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Can You Sue a Doctor for Misdiagnosis?

doctors reviewing scan

Each day, ill or injured patients go to the doctor seeking a diagnosis for what ails them. They look to doctors as skilled professionals who can readily diagnose them and help them get back to their normal lives. However, doctors don’t always reach the right diagnosis on the first try, or even after multiple attempts. If you’re curious if you can sue a doctor for misdiagnosis, our attorneys here at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm will explain your rights with respect to doing so below.

Reasons Misdiagnoses Occur

There are countless reasons why doctors may misdiagnose patients, including:

  • Failure to ask the right questions, which would warrant them running specific tests that would help them home in on an accurate diagnosis
  • Clerical or technology errors may cause the incorrect entry or display of inaccurate data that they count on for rendering diagnoses
  • Ultrasound or imaging specialists may miss capturing a concern, including neglecting to take accurate measurements or an X-ray from a specific angle that could show something is wrong
  • A nurse documents inaccurate information when taking down a health history before the doctor sees the patient, which happens to be what the physician relies on wholly or in-part in treating a patient
  • A radiologist may inaccurately read imaging studies, leading treating physicians to conclude nothing is awry when it really is

What Types of Medical Conditions Get Misdiagnosed?

A doctor may assign an incorrect diagnosis under a wide variety of circumstances; however, cancer and heart attack misdiagnoses tend to be particularly concerning.

In the case of cancer, the following types often get misdiagnosed as an alternate condition as follows:

  • Breast cancer: Doctors may write off patients’ presenting concerns as breast inflammation, such as fibrocystic breast disease, or a pathologist may determine a condition is a benign cyst, leading a physician to tell their patient they don’t have cancer.
  • Lung cancer: A respiratory infection, tuberculosis, or pneumonia diagnosis might be the misdiagnosis a patient receives before ultimately receiving a correct lung cancer one.
  • Pancreatic cancer: Gallbladder or inflammatory bowel disease are misdiagnoses that patients often wrongfully receive before ultimately receiving a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
  • Colorectal cancer: Patient may receive a wide range of incorrect diagnoses, including ulcerative colitis, hemorrhoids, and similar conditions as opposed to colon or rectal cancer.

As for heart attacks, women are often less likely to have their signs and symptoms recognized and are, thus, commonly sent home instead of being provided with life-saving care while at their doctor’s office or a hospital emergency room.

For example, men typically complain of symptoms traditionally perceived as being associated with heart attacks, like left arm tingling or discomfort in the left portion of their chests. However, a recent study shows that women often have different heart attack symptoms like:

  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Shallow breaths
  • Acid reflux
  • Jaw pain

How Do You Prove a Misdiagnosis Occurred?

Patients, referred to as plaintiffs when filing legal claims, must meet the following requirements to file medical malpractice claims:

  • That your doctor owed you a specific standard of care
  • Demonstrate that your doctor didn’t uphold the standard of care
  • That their breach of that standard caused you harm
  • You suffered quantifiable losses attributable to their misdiagnosis

When assessing whether your doctor breached the standard of care they owed you, they will look at whether another doctor in the same geographic area with similar training would have treated a patient similarly to the way yours did. Negligence occurs when there’s a deviation between how your doctor handled your treatment and how another physician would have treated you.

Can I Get Compensation for a Misdiagnosis?

It’s certainly easy for a doctor to make a mistake in diagnosing a patient as there are a lot of individuals involved in the diagnostic process, including nurses, radiologists, pathologists, etc. And, for full disclosure, it is possible to hold those parties who have a hand in making poor judgments accountable for their wrongdoings as well.

However, if you’re confident your doctor is the one who dropped the ball in diagnosing you, you can file a malpractice claim or lawsuit to recover compensation, too. So, if you received delayed care for your actual condition or the incorrect treatment for what you were suffering from, you can hold that physician liable for their actions.

More specifically, you can make them cover the following misdiagnosis-related expenses you incurred, such as:

  • Medical bills associated with treating the wrong condition
  • Health care costs associated with undoing the harm caused by receiving the incorrect treatment
  • Compensation for noneconomic damages like pain and suffering you endured because of your condition’s misdiagnosis

In the case of the latter, New Mexico caps noneconomic damages recoverable in medical malpractice cases at $600,000.

Steps To Take if You Received a Misdiagnosis

Most misdiagnosed patients find out about their predicament because their health deteriorates. After being unsuccessful in getting their regular treating physician to assign them an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, they go to another doctor for a second opinion, who ultimately correctly diagnoses them.

If this is ultimately what you found yourself having to do (get a second opinion to finally secure an accurate diagnosis), hopefully, you’ve been keeping notes. If not, start documenting everything that you’ve been through thus far. Also, once you’re confident you have received the right diagnosis, you’ll want to keep with the recommended treatment plan in hopes that it improves your condition.

As soon as you’re on the right path with a diagnosis and treatment, you’ll want to reach out to a medical malpractice attorney. Our lawyers at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm have extensive experience assessing misdiagnosis cases like yours to determine if you have a valid claim and advocating for our clients so that they can recover maximum compensation if so.

Our work on your case begins with a free case review, so reach out to schedule your complimentary consultation to discuss whether you can sue your doctor for a misdiagnosis with one of our Albuquerque attorneys today.

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