When a patient is unwell and seeks the advice of their physician, they have a reasonable expectation of being properly diagnosed and treated. When a patient is misdiagnosed, it can have disastrous effects on the patient. Not only can a medical condition go undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or treated incorrectly, but those types of errors can then compound the issue, which can have serious side effects, including permanent injury and death.
In fact, a 2013 study by Johns Hopkins University discovered in the US alone, 80,000 to 100,000 people die each year due to misdiagnosis.
Did the Doctor Act Negligently?
Doctors have a legal responsibility to provide their patients with medical treatment consistent with the applicable “standard of care.” This medical “standard of care” is determined by what other medical professionals with the same knowledge would have done in the same or similar circumstances.
When a doctor fails to do this, and by doing so, causes a patient injury, the doctor is considered to have acted negligently and may have committed medical malpractice. In such circumstances, the patient should contact a medical malpractice attorney right away.
Proving Medical Malpractice in the Case of a Misdiagnosis
When a patient is improperly diagnosed, it becomes the patient’s burden to prove medical malpractice has been committed, as doctors are not automatically held responsible for all diagnostic errors.
To prove that the doctor acted negligently or has committed medical malpractice, the patient must prove three things:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship
- The doctor acted negligently or incompetently by not providing a diagnosis or treatment that conforms to the medical standard of care
- The misdiagnosis and/or mistreatment led to injury or death of the patient
As mentioned, doctors are not legally held responsible for all misdiagnoses, as even highly skilled doctors can and do make errors while still meeting the medical standard of care.
Identifying the correct diagnosis is not always straightforward, and doctors often need to investigate a patient’s condition in order to narrow the cause of the patient’s symptoms. One systematic method used by doctors to identify a patient’s condition is by using what is called a differential diagnosis. A differential diagnosis is a list of possible diagnoses based on a preliminary evaluation. The doctor can then investigate each potential diagnosis through medical observation, medical history, physical examination, lab tests, and imaging studies (such as x-rays, CT scans, or MRI’s) and may even have to refer the patient to a specialist. In this case, if the patient were ultimately injured, the patient might start his or her malpractice investigation by demonstrating that the doctor failed to include the actual diagnosis on the differential diagnosis list or failed to investigate the viability of that diagnosis.
In any case, the key is to determine whether the physician acted competently during the diagnosis or treatment and if not, whether that incompetence resulted in harm to the patient.
What Damages Can be Claimed in a Medical Malpractice Case?
When medical malpractice or negligence happens, additional medical bills and lost wages can occur and become costly for the patient. The patient may also wind up being billed for expenses that resulted from an error committed by the medical professional.
If you or a loved one may have been a victim of medical malpractice you could be entitled to damages, including general damages, special damages, and rarely, punitive damages:
- General damages refer to items that a specific dollar amount cannot easily quantify or calculate, such as pain and suffering, grief, deformation, humiliation, etc.
- Special damages include expenses that are related directly to the medical malpractice or negligence that occurred, including medical expenses and lost income.
- Punitive damages, which are very rare in medical malpractice lawsuits, include compensation awarded to the plaintiff as a form of punishment for a health care provider’s wrongdoing.
Hiring the right medical malpractice lawyer can determine the outcome of your case, and whether or not you receive the compensation you are owed.
Why You Need a Medical Malpractice Attorney
When you initiate a medical malpractice lawsuit, you want an attorney who understands both the complex rules/laws that apply to these highly regulated cases and the complicated medical records associated with your case. Choosing the right lawyer is essential when the burden of proof is placed on a patient who may already be suffering from a negligent diagnosis or treatment.
If you or a family member has suffered from possible medical malpractice due to a negligent diagnosis or treatment in Los Angeles or anywhere in California, you should talk with a medical malpractice attorney right away. To get a free case review from a Los Angeles medical malpractice attorney, call the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. at (310) 289-2600 today.