a certain time after suffering the harm that led to the lawsuit. Because these time limits are set by state laws, they are called “statutes of limitations.” In some jurisdictions, the statute of limitations may not begin to run until the discovery of the injury. For example, in California, a patient has three years to bring an action for malpractice after the injury or one year after discovery (whichever comes first).

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