Suing your doctor for a missed or mistaken diagnosis

It's frustrating -- even infuriating -- to find out that your doctor botched a diagnosis. Maybe you came in complaining of pain, and your doctor (wrongly) assured you it was nothing to be concerned about. Maybe your doctor gave you a diagnosis that just turned out to be way off the mark. Either way, you've certainly got a good reason to be upset.

But, do you have enough reason to sue?

Not every medical mistake is actual malpractice -- and even some acts of malpractice don't give patients enough reason to take the issue to court. If you've been victimized by a missed or mistaken diagnosis, here are the things you need to consider:

Was negligence involved?

In order for a missed or mistaken diagnosis to be malpractice, a doctor has to deviate from the standard of care expected for the situation.

For example, if you went into the doctor complaining of headaches, and your doctor detected high blood pressure, it might be reasonable for the doctor to conclude that your high blood pressure was causing your headaches -- at least for a while. It might be negligent, however, to conclude your headaches are just stress-induced without at least running an MRI -- the one that would have detected the cancerous tumor causing those headaches.

Determining what's standard for any given situation isn't always easy -- which is why many people seek consultations with a medical malpractice attorney in the first place.

Did you suffer an injury as a result?

In other words, aside from frustration and inconvenience, what harm did the missed or mistaken diagnosis cause?

If, for example, your doctor missed your thyroid condition for six months, but you recovered quickly once you got on the appropriate medication and have no lasting complications, it may be hard to make a case for damages. On the other hand, if your doctor missed your diabetes for six months, and you now have permanent kidney damage, you most likely have a good claim for compensation.

Missed and mistaken diagnoses are some of the most common reasons that malpractice claims get started. If you aren't sure about the viability of your case, talk your situation over with an experienced professional.

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Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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