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Can You Sue A Doctor for Misdiagnosis?

Yes, you have the option to sue a doctor for misdiagnosis if you can demonstrate negligence, causation, and damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Successful cases require proving that the doctor’s failure to meet the standard of care directly led to harm, allowing you to seek legal action for the misdiagnosis.

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A medical misdiagnosis can have devastating effects, including the lack of necessary treatment for your condition, unnecessary treatment for a condition you do not have, disease progression, continued pain, and even death.

A 2022 study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that as many as 7.4 million emergency room patients in the United States are misdiagnosed every year. This is in addition to the millions of misdiagnoses that occur in doctors’ offices and hospital departments outside the emergency room.

When you go to the doctor, you have a right to expect the doctor to exercise competence and sound clinical judgment. A doctor’s failure to correctly diagnose your condition may result from medical negligence.

Patients trust their doctors with their lives, and a doctor has a solemn duty to take that responsibility seriously by properly investigating symptoms. At Levin & Perconti, our medical malpractice lawyers are committed to holding doctors accountable when they violate that sacred trust.

What Is Considered a Misdiagnosis?

A misdiagnosis is a diagnostic error or a missed diagnosis. It can occur in the following forms:

Is Misdiagnosis Considered Medical Malpractice?

Misdiagnosis by itself does not constitute medical malpractice. Some health conditions are so difficult to diagnose that a misdiagnosis could happen without negligence.

Misdiagnosis may be a form of medical malpractice if all of the following elements are present:

  1. You have established a doctor-patient relationship, which imposes a duty of care on the doctor.
  2. The misdiagnosis stemmed from a doctor’s failure to provide a reasonable standard of care, defined as the steps a prudent and competent doctor with similar skills and training would have taken based on the information available at the time of the diagnosis.
  3. The misdiagnosis resulted in an injury that would not have occurred had the doctor correctly and timely diagnosed the medical condition.
  4. The misdiagnosis—and not something else—is the primary cause of your injury.
Hospital doctor

What Are the Consequences of a Misdiagnosis?

A medical misdiagnosis can cause severe physical harm and emotional distress. The consequences of a misdiagnosis may severely impair your quality of life. It can lead to long-term disability and even death. The following are just a few examples of the impact of a misdiagnosis:

  • Not receiving the treatment you need
  • Worsening of your symptoms
  • Deterioration of your health
  • Lack of sufficient pain management
  • Unnecessary surgery
  • Unnecessary medications, some of which may have risky side effects
  • Unnecessary high-risk treatments, such as chemotherapy
  • Frustration
  • Humiliation
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of treatment options when the real condition is diagnosed
  • The need for more invasive treatment when the real condition is diagnosed
  • Permanent disability
  • Death

How Common Are Diagnostic Errors?

According to a study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 patients die yearly due to misdiagnosed health conditions. The same researchers estimated that an additional 80,000 to 160,000 patients experience non-fatal harm from misdiagnosis. 

According to the study, 85.7 percent of misdiagnoses were caused by errors in clinical judgment. 

The following conditions are the most commonly misdiagnosed:

The most commonly misdiagnosed cancers include the following:

Doctors during surgery

Factors that Affect the Outcome of a Case

The most important factors affecting the outcome of your case include the following:

  • The strength of the evidence that your doctor’s actions violated the reasonable standard of care
  • The short- and long-term effects of your injuries
  • The number and identity of all liable parties
  • The law firm you choose to represent you

Proving medical malpractice requires a thorough understanding of medical malpractice legalities, medical terminology and practice, and the standard of care. In most cases, you need reliable medical experts to establish the doctor’s liability. 

Additional expert witnesses may be required to assess the long-term effects of your injuries, such as the extent of any resulting disabilities, necessary ongoing medical care, and changes to your life expectancy. A thorough analysis of the financial impacts will also be necessary, including calculations of your projected future medical expenses and lifetime lost wages.

What to Look for in a Medical Malpractice Law Firm

When choosing a medical malpractice lawyer, you will need a lawyer that is part of a law firm that is large enough and successful enough to afford these resources. Our firm can provide these resources and skilled representation with no upfront costs to you. This ensures that you have access to justice regardless of your financial status. 

You will need a legal team with experience handling medical malpractice cases. Our lawyers have more than 200 years of combined experience, and our law firm has won more than a billion dollars in settlements and verdicts since our establishment in 1992. 

Our success is widely acknowledged in the legal, medical, and insurance communities. This gives us an edge in settlement negotiations and helps us recover outstanding results for our clients. The initial consultation is free whether or not you choose to move forward with us.

How to Prepare for a Misdiagnosis Lawsuit

When preparing for a misdiagnosis lawsuit, the following steps can ensure you recover the maximum compensation you deserve:

  1. Follow through with all recommended medical tests and treatments. This will demonstrate due diligence on your part.
  2. Retain an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.
  3. Avoid talking to the insurance company on your own. If you are pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is likely your first time. The insurance company has extensive experience minimizing compensation. Agents could use your statements against you. If you hear from the insurance company, direct the representative to your lawyer without further comment.
  4. Do not sign any documents from the doctor’s insurance company or the hospital without an attorney present.

Can You Sue a Hospital for Misdiagnosis?

Any licensed health care provider who contributed to your misdiagnosis may be held liable, meaning you can sue a hospital for misdiagnosis in many cases. A hospital may be liable for its negligence or that of its employees. 

If a doctor is an independent contractor, the hospital generally cannot be held liable for the doctor’s actions. However, a hospital can be held liable for the actions of employees who contributed to the misdiagnosis, even if the hospital was not negligent. This is known as vicarious liability.  

The following health care providers are often hospital employees:

  • Nurses 
  • Laboratory technicians
  • Radiologists
  • Medical technicians
  • Some emergency room doctors

Hospitals may also be liable for negligence, requiring the same four elements that apply to doctors. If a hospital breaches its duty to provide a reasonable standard of care, and that breach results in harm, you may have a negligence case. Hospital negligence may stem from the following:

  • Faulty diagnostic equipment
  • Inadequate communication procedures
  • Understaffing
  • Negligent hiring
  • Knowingly allowing a doctor with a poor track record to have privileges

What Should I Do If I Think I Have Been Misdiagnosed?

If you disagree with your diagnosis or your symptoms are not improving, you have the right to seek a second opinion, and you should. In a medical malpractice case, this will demonstrate to the court that you have acted with due diligence to mitigate your damages. This also helps prove that even with your best efforts, you could not avoid harm from the misdiagnosis.

If you have suffered harm from a misdiagnosis, you should speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Contacting Levin & Perconti during the earliest stages of your case allows us to start protecting your interests as soon as possible. 

It will also ensure that we have sufficient time to investigate and prepare your case ahead of the Illinois medical malpractice statute of limitations, which is just two years from the date you were injured or discovered your injury. The statute of limitations has some complexities, so contacting an attorney as soon as possible is important. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Misdiagnosis Lawsuits

Below are answers to questions we frequently receive about misdiagnosis lawsuits.

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Following a doctor’s recommendations is a reasonable response to a diagnosis. As a patient, you are not expected to be the expert. The very essence of a medical malpractice case is as follows:

  • You rightfully relied on a doctor’s expertise to restore health.
  • The doctor failed to provide care according to reasonable standards.
  • You consequently suffered harm.

Compensation for medical malpractice can be substantial. In Illinois, you may seek to recover economic and non-economic damages in a misdiagnosis lawsuit.

Economic damages are compensation for documented monetary losses, including the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Anticipated medical expenses throughout your lifetime
  • Anticipated lost wages throughout your lifetime

Non-economic are compensation for subjective, harder-to-quantify losses, such as the following:

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Loss of society
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium, or the benefit of a relationship, by a spouse

You may be able to recover substantial economic and non-economic damages for the tragic loss of a family member due to misdiagnosis, including the following:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Lost income of your family member
  • Loss of companionship
  • Your loved one’s pain and suffering
  • Grief and suffering of the family
  • Loss of comfort, support, and guidance

The compensation you can recover will depend on the extent of your injuries, the evidence against the doctor, and multiple individual details. Below are a few examples of our misdiagnosis case results:

  • $14 million record verdict against a doctor and hospital for ignoring an abnormal chest X-ray, resulting in a substantial delay in diagnosing lung cancer
  • $12 million record verdict for the death of a woman from misdiagnosed lung cancer three years after abnormal chest X-ray results that were never disclosed to her
  • $8.1 million wrongful death verdict for a family whose mother died from undiagnosed lung cancer
  • $5.77 million against the Veterans Administration physician as a result of a woman becoming paralyzed after the physician failed to diagnose spinal cord compression
  • $5.35 million wrongful death settlement with a hospital over the failure to diagnose postpartum cardiomyopathy in an 18-year-old mother a month after giving birth
  • $2.3 million settlement over a laboratory’s failure to read pap smears correctly, resulting in the death of a 35-year-old mother of three from cervical cancer
  • $2.25 million wrongful death settlement for failure to diagnose an infection in a five-year-old boy who developed septic shock after surviving a bone marrow transplant
  • $2 million settlement involving two chiropractors and an internist who failed to diagnose cervical stenosis and narrowing of the upper spine, causing a 45-year-old optician’s permanent loss of sensation and disability 

We have represented clients with nearly every type of misdiagnosis, whether the misdiagnosis was a failure to diagnose, an incorrect diagnosis, or a delayed one. Cases we have handled include the following: