Delayed diagnosis is a common medical error. It occurs when a doctor fails to diagnose a patient properly and it takes a longer period of time than expected for an accurate diagnosis to be made. When a delayed diagnosis occurs, precious treatment time is lost. In some cases, this can cause additional complications for the patient, increased recovery time, added medical expenses and even can result in death.
Delayed diagnosis can occur for many reasons. Testing errors, incomplete patient information, complicated medical history or doctor negligence all can contribute to a delayed diagnosis. In cases when a medical professional causes the delayed diagnosis by failing to provide an acceptable standard of care, victims or their families can take legal action via a medical malpractice claim.
If you believe you’ve suffered due to negligence-related delayed diagnosis, lawyers at Gacovino, Lake & Associates can help you file a malpractice lawsuit. You could be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and additional pain and suffering.
A Real Life Example of the Consequences of Delayed Diagnosis
When a doctor fails to diagnose or detect a medical condition, it could prove to be fatal. That was the case with a 41-year-old woman in Brooklyn who lost her life to lung cancer.
A patient at Kings County Hospital in 2010, doctors failed to diagnose her cancer. The cancer may have been treatable if detected when she was in the hospital, but instead it spread and ended up taking her life. The statute of limitations had expired by the time she discovered the error, but she was still awarded a $625,000 settlement before her death.
This is an example of a case of delayed diagnosis causing disease progression. Time can play a critical role in the diagnosis and treatment of certain medical conditions. For instance, a tumor may be treatable, but if not immediately diagnosed, the cancer could spread to other areas, making it more difficult to treat. If a disease is allowed to progress, it typically becomes more costly to treat and may worsen and increase the risk of serious complications or even death.
Types of Conditions That Can Progress When Not Diagnosed
The failure to diagnose immediately, and thus treat immediately, heart disease may lead to serious consequences such as cardiac arrest. Both men and women can experience chest pains leading up to or immediately at the point of a heart attack. However, other symptoms may indicate a heart attack. These may include shortness of breath, fatigue, or even pain in the jaw, shoulder or neck area.
Some diseases or conditions may not be diagnosed because their signs and symptoms are similar to other medical conditions. For example, failing to diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) upon first exhibition of symptoms could result in quicker progression. This disease has symptoms that develop over time. Signs such as cough, chest pain and shortness of breath may be similar to symptoms of other conditions, and in some cases, may lead to a delayed diagnosis.
These are just a couple examples. There are many other types of conditions that can lead to an unwarranted disease or progression if not properly diagnosed in a timely manner.
Determining if Your Doctor Was Negligent
Diagnosis is not always a simple process. There are many factors affecting a doctor’s ability to diagnose a condition quickly. Patients are all different; illnesses can be complicated; and many have similar symptoms. Delayed diagnoses do not always involve negligence or substandard care, and even the very best doctors can have difficulty diagnosing some patients.
The process the doctor uses to make the diagnosis is a key element in determining whether negligence is a factor in your diagnosis. The differential diagnosis method the doctor used must be evaluated to be able to determine whether she provided proper care in the patient’s evaluation.
When a doctor uses the differential diagnosis method, she considers all symptoms of the patient and makes a list of potential illnesses in order of probability. The doctor then tests the possibility of each of the diagnoses by conducting further patient examinations, asking additional questions, ordering tests, reviewing medical records, and/or referring the patient to specialists for additional input. As each diagnosis is ruled out, the doctor becomes closer to the most likely correct diagnosis. The intended result is that there will be only one accurate diagnosis remaining at the end of the process, and treatment can then begin.
Because medicine is not a simple or exact science, there are sometimes situations that cause a diagnosis to change or be reversed during the medical care process. This is not always the result of medical malpractice and can be an unavoidable part of the treatment process.
Medical malpractice cases must involve negligence or incompetence on the part of the doctor, and the best indicator of either is that the patient would have received a higher level of care from another professional with similar credentials, education, and/or experience. If your physician strayed from the differential diagnosis method by neglecting to order reasonable additional tests or specialist examinations, then she may be liable for medical malpractice.
Potential Damages from a Delayed Diagnosis Lawsuit
Those injured because a medical professional did not diagnose their condition in a timely manner may have a legal claim and may be entitled to compensation for their damages which may include the following.
- Funeral and burial costs, should a loved one die from a delayed diagnosis
- Outstanding medical bills
- Ongoing treatment costs
- Permanent disabilities
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering is one of the most often overlooked elements of a medical malpractice claim. A patient whose diagnosis was delayed may now have developed a more serious condition that requires more complex and inconvenient treatments. This is an unnecessary and serious impact on their quality of life, and they should be entitled to seek compensation for that emotional damage.
There is also another potential type of compensation known as punitive damages. These are harder to obtain and are typically only awarded in serious cases of gross or malicious negligence. These monetary penalties are assessed against the liable party as punishment for their negligence.
How to Begin a Medical Malpractice Claim for Delayed Diagnosis
If you believe you have a medical malpractice case, Gacovino, Lake & Associates are available to help you. We specialize in medical malpractice law and have helped many victims of malpractice secure fair settlements. We can help you understand your rights and build your case against a negligent medical professional.
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in New York is two and a half years. Get started now before it runs out. Call 800-550-000 or fill out our online contact form to set up a free consultation with lawyers familiar with delayed diagnosis cases to learn more about your legal options.