Is Misdiagnosis Considered Malpractice?

When you seek medical treatment, you expect that the professional you see will help you get better. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Approximately 5% of adult patients are misdiagnosed in the United States, which translates to 12 million individuals each year.

Misdiagnosis on its own may not constitute malpractice, but it could fall under this definition depending on the circumstances. If a doctor did not diagnose you or a loved one correctly, you may be entitled to compensation.

What is Misdiagnosis?

A misdiagnosis occurs when a medical professional either does not correctly diagnose a health issue or fails to diagnose an issue at all. This can lead to a delay in treatment or the administration of incorrect treatment.

Types of diagnostic errors include:

  • Incorrect diagnosis is when the health care professional identifies the illness or injury incorrectly. One example is diagnosing a patient with a gastric problem when they are actually having a heart attack.
  • Delayed diagnosis is when the doctor does eventually correctly diagnose the issue, but this occurs after a significant delay.
  • Missed diagnosis is when the professional does not identify any medical issue, when one does in fact exist.

Commonly misdiagnosed conditions include:

  • Heart attack
  • Cancer
  • Lupus
  • Asthma
  • Lyme Disease

What is Malpractice?

To understand when misdiagnosis could be considered malpractice, it’s important to understand what exactly malpractice is. This definition applies when a health care professional’s actions fall short of the acceptable standard of care.

When Is Misdiagnosis Malpractice?

Malpractice is a form of negligence. All the factors that must apply to prove negligence in other personal injury cases are relevant for medical malpractice.

These are:

  1.  Duty of Care: The medical professional must have owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, such as if the plaintiff was a patient.
  2. Breach of Duty of Care: The medical professional did not act in a way that was consistent with the standard of care. In the case of misdiagnosis, it is necessary to demonstrate that a competent medical professional would not make the same error in the same circumstances. This is often the central question in a misdiagnosis lawsuit.
  3. Proximate Cause: The misdiagnosis must have directly caused the plaintiff’s injury. An example of when this might be relevant is if there was an intervening cause, which is an event between the negligent act and the injury.
  4. Damages: The misdiagnosis must have resulted in some form of damages. These can include costs for incorrect treatment, pain and suffering, lost wages due to disability, wrongful death, et cetera.

Not every misdiagnosis will include the above elements and if not, it is not considered malpractice. In order to prove malpractice occurred, your lawyer will work with expert witnesses and will have to demonstrate that all the elements of negligence were present.

Skilled Malpractice Lawyers in Tucson

If you or a loved one were a victim of a medical error, you may have grounds for a malpractice lawsuit. Our skilled attorneys can examine the facts of your case and help you determine how to move forward. We’ll fight for you so you can focus on healing.

If you were misdiagnosed by a medical professional, contact us today for a free consultation.
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