Legal Guide

Can You Sue for a Misdiagnosis?

Medical misdiagnoses are a common occurrence. In the United States, some 12 million people are affected by diagnostic errors every year.

At the best of times a misdiagnosis can prolong an illness or injury by preventing a patient from getting the treatment they need in a timely manner. At the worst, the results can be tragic, with an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 people dying as a consequence each year.

But despite the dire stakes, many affected patients wonder "can you sue for a misdiagnosis"?

It can be a complicated matter, so to get to its heart we'll take a look at what counts as a misdiagnosis, and what to do when you've been misdiagnosed.

What Constitutes a Misdiagnosis?

A misdiagnosis means that when appraising your condition, your doctor came to the wrong conclusion. By prescribing the wrong course of treatment, your doctor can delay a correct diagnosis, make your condition worse, or even cause death.

There are a variety of common misdiagnoses.

Asthma, for example, is often misdiagnosed as chronic bronchitis. Heart attacks may be misidentified as panic attacks or even indigestion. And Lyme Disease can be mistaken for anything from the flu, to depression, or mononucleosis.

Most patients might suspect a misdiagnosis if either their symptoms do not improve or get worse. Though it is important to note that there is a variety of reasons why a patient's condition might not be improving. Misdiagnosis is just one possible explanation.

Can You Sue for a Misdiagnosis?

The law does not hold doctors liable in every case of wrongful or delayed diagnosis. In order for your case to succeed, you would have to be able to prove three points:

First, you need to prove that a doctor-patient relationship existed. If you're under their care, doctors have a legal duty to act in a reasonably competent matter.

Second, you need to prove that negligence took place. That sounds simple, but just because a doctor misdiagnosed you, doesn't mean they were negligent under the law. The burden falls to you to prove that another, reasonably competent doctor would have been able to make the correct diagnosis.

And third, you need to be able to prove that their negligence caused real harm. For example, you could be ill with the flu but are misdiagnosed with migraines. Your doctor then acts by recommending that you take Tylenol, which ends up treating your symptoms regardless of the incorrect diagnosis.

In this case, you would not be entitled to damages because the misdiagnosis did not cause harm.

A misdiagnosis lawsuit usually hinges on those second and third points. Because the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff, you want to contact a malpractice attorney as soon as possible after thinking you may have suffered a misdiagnosis.

Getting the Compensation That You're Owed

A wrongful diagnosis can irreversibly impact your life or the life of a loved one. It's always a frightening, frustrating situation. And that's before factoring in questions like "can you sue for a misdiagnosis".

That's all the more reason to make sure you don't navigate these waters alone. If you're considering filing a wrongful diagnosis lawsuit, reach out to a capable attorney as soon as possible to give yourself the best chances of winning the compensation that you deserve.

For all the help you need moving forward with a lawsuit, be sure to keep up with all of our latest advice on finding the legal resources you need.


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