Diagnostic Errors Result in the Highest Number of Medical Malpractice Claims

Diagnostic errors may be one of an assortment of reasons patients file medical malpractice lawsuits. Other cases arise out of medication mistakes, surgical errors and other forms of negligence.

A new study from researchers with Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that diagnostic errors accounted for the largest amount of claims and the highest-penalty payouts. Researchers found that diagnosis-related claim payouts added up to nearly $40 billion between 1986 and 2010.

The most significant consequences of diagnostic mistakes were permanent disability and death. And although the majority of these took place in outpatient settings such as doctors’ offices and other types of medical facilities, diagnostic mistakes made in an inpatient setting were more likely to be fatal.

What are some common types of misdiagnosed or undiagnosed medical conditions?

Some common medical conditions that result in diagnostic mistakes include: 

  • stroke;
  • pulmonary embolism;
  • temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ);
  • pneumonia;
  • heart attack;
  • hypothyroidism;
  • cancer; and
  • infection.

While some misdiagnoses may prolong symptoms or cause a patient to experience unpleasant effects, others are much more serious and potentially life-threatening.

What can patients do to reduce the risk of a diagnostic error?

Johns Hopkins researchers estimated that each year in the U.S. 80,000 to 160,000 patients suffer a preventable, significant permanent or fatal injury that is misdiagnosis-related.

Patients may help prevent or at least reduce the risk of these types of serious errors. Patients should take medication as directed, follow up on test results and attend medical appointments. But most important, they should ask lots of questions. If there is any confusion or doubt, patients should speak up.

If it’s believed that a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis caused severe or fatal injuries,contact Gacovino, Lake & Associates. We can help determine if a medical malpractice claim may be worth pursuing, who might be liable and what types of compensation could be sought.

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