Medical patients count on their doctors to correctly diagnose their conditions so they can get the treatment they need. Yet in far too many cases, diagnostic errors mean patients either receive the wrong treatment or none at all, allowing their conditions to get worse. Tragically, these mistakes can cost lives. A diagnostic error is sometimes unavoidable, but it may be evidence of medical negligence. The knowledgeable medical malpractice attorneys of Cooper Schall & Levy can review your case and advise you of your options.
What Is A Diagnostic Error?
There are a number of different mistakes that doctors can make when it comes to diagnosing a disease or condition. A diagnostic error broadly refers to either a misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis, and either of these could give rise to a claim of medical malpractice (sometimes called medical negligence).
A misdiagnosis occurs when the doctor gives the patient the wrong diagnosis. Meanwhile, a delayed diagnosis might be correct but is given to the patient unreasonably late. Here, we will focus on both misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses.
Why Misdiagnoses And Delayed Diagnoses Happen
A misdiagnosis is serious and could be fatal. If your condition isn’t accurately diagnosed, there’s a good chance you won’t get the treatment you need. Worse, you could receive a treatment that aggravates your condition or causes some other health problem. Meanwhile, your actual condition goes untreated and might lead either to a permanent, chronic illness or to death.
A delayed diagnosis may occur after a misdiagnosis. For instance, your actual condition could be inaccurately diagnosed at first, but properly diagnosed after a considerable delay. A delayed diagnosis is similar to a misdiagnosis in that the patient, at least initially, might either receive no treatment or might receive the wrong treatment.
Doctors aren’t perfect, and some conditions are difficult to diagnose properly. There are many diseases with symptoms that are similar to less serious conditions, and this complicates a doctor’s efforts to effectively treat a patient. Nonetheless, diagnostic errors like misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses often occur because of medical negligence. This, in turn, may be the result of:
- Ordering the wrong tests, or delayed testing
- Incorrectly reading test results
- Not ordering follow-up tests as necessary
- Miscommunications among other doctors and specialists
- Failure to consider a patient’s medical or family history
- Ordering the wrong treatment
- Not monitoring the patient’s treatment
- Confusing symptoms of a disease for something less serious
When Is A Diagnostic Error The Result Of Malpractice?
As mentioned above, not all mistakes necessarily mean a doctor or other healthcare professional has committed malpractice. The law does not require doctors to never make a mistake. Malpractice, however, means that the mistake was unreasonable in light of the circumstances – such as the nature of the disease or condition, the doctor’s educational background, and the sort of training the doctor has had. Put another way, malpractice occurs when the healthcare professional fails to abide by the standard of medical care that he or she owes the patient.
In Pennsylvania, there are four required elements to prove that a diagnostic error is the result of malpractice. They are:
Duty of care. This means the doctor had a legal obligation to treat the patient in a safe and reasonable manner that abides by medical ethics and professional standards. In general, this obligation arises out of the doctor-patient relationship.
Breach. A breach of the duty of care occurs when by some negligent act or omission the doctor fails to uphold professional medical standards. A breach can occur because of any number of problems, including but not limited to those listed above.
Causation. The injured patient has to prove that the breach directly caused his or her injuries. Any intervening events or delays between the breach and the injury could complicate this step.
Damages. Lastly, the plaintiff must suffer financial damages as a result of the breach. Every malpractice case is different, but damages usually include:
- Medical bills, including hospitalization, surgery, prescription medications, follow-up treatments, rehabilitation, adaptive medical equipment, and more
- Lost income, both at present and in the future
- Lost earning capacity, meaning lost ability to earn at the same level as before the malpractice
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
How Can An Attorney Help Me?
A medical malpractice attorney doesn’t just understand Pennsylvania law and civil procedure. Your attorney will know how to build a compelling case that properly assesses the value of your injuries within rules established by the MCARE statute.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are complex, in part because of the difficulty of ascertaining a reasonable dollar figure to account for your damages. While current medical costs can be tabulated relatively easily, how do you determine what your future medical bills will be? It may not be too hard to figure out how much income you’ve lost up to now because of the malpractice, but what about lost future earnings and lost earning capacity?
An expert witness can help answer these questions. Our law firm has a network of expert witnesses we rely upon to give testimony in court to substantiate your demand for compensation. We understand the sort of evidence that’s necessary to argue your case to a jury, and we’re ready to take on the powerful malpractice insurance companies protecting the doctors and hospitals.
Contact Our Philadelphia Diagnostic Error Attorney
When you retain Cooper Schall & Levy for your misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis case, you have an advocate that will work with you from start to finish. If you or a loved one were the victim of a diagnostic error, you owe it to yourself to understand your legal rights. Call us today to get started.
Cooper Schall & Levy medical malpractice lawyers serve Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as well as neighboring counties such as Montgomery County and Delaware County and cover neighborhoods such as Norristown and Drexel Hill.