Medical Malpractice/Failure to Diagnose in New York & New Jersey
One of the most important aspects of effective medical care is the prompt and accurate diagnosis of injuries and illnesses. A competent doctor should be able to identify the symptoms and warning signs of life-threatening diseases so that they are able to provide an accurate diagnosis as early as possible.
For a lot of illnesses, the number of treatment options and their chances of success hinge on the disease being detected and diagnosed early on. A misdiagnosis or mismanaged diagnostic test often results in delayed treatment and a worsened condition.
If you or a family member has been injured or had an injury made worse due to negligent medical care, we urge you to make sure that you know your rights by talking to a New York or New Jersey medical malpractice attorney.
Physician Failure To Diagnose Leads To Serious Medical Injuries
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, between 10% and 20% of Americans will be affected by instances of incorrect, missed, and delayed diagnosis. A delayed diagnosis could result in irreversible damage by delaying potentially life-saving medical treatment for an injury or illness, such as:
- Heart attack
- Birth injuries such as Erb’s palsy
- Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome
A medical misdiagnosis happens when the physician fails to test for a specific illness or disease even though symptoms of the illness or disease are present. A misdiagnosis can also happen if the physician incorrectly determines that clear symptoms of one illness are the symptoms of another.
When this occurs, the correct illness is not being properly monitored and the problem can quickly escalate producing catastrophic or even fatal results. A misdiagnosis often causes a major delay in the appropriate diagnosis of your illness, and these delays can greatly restrict a patient’s treatment options.
The possible consequences of a failure to diagnose include:
- Wrongful death
- Life-long disability
- Brain injury
- Spinal cord damage
- Increased health care expenses: This can include extended hospitalizations along with costly and dangerous surgeries.
- Invasive and unnecessary treatment: A misdiagnosis could result in unnecessary testing and treatment that could have been avoided.
- Extreme pain and suffering
- Patient anxiety: The apprehension and fear that come with the misdiagnosis of a serious disease or illness are very stressful and, understandably, foster mistrust of the reliability of healthcare providers.
When is a Delayed or Missed Diagnosis Malpractice?
In cases of medical malpractice, healthcare providers can be held responsible if they deviate from the accepted standard of care and a patient is injured as a result.
Establishing the standard of care that should have been applied to a provider/patient relationship and whether or not the provider failed to uphold those standards is challenging and depends heavily on the facts of each individual case.
Generally speaking, a provider is considered to have deviated from the standard of care when they fail to behave in the same manner that any reasonably skilled provider in their field would be expected to behave under similar or identical circumstances.
In terms of diagnostic errors, there are numerous negligent actions that could entitle patients to file a medical malpractice claim. Some examples include:
- Failure to perform a satisfactory medical history review or patient evaluation.
- Failure to order appropriate tests based on symptoms and signs.
- Failure to identify and promptly treat a medical emergency, such as an imminent heart attack.
- Misunderstanding lab results or making a benign finding that ignores a condition.
- Failure to identify signs of stress or complication.
- Failing to identify and treat complications in pregnancy or childbirth, causing a birth injury.
At Metro Law, we thoroughly investigate claims of medical malpractice and leverage the insight of medical professionals to determine if a provider might be liable for negligence.
Causes of Delayed Diagnosis
Hospitals across the country are notoriously understaffed. Doctors and nurses might not have enough time to give each patient the personal attention they need. Issues linked to understaffing are a frequent cause of delayed or missed diagnosis. Other common reasons include:
- Poor communication and/or coordination between staff members
- Physicians failing to order appropriate tests
- Insufficient patient follow-up
- Delays in scheduling tests or regular appointments
- Poor monitoring of test results
- Miscommunication or no communication between providers
- Misinterpretation of medical charts, X-rays, or test results
- Losing paperwork
- Failing to refer the patient to an appropriate specialist or failing to do so in a timely manner
Basic inattention and carelessness can also play a role in a late or missed diagnosis.
Medical Negligence and Testing Errors
Considering the hundreds of different diagnostic tests that are available to patients, it isn’t hard to understand how a specialist or doctor could read the results incorrectly. Additionally, these tests could be incorrectly performed and result in a misdiagnosis, causing a patient to endure medical complications and other problems. Testing errors can also lead to increased instances of undue injury and wrongful death.
Testing mistakes are typically the result of human error. Sadly, even seemingly small mistakes can be the difference between receiving a timely and accurate diagnosis and missing every available opportunity to treat an illness or disease. With certain conditions, like a heart attack or cancer, a mistake in testing could mean the difference between life and death.
Some examples of testing errors include:
- Failing to order tests and imaging such as MRIs and CT scans
- Misinterpreting imaging or lab results
- Improperly performed diagnostic tests
- Miscommunication or lack of communication between doctors and labs
- Failing to follow-up test results with the appropriate action
Conditions frequently misdiagnosed or overlooked:
- Heart attack and stroke
- Cancer, including skin cancer and breast cancer
- Failing to diagnose or correctly identify an infection
- Overlooked internal bleeding or organ damage
Your Right to Compensation After a Missed Diagnosis
In the event that a provider fails to diagnose, misdiagnoses, or otherwise fails to promptly identify and treat a disease or illness and, as a result, causes preventable damage, they could be held accountable for the victim’s damages, including:
- Current and future medical bills
- Lost wages and decreased earning capacity
- Life-long disfigurement or disability
- Loss of companionship or consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Other economic and non-economic damages
Who is Responsible for a Failure to Diagnose?
Anyone employed by a hospital or other healthcare provider shoulders the responsibility of providing every patient with the highest possible standard of care. Diagnosing is a major part of that responsibility. When an accurate diagnosis is not provided, the whole treatment process is disrupted.
Diagnosis failures could be the fault of multiple people in a medical organization. When a patient tells their doctor about their symptoms, arriving at a diagnosis involves testing, discussions, and the expertise of multiple people. A single omission or oversight during any part of the diagnostic process can cause a serious delay or misdiagnosis. A failure to diagnose can be caused by a provider’s defective testing equipment or lack of experience for example.
Persons who could be liable for a failure to diagnose include:
- Testing companies and medical analysts
- Equipment manufacturers
Do I Have a Legitimate Failure to Diagnose Claim?
You might have a valid claim for a failure to diagnose if you were injured during medical treatment and have proof that those injuries were due to an omission or oversight in diagnosing your disease or illness.
This can be accomplished with verification of your original condition, details about the appropriate treatment for that condition, and examples of how you were diagnosed and the treatment your doctor recommended.
Documentation that can be useful in a failure to diagnose claim includes:
- Medical charts
- Medical bills
- Photographs of the injury
- Prescribed medications
Establishing Medical Malpractice Caused by Delayed Diagnosis
There are three benchmarks that must be proven in a case of delayed diagnosis. Patients must prove that:
- They had a working relationship with the doctor
- That the doctor’s negligence caused the delayed diagnosis
- That the death or injury arose from that negligence
Each of these elements must be shown for a claim to be successful.
Establishing the Provider-Patient Relationship
A relationship has been established after a patient has their initial examination with a provider. In cases of medical malpractice caused by delayed diagnosis, the relationship does not need to develop any further than that first appointment. Should the provider fail to diagnose an existing illness, condition, or injury, they could still be held responsible if the correct diagnosis is made later by another provider and the delay has caused injury to the patient.
Proving Negligence in the Form of Delayed Diagnosis
Proving the provider’s negligence is always the first step in a medical malpractice claim. Patients have to prove that the provider failed to diagnose their illness, condition, or injury as promptly as a competent physician would have under similar or identical circumstances.
For example, if a doctor causes a delay in a diagnosis of lung cancer because they failed to order the correct tests and were treating the patient for COPD or bronchitis, thereby delaying both a cancer diagnosis and the treatment that could have stopped its progression.
To prove that the doctor was negligent, the patient might get a second opinion from a different doctor; one who thought to order a lung X-ray before giving a formal diagnosis and beginning treatment.
The patient will also have to show that the accepted standard of care was not upheld. In the above example, the violation of that standard occurred when the doctor failed to order the lung X-ray before making a diagnosis, allowing the cancer to go untreated and spread.
Had the doctor ordered the lung X-ray when the patient was first seen, vital treatment could have been administered, increasing the patient’s chances of survival.
Proving that Patient Injury Occurred Due to the Delayed Diagnosis
For a patient to file a delayed diagnosis suit against a provider, they must also show that they suffered unnecessary pain, higher medical bills, lost income and future income, and experienced a considerable loss of independent functioning.
This is where things can get complicated. A doctor could be found guilty of a delayed diagnosis, but their patient may still be unable to collect financial compensation for pain and suffering because they did not sufficiently prove that it was the direct result of the delayed diagnosis.
For example, if a patient sees a doctor about their back pain and the doctor, for whatever reason, fails to promptly diagnose a herniated disc. Over time, however, the doctor eventually diagnoses the herniated disc and the patient undergoes the necessary surgery to repair it.
This particular delayed diagnosis would not produce financial compensation for pain and suffering because the surgery was always going to be necessary regardless of when the herniated disc was diagnosed. If, however, between the initial visit and the diagnosis, the herniated disc caused a permanent disability that would not have occurred with a prompt diagnosis, the victim has an excellent chance of being awarded compensation.
Contact a New Jersey or New York Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Anytime a delay in diagnosis occurs, we strongly urge you to meet with a competent and experienced New Jersey or New York medical malpractice attorney to see if you have a valid claim against the responsible provider. Pain and suffering, loss of income caused by the length of recovery or disability, and a considerable impact on the victim’s lifestyle are all key factors in proving medical malpractice.
A reliable medical malpractice attorney can examine the details of your case and calculate the odds of bringing a successful claim against the provider. Compensation from your claim can help alleviate the hurdles the victim is forced to overcome because of the provider’s negligent delay in diagnosis.
The medical malpractice lawyers at Metro Law know the serious damage that can occur when a doctor fails to promptly and properly diagnose an illness, injury, or condition.
We handle all medical malpractice and personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. You pay nothing out of pocket and we only get paid if we win your case. Contact a medical malpractice lawyer in New York or New Jersey at (973) 721-9984