Common Diagnostic Errors That Lead to Personal Injury Claims

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Common Diagnostic Errors That Lead to Personal Injury Claims

doctor looking at x-rays to make diagnosis

Male doctor in surgical clothes looking at vertebral mri scan headshot

Patients who seek medical attention expect their doctors and medical professionals to know how to help. More times than not, a doctor can usually determine what’s ailing you and prescribe a treatment plan. Unfortunately, doctors are not infallible. They can make mistakes, like misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose.

doctor looking at x-rays to make diagnosis

Male doctor in surgical clothes looking at vertebral mri scan headshot

A John Hopkins study estimated that more than 100,000 Americans are potentially the victim of inaccurate or delayed diagnosis each year, with consequences ranging from disability to death.

What Are Common Diagnostic Errors Made by Doctors?

  • Delayed diagnosis is one of the most common types of diagnostic errors in the medical field. This occurs when a doctor correctly diagnoses a patient’s condition but does so much later than they should have. The risk with delayed diagnosis is that if too much time has passed, the patient’s condition has likely worsened or become untreatable. This is especially true in cases of cancer, which is often far more treatable in early stages than later stages.
  • Failure to diagnose a related/unrelated disease occurs when a doctor successfully diagnoses one condition but fails to see a second underlying issue. The risk of missing a related or unrelated disease can be life-threatening, especially for patients who already suffer from a primary disease.
  • Failure to address complications can put the patient’s life in danger if additional complications aggravate the diagnosed disease or other pre-existing conditions.
  • A wrong diagnosis can occur if a doctor completely misreads all the signs and symptoms of a disease or condition. Misdiagnosing a patient’s illness or medical condition can become dangerous if the source of the problem goes untreated.
  • A missed diagnosis is when a doctor assesses a patient and mistakenly gives them a clean bill of health when they are actually afflicted with an illness. Patients who don’t even know that they have a medical condition or disease can be at risk of complications or death if they never receive the treatment they need.

Three Major Disease Categories that Cause the Most Harm When Misdiagnosed

Research conducted by a Johns Hopkins team discovered that there are three common categories of diseases that can lead to life-threatening results when a doctor fails to provide a proper diagnosis.

Nearly 75 percent of all harm caused by diagnostic errors occurs in patients who have:

  1. Infections (i.e., sepsis)
  2. Cancers (i.e., lung cancer)
  3. Vascular incidents (i.e., stroke)
    Brain disease diagnosis

    Brain disease diagnosis

Reducing Risk of Medical Error-Related Injuries

While doctors can and should be trusted in the event of a medical emergency or illness, it’s important to remember that they are not immune from making mistakes. They are also held to a higher standard of care than professionals in many other industries since negligence or mistakes on their part can have such drastic consequences for their patients.

If you are medically able, do your best to help yourself and your medical team as you navigate through an injury or illness together. If you are unable to speak for yourself, always have a trusted friend or family member by your side.

  • Remember the names of the doctors and nurses on your medical team and communicate with them throughout your hospital stay or doctor’s visit.
  • Disclose all medical history to your medical team to ensure everyone is on the same page about past and future medical treatment.
  • Be sure you have a list of all medications you are currently taking and why you take them.
  • Discuss potential risks or outcomes of recommended medical procedures.

Doctors can’t be held accountable if you are injured as a result of withheld information. For example, you may have difficulty filing a claim if you failed to disclose your use of an illicit substance that reacts poorly with a drug your doctor prescribed. The same is true for drug allergies. Be transparent with your doctors to avoid drug interactions or allergic reactions.

Are Medical Malpractice Cases Easy to Prove?

The strict standard of care to which doctors must adhere doesn’t necessarily make it easier to hold them liable for poor medical outcomes. As with all personal injury cases, it’s up to the plaintiff and their legal team to prove the person who is responsible for their injury was negligent, which means you’ll need to work with other medical professionals on your case.

Doctors are covered by medical malpractice insurers with deep pockets. They will put up a fight regardless of the doctor’s culpability or negligence. Working with a legal team who understands medical malpractice law may help you reach an advantageous outcome.