Misdiagnosis — Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Though well-trained and generally well-meaning, healthcare professionals do not always make the right decisions in diagnosing a patient’s illness or condition, particularly in situations where the diagnostic procedure is more complicated, or where the condition at issue is uncommon and relatively unpredictable. Not all mistakes rise to the level of medical malpractice, but in many cases, the healthcare professional’s misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis mistakes violate the standard of care and expose the doctor to liability.
Richards & Richards, LLP has served medical malpractice victims throughout Pennsylvania for nearly half a century. We believe that expert knowledge is critical to successful litigation in the medical malpractice context. In fact, not only do our attorneys have years of experience litigating medical malpractice cases, but the head of our medical malpractice department has worked as nurse practitioner and hospital administrator prior to entering the law. We also work with expert medical professionals early on in the litigation process. This advantage is reflected in our success. Our attorneys have been recognized as Super Lawyers, and we just recently obtained a $4+ million settlement in a delayed diagnosis lawsuit for our client.
Call (412) 261-2620 to get connected with one of our Pittsburgh misdiagnosis attorneys today.
Q: What negligence commonly leads to misdiagnosis?
A: Negligence that often gives rise to a medical malpractice lawsuit (on the basis of a misdiagnosis) includes:
- Interpreting results of testing incorrectly.
- Ignorance of prior medical history of the patient.
- Failure to order tests.
- Delayed testing.
- Failure to confirm diagnosis with other healthcare professionals.
- Failure to continue diagnostic testing with the patient when confounding variables were present.
Q: Can I hold my doctor liable for refusing to ask for a second opinion?
A: In certain circumstances, you may be able to hold your doctor liable for refusing to ask for another healthcare professional’s second opinion on your diagnosis. In order to find a doctor medically negligent for a particular action, the standard of care must be violated. If your condition is difficult to diagnose, and the results are unclear, then the standard of care in that situation may call for a second opinion. To succeed, your attorney will have to persuade the court that this is, in fact, the proper standard of care for the circumstances.
Q: It has been years since my doctor misdiagnosed me — can I still sue?
A: You may still be able to sue, even if it has been several years since the doctor misdiagnosed you. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice actions is two years from the date of discovery. In other words: your deadline will begin to count down from the day that you discover, or reasonably should have discovered, that you were injured as a result of the defendant’s medical malpractice (i.e., misdiagnosis). The “discovery rule” may therefore have preserved your medical malpractice claim, so long as the injuries you suffered were discovered (and could only have been reasonably discovered) later than the act of misdiagnosis.
Q: What damages can I recover to compensate me for the misdiagnosis?
A: Damages in a misdiagnosis lawsuit can be challenging to measure, as the misdiagnosis incident may simply exacerbate an illness that would have otherwise developed (though perhaps to a more treatable degree). Consider, for example, a delayed cancer diagnosis. If your doctor had diagnosed the cancer sooner, then you would have still had to suffer through the disease. However, the fact that the cancer was diagnosed so late means that the cancer developed to a more advanced stage, thus resulting in a higher chance of death. Damages must account for exacerbation, where applicable.
Q: Will getting treatment hurt my case?
A: Obtaining treatment for your condition will not hurt your case. In fact, if you fail to obtain treatment after discovering that you have a particular condition caused by a healthcare professional’s negligence (in misdiagnosing you), then your case will be undermined. Pennsylvania requires that injured plaintiffs adhere to their duty to mitigate damages. Essentially, injured plaintiffs must make reasonable efforts to treat their injuries and resolve other losses — regardless of whether the injury was caused by medical malpractice.