Timely diagnosis of a disease is critical to ensure the patient can be properly treated. A delayed diagnosis can literally mean the difference between life and death. Doctors and other medical professionals who make mistakes that delay diagnosis can sometimes be held liable for malpractice. While not every mistake is avoidable, unreasonable ones can be evidence of professional negligence.
If you or a loved one had a diagnosis of a disease or other condition delayed, you may be entitled to compensation. Talk to the experienced medical malpractice attorneys of Cooper Schall & Levy.
The Consequences Of A Delayed Diagnosis
If you have cancer, heart disease, a brain injury, or another serious disease or illness, you probably already understand how harmful a delayed diagnosis can be. These illnesses can spread through the body or worsen until they become inoperable or untreatable. At best, this may cause permanent and debilitating injury; at worst, the delayed diagnosis can prove fatal.
But a delayed diagnosis can cause harm in other ways. For instance, you may be misdiagnosed at first. That means your doctor or other healthcare professionals incorrectly diagnosed your illness as something else. As a result, you might have been subjected to dangerous and unnecessary treatments, which themselves could have consequences for your health. All the while, your actual condition will o untreated until, finally, it is correctly diagnosed.
Delayed diagnoses can be harmful to other patients as well. You may be pregnant, and your unborn baby has a disease that the doctor should have detected. With a delayed diagnosis, this could spell harm to your child or further harm to you.
Why Do Delayed Diagnoses Happen?
Doctors and other medical professionals aren’t perfect, and even the most careful ones can make mistakes. But they are expected to conduct themselves according to the acceptable standards of their profession. When they are negligent, their conduct rises to the level of medical malpractice.
A delayed diagnosis can happen for any number of reasons, including the following:
- Failure to perform appropriate tests
- Misreading or misunderstanding test results
- Not referring a patient to someone more experienced with his or her symptoms
- Disregarding input from other doctors or specialists
- The use of faulty lab or diagnostic equipment
- Clerical mistakes, patient mix-ups, and communication errors
These and other errors may be evidence of medical negligence, which could form the basis of a malpractice lawsuit.
When Is A Delayed Diagnosis The Result Of Malpractice?
Remember, not every mistake necessarily points to malpractice. The law does not expect medical professionals to be perfect. Malpractice happens when the doctor or other healthcare provider fails to perform his or her duties according to the acceptable standard of care. Another way of putting it is that malpractice occurs when the mistake is unreasonable in light of the circumstances.
In Pennsylvania, to prove medical malpractice after a delayed diagnosis, the patient must prove some sort of negligent behavior like those listed above. More specifically, there are four elements of any successful malpractice lawsuit:
- Duty of care. It must be shown that the doctor, hospital, or medical facility owed a responsibility to care for the patient. This is rarely disputed in medical malpractice cases because it is expected that any treating physician will act with care toward the patient’s health needs.
- Breach. A breach occurs when, by some act or omission, the doctor or other medical professional fails to act reasonably in caring for the patient. In other words, the doctor was negligent. This is typically one of the most disputed aspects of a malpractice case.
- Cause. The breach must be the direct cause of injury to the patient or must have increased the risk of harm to the patient. If it can be proven that some other intervening event caused injury to the patient, this will be more difficult to prove.
- Damages. Lastly, the patient must suffer harm because of the above elements. The injured patient will demand monetary compensation from the responsible healthcare professional to account for his or her injuries.
What Damages Are Available In A Delayed Diagnosis Case?
Damages are intended to financially compensate the injured patient who suffered harm because of the delayed diagnosis. Although every case is different, these are some of the most common damages patients will ask the court to award:
- Medical bills. A delayed diagnosis will likely require medical treatment to reverse the damage, and this can spell significant bills both now and in the future.
- Lost wages. The injured patient will probably miss work because of the need for hospitalization, medical appointments, and treatments.
- Lost earning capacity. The patient’s injuries may make it impossible to work at the same level of productivity as before, which can cost the patient in terms of lost future income.
- Pain and suffering. Not being properly treated can mean serious and unnecessary pain and suffering, for which the court may award compensation.
- Wrongful death. In the event the injured patient dies because of the delayed diagnosis, eligible survivors may be able to bring a wrongful death action against the responsible party.
Contact Our Philadelphia Delayed Diagnosis Attorney
Patients who have been injured because of a delayed diagnosis have only a certain amount of time to file a claim. Most medical malpractice lawsuits in Philadelphia must be filed within two years of the date of injury. It’s a good idea, however, to take action as soon as you learn of the delayed diagnosis. Let the team at Cooper Schall & Levy get started on your case today. Give us a call to learn more.