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Jul 26, 2019 08:15 PM EDT

What to Do if Your Medical Condition is Misdiagnosed

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Each time we visit a doctor or hospital, we put our health in the hands of health care professionals. We put our trust in these professionals and expect to receive accurate diagnosis. But doctors and nurses are still human. Errors can and do happen when diagnosing conditions. 

According to Cogan & Power, P.C., an estimated 20% of serious medical conditions are misdiagnosed. Each year, 12 million people are misdiagnosed by doctors.

If you're one of the people who have been misdiagnosed, you may be wondering what to do next. Getting second, third and even fourth opinions is a practical option.

If the misdiagnosis has caused you harm, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for a Misdiagnosis

If you plan to file a lawsuit for the misdiagnosis, the process is similar to other medical malpractice cases. You'll first need to find a reputable, experienced lawyer. Many plaintiffs are apprehensive about hiring a lawyer because of the expense, but going about the process on your own will only hurt your chances of success.

In order to succeed, you must be able to prove that another doctor of similar skill and experience would have been able to accurately diagnose your condition under the circumstances. You must also prove that your doctor's failure to diagnose your condition and provision of sub-standard care caused you harm.

Generally, only the primary physician (i.e. your doctor) can be sued for misdiagnosis. In some rare cases, other health care professionals may be held liable if their negligence either caused or contributed to the patient's harm. In most cases, you cannot sue the hospital or health care facility. Doctors are considered independent contractors - not hospital employees.

Keep in mind that if you do choose to file a lawsuit, you only have a limited window to make your claim. You must file the initial document, or complaint, within a certain period of time after your injury. These deadlines, which vary from state to state, are called statutes of limitations.

Showing Evidence of Medical Malpractice

To win a medical malpractice lawsuit, you'll need to have evidence of medical malpractice. You'll improve your chances of success if you can prove:

  • The doctor acted negligently

  • The doctor didn't follow the standard of care

  • The doctor's negligence caused you harm

Showing Evidence of Harm

Evidence of a misdiagnosis is not enough to win your case. You must also prove that the misdiagnosis caused you harm. 

A misdiagnosis can cause harm to a patient in several ways:

  • Unnecessary surgical procedures may have been performed.

  • The patient may have been exposed to unnecessarily aggressive treatment.

  • The patient was needlessly exposed to harmful courses of treatment, such as chemotherapy.

  • The likelihood of death may have increased.

  • There's a greater risk of health complications.

Although a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis typically causes harm to a patient, proving that harm can be difficult. This is another area where plaintiffs can benefit greatly from the help of an experienced lawyer.

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