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Understanding Misdiagnosis and Failure to Diagnose

Colburn Law

We go to the doctor to get answers about our health and receive the care that we need. However, when a doctor makes a careless mistake while diagnosing a patient, serious injuries and illnesses can occur.

Misdiagnosis is a very common form of medical malpractice, which occurs when a healthcare professional harms a patient through negligence. If you were injured as a result of a misdiagnosis, you may be eligible for legal action.

Understanding Misdiagnosis & Medical Malpractice

What Is Medical Malpractice?

All healthcare professionals have a duty to provide a certain standard of care to the patients that they treat. Generally, a doctor’s actions cannot deviate from what a similarly trained and reasonable physician would do under the same circumstances.

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor breaches this duty of care through negligence and causes harm to a patient. The patient can suffer an injury, develop a new condition, or experience a worsening illness as the result of the doctor’s actions. Prescription errors, surgical mistakes, and misinterpreted lab results are examples of medical malpractice.

When a Misdiagnosis Becomes Medical Malpractice

Sometimes, a doctor makes a mistake while assessing a patient, resulting in an incorrect diagnosis. If a patient does not receive proper care, the condition can worsen, leading to potentially life-threatening complications.

A misdiagnosis becomes medical malpractice if you are injured or develop an illness because a doctor failed to correctly diagnose your condition. Generally, your claim must involve the following four elements to qualify as malpractice.

  • The doctor owed you a duty of care and treated you in a formal capacity.
  • The doctor breached his or her duty of care by failing to correctly diagnose your condition.
  • The misdiagnosis caused your injuries or worsening illness.
  • You sustained damages, such as additional medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

For example, say you visit a doctor with chest pains and shortness of breath. These are common symptoms of a heart attack, and a reasonable and similarly trained physician would likely recommend tests to rule out the condition. However, your doctor fails to order these tests and diagnose you with anxiety. You later collapse from a heart attack at home.

The doctor breached his or her duty of care by failing to order the proper tests and correctly diagnose your condition. If he or she had correctly diagnosed your condition, you would have received the care that you needed faster and avoided the complications that you experienced. As a result, the doctor would be liable for your damages due to the misdiagnosis.

When a Misdiagnosis Is Not Medical Malpractice

Not all cases of misdiagnosis qualify as medical malpractice. For example, if you have a very rare condition that mimics common symptoms, it can be very difficult for a physician to make an accurate diagnosis.

If a similarly trained doctor would not be able to identify the condition, you may not be able to file a claim against the physician who misdiagnosed you. In these situations, it is important to speak with a Bellevue medical malpractice lawyer to determine your case eligibility.

Filing a Washington Medical Malpractice Claim

Victims of misdiagnosis may be eligible for financial compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit. If you were injured by a healthcare provider, you need an attorney to represent your case and fight for your right to maximum recovery.

As soon as possible following the misdiagnosis, contact a lawyer to discuss your legal options and strategize your next steps.