When people feel ill and go to see their doctor, they usually trust that the doctor will have the training and skills necessary to provide them with the correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment for their condition. In many cases, this trust is well placed. A Doctor With a Silver Pen Holding a Clipboard With PaperworkHowever, sometimes a doctor inadvertently makes an incorrect diagnosis or fails to diagnose a serious condition, which may allow the actual condition to worsen or expose the patient to unneeded treatments. A missed or delayed diagnosis can create many problems for patients and may even cause long-lasting harm. If you or someone you love suffer from the effects of a missed or delayed diagnosis, you may be able to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit and seek compensation for damages. However, because not all missed or delayed diagnoses can be considered medical malpractice, it's important to understand the legalities surrounding the term when weighing your legal options.

Common Types of Diagnostic Mistakes

Doctors often evaluate a patient's condition using a systematic method known as “differential diagnosis.” After a preliminary evaluation, the doctor makes a list of all the possible conditions that could match the patient's symptoms, in order of their probability. The doctor reviews that patient's medical history, makes observations, and asks questions to help eliminate possible conditions from the list until, ideally, one accurate diagnosis remains. Even doctors who are well trained and capable can make mistakes during this process—particularly in an emergency room setting where a patient's time with the doctor may be limited or hurried. Common types of diagnostic mistakes include:

  • Missed diagnosis. This happens when the doctor mistakenly determines that the patient is healthy when, in fact, he has an injury, illness, or disease.

  • Incorrect diagnosis. This is also known as misdiagnosis, when the doctor diagnoses the patient with the wrong illness or condition.

  • Delayed diagnosis. This happens when the doctor makes the appropriate diagnosis but only after a substantial amount of time has passed.

  • Failure to recognize complications. This occurs when the doctor makes the appropriate diagnosis but fails to recognize complications that may exacerbate the condition.

  • Failure to diagnose a related condition. This happens when a doctor accurately diagnoses one disease but misses a disease that goes along with the primary illness.

  • Failure to diagnose an unrelated condition. This happens when the doctor provides the correct diagnosis for one disease or condition but misses a second condition that's unrelated to the first.

Commonly Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions

Some diseases and illnesses are more commonly misdiagnosed than others. Some commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions include:

  • Staph infection. This can be misdiagnosed as the flu.

  • Asthma. This may be confused with recurring bronchitis.

  • Heart attack. This can be mistaken for a panic attack or indigestion.

  • Stroke. This may be wrongly diagnosed as a migraine or another minor condition.

  • Lymph node inflammation. This can be confused for appendicitis.

  • Cancer. This may be confused for any number of conditions.

A missed or delayed diagnosis may negatively affect a patient because it allows the actual condition to worsen or subjects a patient to painful, debilitating, or unnecessarily aggressive treatments. The effects of a missed or delayed diagnosis may be costly, painful, long-lasting, and even life-altering. 

Do You Need Help Pursuing Compensation for a Missed or Delayed Diagnosis?

Not every missed or delayed diagnosis meets the legal definition of medical malpractice. In order for a missed or delayed diagnosis to be considered medical malpractice, the patient must be able to prove that the doctor in question failed to provide the accepted standard of care that a doctor with similar training would have correctly diagnosed, and the missed or delayed diagnosis resulted in serious harm to the patient.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries due to a missed or delayed diagnosis that you feel meets the definition of medical malpractice, you may be entitled for compensation for medical bills, lost wages if the misdiagnosis prevents you from working, and pain and suffering. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you build and strengthen your case. Contact the legal team at the Inland Empire Law Group today for a free evaluation of your case. We're committed to helping you obtain any compensation you may deserve.


David Ricks
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Rancho Cucamonga Personal Injury Lawyer Serving the Inland Empire Community