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Misdiagnosis Contributes to Bulk of Medical Malpractice Payouts

October 18, 2023Medical Malpractice

Medicine is a complex and difficult profession, requiring years of rigorous training and experience. Mistakes can happen at any job—but when a patient is involved, a doctor’s error can lead to devastating and sometimes life-threatening harm.

One common medical error is misdiagnosis. When health professionals incorrectly identify or fail to identify an ailment, the consequences can be devastating for patients. The ripple effects of these mistakes are especially evident when you examine the data surrounding medical malpractice claims

Billions of Dollars Have Been Paid to Misdiagnosis Victims

Diagnostic errors surpass many other types of medical malpractice in terms of severity and financial impact. A comprehensive review spanning 25 years of malpractice claims in the United States brought forth some startling revelations.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine discovered that contrary to common beliefs, diagnostic errors, and not surgical errors or medication-related incidents, made up the largest portion of medical malpractice claims. These misdiagnoses often resulted in the gravest harm to patients and led to the most significant penalty payouts. From 1986 to 2010, diagnosis-related compensation reached an astonishing $38.8 billion.

When Does a Misdiagnosis Become Medical Malpractice?

While misdiagnosis is a concerning and prevalent issue in the United States, it does not always equate to malpractice. For a misdiagnosis to be classified as medical malpractice, several criteria need to be met:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed.
  • The doctor was negligent, meaning that he or she did not provide treatment in a reasonably skillful and competent manner.
  • The doctor’s misdiagnosis caused actual harm to the patient.
  • The patient suffered damages as a result of the misdiagnosis.

Simply put, an unfortunate or incorrect diagnosis alone isn’t enough. The misdiagnosis must be directly linked to the healthcare professional’s negligence, resulting in harm to the patient.

For example, say that a patient complains of persistent headaches. The doctor, without performing adequate diagnostic tests or asking in-depth questions, dismisses it as tension headaches and prescribes pain relievers. Over time, the patient’s symptoms worsen, leading to a seizure. After visiting another hospital that orders the proper tests, the patient discovers that he or she has a brain tumor. In this scenario, the initial doctor’s negligence in properly diagnosing and treating the patient could qualify as medical malpractice.

However, say that a patient presents ambiguous symptoms that could be attributed to multiple conditions. The doctor performs all necessary tests, but the disease or condition is so rare that it goes undiagnosed. Later, another doctor identifies the condition correctly. In this case, the initial doctor might not be held liable for medical malpractice because he or she acted within the accepted standard of care.

Contact a Georgia Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one believe you’ve been a victim of medical misdiagnosis, it’s imperative to act quickly. Depending on the circumstances, you may qualify for a lawsuit against the provider, helping you recover compensation for your damages, such as:

  • Added medical expenses
  • Lost wages and future earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability accommodations
  • Loss of quality of life

By seeking the expertise of a medical malpractice lawyer in Augusta, you’ll be taking the crucial first step toward justice and compensation. Your attorney can guide you through the legal process, ensuring your rights are upheld every step of the way. Schedule a free consultation as soon as possible to learn more about your path forward.