Many people do not realize that medical malpractice claims can arise not only over blatant mistakes made during surgery or in the treatment of patients, but also in failing to treat patients. This phenomenon, known as “failure to diagnose” in the medical profession, can technically be a misdiagnosis, or a missed diagnosis. Doctors can be held legally liable for medical malpractice not only when they make an affirmative mistake, but also when they choose to do nothing in response to a patient reporting symptoms to them.
Specifically, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found that diagnosis errors are frequent and important, but represent an understudied area of patient study. Substantial percentages of patients that were part of the AHRQ study experienced missed or delayed diagnoses. This is arguably a part of a problematic pattern of doctors not listening to patients.
Specifically, failure to diagnose a condition while a patient is pregnant, going through delivery, or has just given birth, is considered medical malpractice if it leads to injuries to you or your infant. However, there are some criteria that first need to be established before a failure to diagnose can be considered medical malpractice.
This element is easier to establish if the doctor who failed to diagnose you is your primary care physician, but this is not required. Providing you with an examination is, arguably, enough to establish this relationship and reasonable expectation that a doctor not acts negligently.
Treatment Falls below Standard of Practice in Medical Community
Your doctor has a duty to act as a reasonable and prudent individual within that profession (i.e. as other doctors would have acted in similar circumstances) when it comes to treating patients. If they failed to do so and this resulted in injury or death to the patient, they can be held liable. The injured patient has the burden of proving this (with their attorney), usually by way of testimony from similar experts.
Action Resulted In Injuries at Issue
The patient also has the responsibility to prove that the doctor’s specific error (failure to diagnose, missed or delayed diagnosis, etc.) is what caused the patient harm in order to win compensation in a case.
Some of the conditions that are most commonly the subject of medical malpractice claims for failure to diagnose include several types of cancer and heart disease, sometimes which are misdiagnosed or ignored as more minor ailments. Sometimes the red flag for a potential failure to diagnose could be a doctor that is reticent to order necessary tests or examinations for a patient, failing to follow through on reported infections, not paying attention to a patient repeatedly complaining about an issue, etc.
Statute of Limitations to Bring Claim
In Louisiana, the statute of limitations (or time limit on bringing your lawsuit after noticing the issue) is one year from the date of the patient realizing that there was medical malpractice (or, arguably, should have known). The ultimate limit on this is three years from the date of the alleged malpractice.
We Can Help
Even if your condition was diagnosed correctly, you may have been harmed by the negligence of your doctor or medical professional for failing to timely treat your disease or condition. Sometimes even a short delay can dramatically affect the outcome of the treatment.
Harrell & Nowak has aggressively represented people who have suffered personal injuries in litigation. We have recovered millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients, and we are prepared to help you today. If you or a loved one has been injured, contact our New Orleans personal injury law firm today for a free, confidential consultation.