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Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law
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Can You Sue Someone for a Misdiagnosis?

Medical errors are not as uncommon as they should be. Misdiagnoses are also more common than they should be and can result in a patient:

  • Becoming more ill as their actual condition worsens
  • Not receiving the immediate treatment they need because they are being treated for a different condition or not treated at all
  • Suffering from the side effects of medication they never needed
  • Undergoing unnecessary surgery
  • Unnecessarily using medical insurance coverage funds
  • Losing their life because they never received needed care (which can result in a wrongful death claim)

Commonly, the following illnesses are most often misdiagnosed:

  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Blood infections, like sepsis
  • Depression
  • Celiac disease
  • Lyme disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Thyroid conditions

Proving Malpractice Occurred

If you were misdiagnosed, you may have legal recourse to file a medical malpractice suit. Before filing a claim, you should ensure that your case satisfies the four prerequisites of personal injury claims:

  • Duty of care, showing that the medical care provider being sued owed the plaintiff quality care
  • Deviation of duty of care, showing that the defendant acted in a way that another healthcare provider would not (i.e. deviated from standard practices or made a diagnosis another professional would disagree with)
  • Direct cause, proving that the deviation directly caused the plaintiff harm (i.e. worsening their condition or causing additional suffering)
  • Damage, proving that the harm caused the plaintiff measurable economic and/or non-economic damages, like lost wages, exorbitant medical fees, and pain or suffering

What Are the Common Causes of Misdiagnosis?

Common contributors to misdiagnosis cases include but are not limited to:

  • Failure to spend enough time with a patient to fully learn their symptoms
  • Inability to access a patient’s complete and accurate medical history
  • Physicians ordering the wrong screening tests or misreading test results due to overcrowding or drowsiness
  • Laboratory technician error
  • Identified symptoms mimic those of another illness

Laboratory Error & Misdiagnosis

Laboratory testing happens in three stages: pre-analytical testing, analytical testing, and post-analytical testing. In each testing stage, a laboratory error can occur, although most errors happen in the pre-and post-analytical phases.

During the pre-analytical testing phase, hospital staff decides that a test is needed, orders the test, identifies the patient, collects the necessary specimen, and transports the specimen to the lab. Errors can take place during the:

  • Patient assessment, 
  • Ordering of the test,
  • Patient identification, and/or
  • Specimen collection, transport, and receipt.

In the analytical phase, the collected specimen is prepared and tested. In this stage, more errors may occur as:

  • Specimens are improperly processed, labeled, or mixed up;
  • Lab procedures are not adhered to;
  • Faulty or contaminated lab equipment is used; or
  • The incorrect test is executed.

Finally, during the post-analytical phase, the test results are shared with the person who ordered the test. In the post-analytical testing stage, errors can also happen when:

  • Data is omitted or misinterpreted.
  • The data is entered incorrectly.
  • The data is not shared or sent to the necessary or correct personnel.

Human Error & Misdiagnosis

Human error can also lead to misdiagnosis in multiple stages of your medical care. Human error may be the reason for your misdiagnosis due to:

  • Fragmentation of care, meaning your medical care was handled by a multitude of doctors and departments, which can mean results are mixed up or information is not properly communicated
  • Doctor or nurse inexperience, overconfidence, or exhaustion, which can lead to test results being misread, inadequate time spent examining or talking with the patient, needed tests not being ordered, etc.
  • Lack of follow-up, in which your care staff doesn’t follow up with you on your symptoms or diagnosis

Depending on when the error occurred and who made the error, you may be able to sue the responsible party as long as the aforementioned prerequisites are satisfied.

What Damages Are Available?

In these cases, plaintiffs can receive economic and non-economic damages. While economic damages cover financial expenses incurred, such as medical bills and transportation fees (related to receiving care for the injury), non-economic damages aim to compensate you for your pain, suffering, and/or emotional distress.

In New Mexico, a cap is placed on the damages that can be claimed. While the cap used to be $600,000, earlier this year legislation passed to increase the cap to $750,000 in claims related to smaller healthcare providers and $4 million for large hospitals. However, this cap relates to your non-economic damages and does not affect the damages related to ongoing medical care and benefits you may need for a permanent injury or disability.

How Long Do You Have to File?

You and your attorney can investigate the circumstances of your case to determine who is at fault as well as where and when the error occurred that led to your misdiagnosis. It is important to note that claims must be filed within 3 years of the medical malpractice instance, so the sooner you reach out to an attorney and file the better.

What to Do If You’ve Been Misdiagnosed

If you have been misdiagnosed, you should immediately reach out to Michael J. Doyle, Attorney at Law. Our attorney and legal team are devoted to helping those who have been misdiagnosed fight for the compensation they are owed. We are known for our aggressive and compassionate counsel and can help you:

  • Understand what your best options are
  • Calculate the damages you are owed
  • Investigate the hospital staff or lab that handled your care

We understand that your medical care and misdiagnosis can result in financial strain or stress, which is why we work on a contingency fee basis. This means you won’t pay us unless we win your case.

Get nearly 20 years of legal experience on your side and schedule your free consultation today. You can reach out to our office online or via phone (505) 219-2176.