Proving Medical Malpractice for Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis

A diagnosis is a key moment in a patient’s medical care. A doctor coming to the correct diagnosis in a timely manner could lead to the patient receiving the treatment or medications he or she needs to recover. Unfortunately, not all doctors abide by the mandatory standards of care while diagnosing patients. Misdiagnoses, delayed diagnoses and failure to diagnose harm thousands of patients each year. If a diagnosis mistake harmed you or a loved one, work with a Sacramento medical malpractice lawyer to prove your medical malpractice case.

What Are the Requirements for Proving Medical Malpractice?

California’s definition of medical malpractice is a breach in the duty of care owed to a patient. A breach in the duty of care, otherwise known as negligence, is an act or omission another reasonably prudent doctor would not have committed in the same circumstances. If a breach of duty of care caused a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, the patient (or the patient’s lawyer) will have to prove it to obtain financial compensation.

  1. A doctor-patient relationship existed.
  2. The doctor failed to fulfill the requirements of this relationship.
  3. The doctor’s negligence caused the diagnosis mistake.
  4. The patient suffered real damages due to the misdiagnosis.

These are the four main elements of proof required in most medical malpractice claims. The most important is proving the breach of duty of care. Medical staff members and physicians have a long list of duties, guidelines and laws they must follow for optimal patient care. Failing to meet any of these requirements could lead to a preventable patient injury or death.

What Is the Standard of Care in Diagnosing a Patient?

Diagnosing a patient is a specialty within the medical field. It requires unique training and adherence to related medical industry best practices. In general, diagnostics in health care use the process of eliminations. Diagnosing is a patient-centered activity that requires a doctor to use clinical reasoning throughout each phase to reach the most probable conclusion.

  • The patient experiences a health problem.
  • The patient provides information to the doctor, who interprets it.
  • The doctor collects information that may be relevant, including family history.
  • The doctor generates a list of potential diagnoses and updates it as he or she learns more.
  • The doctor recommends tests, x-rays or specialists to narrow down the diagnosis.
  • The doctor crosses off options through testing until he or she correctly diagnoses the issue.

A physician could be guilty of malpractice or medical negligence if he or she skips a step, ignores the patient’s complaints, fails to order the correct tests, does not follow up with the patient, misinterprets test results, rushes the process or fails to refer the patient to a specialist during the diagnostic process. If another doctor reasonably would have made the correct diagnosis or done so sooner – preventing the patient’s damages – the defendant may be liable.

Evidence During a Misdiagnosis Claim

Accurately diagnosing a patient’s condition in a timely manner gives the patient the best odds of a positive health outcome. When a doctor is negligent in diagnosing a patient correctly or promptly, the doctor could be liable for any related damages the patient suffers – including a worsened health outcome, missed opportunities for life-saving treatments and wrongful death. Proving liability during a Sacramento medical malpractice claim often takes evidence such as medical records, witness statements and medical expert testimony.

A medical expert could help demonstrate misdiagnosis by explaining the correct process for diagnosing a patient to a judge or jury. Then, the expert could provide a professional opinion on what the defendant did wrong and how this negatively impacted the plaintiff. If the doctor was negligent, a positive case outcome could repay the plaintiff for related medical costs, pain and suffering, and other damages. If you believe you have a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis claim, work with a Sacramento personal injury lawyer to enhance your odds of proving medical malpractice in California.