Medical Misdiagnosis and Failure to Diagnose

Posted in: Medical Misdiagnosis | Feb 13,2023

The road to recovery for anyone sick or injured begins with a diagnosis from their doctor. Identifying the condition (or injury source) causing a patient’s pain and/or other symptoms is critical. Their diagnosis becomes an essential foundation from which proper treatment begins. If a doctor fails to assess a patient correctly, that misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, or delay in diagnoses can be detrimental or even fatal. 

To make a diagnosis, a doctor must consider the symptoms, the patient’s medical history, and other environmental factors that may affect their health. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis errors occur far too frequently. According to the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM), misdiagnosis cases affect 12 million Americans yearly and lead to an estimated $100 billion or more wasted annually. 

Causes: Why Does Misdiagnosis Occur?

The diagnostic process is complex, and there are numerous ways a medical misdiagnosis can occur. Common causes of misdiagnosis, false diagnosis, or delayed diagnosis can include:

  • Overlooking a patient’s symptoms or complaints
  • Misjudging the severity of the patient’s condition
  • Failing to order necessary testing
  • Misreading or not accurately interpreting diagnostic scans and imagery
  • Failing to adequately consider the patient’s medical or family history
  • Not referring the patient to a proper specialist
  • Failing to communicate with the patient or other healthcare professionals

Consequences: Can You Sue a Doctor for Failure to Diagnose?

A false diagnosis or missed diagnosis can be highly damaging or even fatal. When the diagnostic process doesn’t result in a correct diagnosis, patients are unlikely to receive the appropriate and timely treatment needed for recovery. 

It is important to know that a patient’s primary physician is not the only individual who can be held responsible for complications resulting from a misdiagnosis case. Medical professionals, including radiologists, diagnostic imaging technicians, oncologists, surgeons, and other staff accountable for the patient’s care, may be liable for medical misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a serious condition. 

For example, cancer is among the most common and severe conditions regularly misdiagnosed. When detected early, many forms of cancer can be treated effectively, and patients can fully recover. But if certain cancers are misdiagnosed, undetected, and untreated, they can quickly advance and spread. The wrong diagnosis by a doctor can lead to a drastically different patient outcome. Initially non-life-threatening conditions can become deadly if left undiagnosed and untreated. 

In other cases, patients who receive a false diagnosis can suffer harm by undergoing unnecessary treatment that can adversely affect their immune system or cause unnecessary pain. They may feel an additional financial burden from paying for expensive treatments that they never needed. Meanwhile, the true source of their symptoms goes unaddressed. 

Is Misdiagnosis Medical Malpractice?

Strictly speaking, an incorrect or missed diagnosis is not in and of itself medical malpractice. Sometimes, doctors and medical professionals do everything they should with the information they have, and mistakes still happen. 

However, if a doctor or healthcare professional fails to uphold the standards of their profession or they acted with negligence, you may have a case for medical malpractice. 

The “standard of care” refers to the type and level of care that a medical professional in the same field with similar training would and should have administered under the given circumstances. 

The best way to determine if your misdiagnosis case constitutes malpractice is to speak with an experienced attorney capable of navigating the complexities of medical malpractice law.

How to Succeed in a Misdiagnosis Claim

Indiana law dictates that any patient wishing to file a medical malpractice claim must follow a specific set of procedures. Similar to many other forms of medical negligence and malpractice lawsuits, misdiagnosis cases are not always easy to prove and should be acted upon swiftly. The statute of limitations in Indiana is generally two years from the date the malpractice occurred.

The Indiana Medical Malpractice Act requires any individual wishing to pursue legal action to first file a proposed medical malpractice complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance. A medical review panel formed by the defendant and the plaintiff will then review the details of the proposed claim. If the panel determines that the claim can move forward, then the plaintiff may bring their claim to court. 

In order for a medical malpractice claim to succeed, one must prove that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. In medical malpractice cases, this means that an established doctor-patient relationship exists. One must also prove that the medical professional failed to uphold their standard of care, that the patient suffered injury or illness as a result of that failure, and that the patient suffered damages as a result.

This process can be complicated and challenging, with many cases taking more than one year or longer to reach a resolution. This is why it is crucial to have a knowledgeable, experienced, capable, and compassionate law firm on your side. 

Trust Montross Miller’s Misdiagnosis and Malpractice Lawyers

If you or a loved one experience undue suffering and medical complications because of a misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose, you are not alone. The attorneys at Montross Miller have decades of experience helping patients in similar positions. With deep legal and medical expertise, Montross Miller has a unique capability to tackle complex misdiagnosis and malpractice lawsuits. Schedule a complimentary and confidential case evaluation to receive answers to your questions, get clarity on your case, and begin the journey toward justice and recovery.