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Failure to Diagnose, Misdiagnosis, and Other Diagnostic Errors

Doctors reviewing films for diagnosisMedical malpractice attorneys serving all five boroughs of NYC and Long Island.

Patients in Nassau and Suffolk counties who fall victim to diagnostic errors should consider speaking with a Long Island medical malpractice lawyer at Edelman, Krasin & Jaye to understand their legal options. Recent studies have shown that the majority of medical malpractice cases against primary care physicians stem from a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis, which can result in unnecessary harm to the patient, and in some tragic cases may even prove fatal. Misdiagnosis can also occur in emergency rooms and hospitals, or even when a patient sees a specialist for treatment.

When a physician or care provider fails to diagnose cancer or any serious medical problem, that provider can be held legally liable for the consequences of delayed or incorrect treatments. However, any victim who files a misdiagnosis lawsuit on Long Island needs to be able to prove that the mistake was the direct cause of harm.

Common types of misdiagnosis

A misdiagnosis can happen any time a doctor misses signs or symptoms of a medical condition, or when lab results are botched. However, certain conditions are more likely to be misdiagnosed.

Conditions that doctors are prone to misdiagnosing include:

  • Failure to diagnose cancer, before the cancer has advanced
  • Heart attack, which is frequently mistaken for indigestion or a panic attack
  • Internal injuries or brain bleeding
  • Stroke, which is caused by a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the brain and which can lead to brain damage
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Meningitis

Studies have shown that primary care physicians are especially likely to misdiagnose heart attack, cancer, meningitis in children, appendicitis, and ectopic pregnancy. Between 26 and 63 percent of total medical malpractice claims against primary care doctors in the U.S. were based on diagnostic problems, and death was the most common consequence of these diagnostic errors.

Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose can happen for many reasons, including:

  • Failure to listen to the patient or correctly identify symptoms
  • Failure to understand the severity of symptoms
  • Mistakes in lab results
  • Failure to communicate or follow up on lab testing

ER and hospital physicians who often work under high-stress conditions may also make mistakes because they are rushed or fatigued.

Consequences of failure to diagnose

When a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis occurs, the consequences can be devastating for patients.

  • Heart Attack: A patient may be sent home from the hospital when he or she is having a heart attack, and thus could suffer permanent and severe damage to the heart that could result in death.  Around 11,000 heart attacks annually are misdiagnosed in the United States, and studies indicate heart attack misdiagnosis cases result in the highest medical malpractice payouts. These studies reveal a median jury verdict in heart attack misdiagnosis lawsuits of $941,000.
  • Stroke: For stroke victims, prompt treatment is essential to preserve brain cells and reduce the risk of permanent and pervasive damage to the brain. If a stroke victim is not treated within 48 to 72 hours of the onset of symptoms, there is no further medical intervention that will alleviate symptoms or provide an improved outcome for the patient.
  • Cancer: Many cancers have cure rates as high as 90 percent or greater if diagnosed early. If the cancer has progressed, however, patients may have a less than 10 percent chance of cure.

Even if a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose does not lead to fatalities or to serious and permanent injuries, it can still have serious consequences for patients. Victims of diagnostic mistakes might require additional medical treatment at increased cost and loss of quality of life.

Additional damages that might be sought in a misdiagnosis lawsuit include lost wages, loss of capacity to earn wages, physical and emotional suffering, loss of spousal consortium, and fear of further injury or death.

Compensation for diagnostic errors

In the wake of a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, patients or surviving family members may be eligible to pursue compensation from the provider responsible for making the error by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

In cases involving a failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis, the patient must prove:

  • The provider owed him/her a legal duty. If a patient visits a doctor, hospital or clinic and the doctor sees that patient, then the care provider has a legal obligation to be professional in diagnosing conditions.
  • The provider failed to live up to this obligation. To show that the provider failed in his obligation, the patient must prove that a reasonable healthcare provider with the same background in the same situation would have made a correct diagnosis.
  • The failure was a direct cause of harm. It is not uncommon for physicians to argue that a patient would have experienced the same outcome even if a correct diagnosis had been made in a timely manner. A patient will need medical experts to testify about why this is not the case and about the harm resulting from the doctor’s mistake.
  • Actual losses were suffered. A physician who makes a diagnostic error must compensate the plaintiff for resulting medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages.

Long Island medical malpractice attorneys

Misdiagnosis cases can be complicated, but the New York law firm of Edelman, Krasin & Jaye can help. Our attorneys have decades of experience procuring substantial malpractice settlements and jury awards for our clients.

If you or a loved one has experienced harm do a doctor’s misdiagnosis in New York City or Long Island, contact our personal injury lawyers today online or via phone at 516-742-9200 to schedule a free consultation and have your case evaluated by a member of our legal team.