5 Issues That Commonly Interrupt "Failure to Diagnose" Claims

Posted on: 19 March 2019

When it comes to medical malpractice lawsuits, the majority of claims are for misdiagnosed conditions, a failure to diagnose a specific condition, or a delayed diagnosis. Yet these kinds of claims are more difficult to prove than many patients initially believe. There are many potential ways for a doctor to deflect blame or transfer negligence on to another party. Make sure you're prepared for all five of these potential roadblocks when planning your medical malpractice claim for a delayed or failed diagnosis.

Proof of Negligence

First, it's not enough for a doctor to simply fail to discover your health problems and properly diagnose you with a certain condition. There has to be a proven form of negligence, such as ignoring test results, failing to consult with specialists or order well-known tests, or disregarding a patient's complaints in order to qualify your claim for medical malpractice. If a doctor just couldn't find signs of a disease until a certain point, you can't necessarily sue for a delayed diagnosis.

Established Relationship

You can't bring a claim of failure to diagnose against a doctor you've only seen once in most states either. Most state laws require proof of an established and ongoing relationship between a doctor and a patient before this kind of claim is considered. This kind of requirement gives the doctor time to familiarize themselves with your health records and current symptoms before becoming responsible for making a timely and accurate diagnosis. The need for an established relationship may be waived in cases involving a diagnosis mistake made in an emergency room, but those cases tend to fall under a different type of claim such as breach of care instead.

Standard of Care

A doctor is only expected to perform to a certain standard of care based on their specialization, training, and local area. If the judge in your medical malpractice case believes that other doctors in the area would only perform as well as your doctor did, you can still lose your failure to diagnose claim with ample proof of injury. You'll need to establish that other doctors available to you would have found the problem faster and more accurately, which usually requires hiring expert witnesses to establish the standard of care you should have been able to expect from your doctor.

Secondary Responsibility

If the delay in diagnosis was due to mishandled test results or malfunctioning machinery, your doctor may be able to defer the blame onto a second party that you must then sue separately. For example, a lab technician that applies the wrong label to your blood sample may be the person considered negligent when it comes to a delayed or incorrect diagnosis. In this case, trying to bring a claim against your doctor is simply a waste of time and money. Make sure to narrow down which parties are responsible for your diagnosis issues before pursuing a case.

Proven Injury

Finally, you'll need clear medical records proving the misdiagnosis caused a serious and permanent injury. You'll also need records showing that this injury or disability didn't exist prior to the problem with the diagnosis. This can be tricky when you're dealing with chronic health problems that are hard to document over the course of your life. Work with specialists and other doctors involved in your care to build a record of how the delayed or failed diagnosis impacted your overall health. Without this evidence, the entire case could be overturned on insufficient proof of injury. Failure to diagnose a condition that doesn't end up causing any permanent or serious injury is not considered a medical malpractice issue.

Contact a law firm such as R.J. Marzella & Associates, P.C. for assistance with your medical malpractice case.