Is a Missed Diagnosis Considered Medical Malpractice?
Diagnostic errors are among the most common types of medical mistakes. This includes diagnosing a patient with the wrong condition (misdiagnosis), failing to timely diagnose a patient’s condition (delayed diagnosis), and failing to diagnose a patient’s condition at all (missed diagnosis).
All types of diagnostic errors have the potential to constitute medical malpractice. In fact, not only are diagnostic errors among the most common types of medical mistakes, but they are also among the most common grounds for malpractice claims. According to Claims Journal, “inaccurate or delayed diagnoses were cited in 34% of medical malpractice claims where the patient died or was seriously disabled. . . . [and] claims caused by diagnosis errors made up 28% of all payouts.”
The Orlando medical malpractice lawyers at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter have been helping the wrongfully injured throughout Florida for decades. We understand the intricacies of these difficult cases, and we have the knowledge, skill, and resources needed to pursue the compensation you deserve.
When is a Missed Diagnosis Considered Medical Malpractice?
For a missed diagnosis to be considered medical malpractice, the error must reflect a failure to meet the treating physician’s “standard of care.” Under Florida law, all physicians owe a legal duty to diagnose and treat their patients in accordance with generally accepted medical knowledge, practices, and procedures. If another physician would have provided a timely and accurate diagnosis under the same circumstances, then a missed diagnosis can give rise to a medical malpractice claim.
This means that missed diagnoses are considered medical malpractice in many—but not all—cases. Here are some examples:
- Missed Diagnosis of Broken Bone – A patient visits the emergency room (ER) after falling and injuring her wrist. The ER doctor obtains an X-ray, and after reviewing the X-ray determines that the patient has soft tissue damage but no bone fracture. Two weeks later, the patient visits her own doctor after her condition has failed to improve. Her doctor quickly identifies a fracture on the ER X-ray that requires treatment. In this scenario, it is likely that the ER doctor’s missed diagnosis will be considered medical malpractice.
- Missed Diagnosis of Pulmonary Embolism – A patient visits her doctor complaining of chest pain, heart palpitations, and occasional feelings of lightheadedness. After performing a physical exam and ordering blood work, the doctor is unable to pinpoint a specific diagnosis. The doctor says that the patient is probably dealing with heartburn, and sends her home with a recommendation for an over-the-counter medication. Two weeks later, the patient is rushed to the ER after fainting. In the ER, she is diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. She will suffer permanent complications due to her doctor’s missed diagnosis. This is another scenario in which the patient will likely have a claim for medical malpractice.
- Missed Diagnosis of Cancer – A patient visits her primary care physician every year for a wellness visit. While she has never had any serious health problems, one day she notices that she feels far more tired than usual, and then she starts having trouble eating or keeping down food. She decides to see a different doctor who diagnoses her with Stage III stomach cancer. Her new doctor says that the cancer has likely been in her body for years. The primary care physician’s missed diagnosis of the patient’s cancer may be considered medical malpractice.
Do You Have a Claim for Medical Malpractice Based on a Missed Diagnosis?
In order to determine if you have a claim for medical malpractice based on a missed diagnosis, there are three key questions you will need to answer with the help of an Orlando medical malpractice lawyer:
1. Could (and Should) Your Doctor Have Accurately Diagnosed Your Condition?
To be liable for medical malpractice, a doctor must have had an opportunity to provide an accurate diagnosis and failed to do so. If your doctor had the information he or she needed (or could have obtained the information he or she needed by ordering appropriate tests) to provide a correct diagnosis, you may have a claim.
2. Have You Suffered (or Will You Suffer) Harm as a Result of the Missed Diagnosis?
For it to be worthwhile to pursue a medical malpractice claim, you must have losses you are entitled to recover. These could include current or future medical expenses, lost income due to inability to work, pain and suffering, shortened life expectancy, and various other financial and non-financial losses.
3. Do You Still Have Time to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
In Florida, all medical malpractice claims are subject to a statute of limitations. In most cases, you must file within two years of discovering your condition and within four years of the date of your missed diagnosis.
If you need to know more about pursuing a medical malpractice claim for a missed diagnosis in Florida, we encourage you to contact us promptly. Contact our office online or at (800) 766-1000 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Orlando medical malpractice lawyer today.