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Cochran Firm Blog, Philadelphia

Misdiagnosis Malpractice Claims

When a doctor or medical professional takes the wrong course of action or lack thereof, it can lead to serious harm for the patient at hand and sometimes death. The most recent report from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reveals that the number of medical malpractice filings in the state have decreased significantly since 2002, but still over 1,500 filings were made in 2018. 

The three most common types of medical malpractice are failure to diagnose, improper treatment, and failure to warn a patient of known risks. However in this blog, we will be focusing on the failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis. 

What is a misdiagnosis?

A misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor diagnoses a patient’s illness or condition incorrectly. Often, the misdiagnosis results in the worsening of the patient’s condition and the delay of a correct diagnosis, which may be too late.

To accurately depict the severity and seriousness of misdiagnosis, let’s look at an example. A patient complains of headaches and blurry vision. The doctor responds by saying they should make sure they’re getting enough sleep and reduce their stress levels. Perhaps taking more breaks throughout the day from their computer screen will reduce the eye strain and speaking with a counselor will help with the stress. A couple of months pass by, the symptoms worsen, and the patient is eventually diagnosed with brain cancer. But it’s too late. The cancer is too aggressive. It could have been detected early if the doctor ran an MRI and a couple of other tests, but the symptoms were “not severe enough” for that type of testing at the time of the initial visit. 

Cancer is one of the top misdiagnosed conditions in the U.S. (continue reading more for the most common misdiagnosis), but it’s not the only disease with deathly outcomes that often goes undiagnosed. Just because the symptoms are not severe does not mean the cause of them is not, and every patient deserves to have no stone unturned in their diagnosis process.

Most Common Misdiagnosis

An estimated 12 million Americans are misdiagnosed each year and one in three of those cases result in death or permanent disability. As mentioned before, cancer is one of the most common conditions that go untreated due to a misdiagnosis but it’s not the only one. Other common conditions that are misdiagnosed each year include:

  • Heart Attack – A heart attack occurs when there is a loss of blood supply to the heart muscle, usually due to a blood clot. It’s often mistaken for acid reflux, panic attacks, or musculoskeletal pain.
  • Stroke – A stroke occurs when there is a sudden interruption in the blood supply to the brain. It’s often mistaken for migraines, epileptic seizures, or hyperglycemia.
  • Aortic Dissection – Aortic dissection occurs when an injury to the innermost layer of the aorta allows blood to flow between the layers of the aortic wall, forcing the layers apart. This is often mistaken for acute coronary syndrome.
  • Pulmonary Embolism – Generally caused by a blood clot, a pulmonary embolism is a blockage of the pulmonary artery, the main artery in the lung. It’s often mistaken for a heart attack or pneumonia.

Can I Sue for My Misdiagnosis?

As previously discussed, thousands of patients are misdiagnosed every year. So the big question and why you are probably reading this blog is “Can I sue my doctor for my misdiagnosis?” The first thing to look at is whether your misdiagnosis meets all the criteria for a medical malpractice claim because a misdiagnosis alone does not constitute malpractice. The four criteria for a malpractice claim are as follows.

  • Duty – For an injury suffered to be deemed malpractice, the first requirement to be met is that a doctor-patient relationship existed. When you decide to visit a doctor and they agree to treat you, they have a duty to act reasonably and treat you with a standard of care.If you believe you have been a victim of medical negligence, it is crucial to consult with a skilled personal injury attorney specializing in medical malpractice. They can provide expert guidance and help you pursue a legal claim based on the circumstances of your case.
  • Breach – An injury from malpractice is suffered because the doctor breached their duty. The doctor was negligent and did not apply the standard of care that any other doctor under the same circumstance would have.
  • Causation – For malpractice to occur, the injury must have been directly caused by the doctor’s negligence. A doctor may be negligent, but if the injury suffered was not correlated to their act of negligence you do not have a medical malpractice case.
  • Damages – Perhaps the most obvious requirement is damages. You must have suffered some sort of injury or worsened condition to have a malpractice claim. If you were misdiagnosed but didn’t suffer any damages from the treatment either, chances are your case will be denied.

If your misdiagnosis meets all of the criteria above, chances are you have a solid basis to file a claim, but you will want to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. There are special requirements and procedures for medical malpractice claims, which may include a shorter time period to file your claim, medical review panels, and notice requirements. Every state differs slightly in their requirements, so contact The Cochran Firm today to ensure the best outcome for your case.

Contact Us Today

During this time, The Cochran Firm Philadelphia is continuing to take precautionary measures amidst COVID-19, but do not fear – we are still here for you. We will work with you virtually and waste no time getting your case on track. The attorneys at our Philadelphia office have secured numerous multimillion dollar awards for victims of serious injury and many have even been recognized as Super Lawyers for their personal injury successes. When you are the victim of serious injury or illness, you deserve someone on your side who is both intimately familiar with state and federal laws, and fully devoted to helping you get maximum compensation. Call us today to schedule a FREE case evaluation at 1-800-THE-FIRM.