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Can I Sue a Doctor for a Misdiagnosis?

Posted on March 15, 2022

Diagnosis is a critical part of a patient’s care. Without a timely and accurate diagnosis of a medical condition, the patient cannot receive the treatment that he or she needs. While no doctor is expected to make a correct diagnosis 100 percent of the time, they are required to adhere to certain standards of care during the diagnosis process. If a doctor makes a misdiagnosis because he or she fell short of these standards of care, he or she can be sued for malpractice.

What Is a Misdiagnosis? 

A misdiagnosis means that a doctor mistakenly diagnoses a patient with an injury, illness or medical condition that is not what he or she actually has. Misdiagnosing a patient can lead to him or her receiving medications, treatments and even surgeries that the patient doesn’t need. It will also prevent the patient from receiving the medical treatments that he or she does need to treat the actual condition. In this way, misdiagnosis is doubly dangerous for patients. Commonly misdiagnosed conditions are: 

  • Cancer
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Infections
  • Asthma
  • Lupus
  • Lyme’s disease
  • Endometriosis
  • Multiple sclerosis

Misdiagnosing a condition is not the only common error that occurs in the diagnosis of a patient. There are also delayed diagnoses and the failure to diagnose. Like a misdiagnosis, these diagnostic errors can have dangerous consequences for a patient, such as the failure to treat the underlying condition. A victim of misdiagnosis could suffer adverse health effects and a worsened prognosis – especially for a time-sensitive condition such as cancer that is more easily treated when discovered at an earlier stage.

When Is a Misdiagnosis Medical Malpractice? 

Even careful, attentive and competent doctors can misdiagnose patients. There are many medically acceptable reasons for a misdiagnosis, such as two conditions that are very similar or inaccurate test results. If a doctor did everything that a reasonable and prudent physician would have in the same or similar circumstances, he or she may not be held legally responsible (liable) for a misdiagnosis. If, however, the doctor should have done something differently, the misdiagnosis could result in a lawsuit.

A patient misdiagnosis is considered medical malpractice in Alabama if it was the outcome of a breach of the duty or standard of care. A breach of duty refers to an act or omission that falls short of the standards of patient care in the medical industry. If a doctor-patient relationship existed but the doctor did not provide a level of care that was consistent with the medical standard, the patient can file a medical malpractice claim for compensation for related losses. 

You or your lawyer must establish proof of a duty of care owed, a breach of duty, causation for the misdiagnosis and compensable related losses. The damages that you are claiming must be the direct outcome of the doctor’s negligence. If you most likely would have suffered the same outcome even with a correct and timely diagnosis of your medical condition – such as in the case of terminal cancer – you may not have grounds to file a medical malpractice claim.

How to Prove a Misdiagnosis Claim 

If you file a medical malpractice claim for a misdiagnosis, you must support your claim with clear and convincing evidence. The burden of proof that you must meet as the plaintiff is a preponderance of the evidence, or enough evidence to demonstrate that what you are claiming is more likely to be true than not true. You or your attorney will need to gather evidence of malpractice against the doctor, such as your medical records, test results, expert medical witnesses and eyewitness statements.

How Can a Misdiagnosis Lawyer Help You With a Claim? 

If your illness or medical condition was recently misdiagnosed by a doctor in Alabama, resulting in adverse health effects, discuss whether you have a claim with an attorney in Birmingham. You may need an attorney’s assistance to prove your claim and recover fair financial compensation for your losses, which may include medical bills and pain and suffering. Medical malpractice is a complicated area of the law that is easier to navigate with an attorney representing you.