What Should I Do if I Am Misdiagnosed With an Illness?

When you visit with a physician or other medical professional, you expect to be diagnosed appropriately and in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis is very common, and this can leave you facing the consequences of not getting the treatment that you need or of getting treatment for another condition that was improperly diagnosed. 

When misdiagnosis happens, victims should not be the one to pay the consequences, and this is why medical malpractice lawsuits can be filed. Misdiagnosis can be very costly to you and your family. In fact, research has found that around 12 million Americans are misdiagnosed every single year. In nearly half of those cases, the misdiagnosis has the potential to lead to significant harm.

If you believe this has already happened to you or a loved one, you want to discuss your options sooner rather than later. You have already lost time due to being misdiagnosed and now you might want to protect your legal rights in a difficult situation. 

When you are a family member attempting to help a loved one who has been misdiagnosed, you now have two things to be concerned with. First of all, the loved one needs to get the medical treatment for the diagnosis that was accurate. But you also still have the problem of how to handle the situation in which the previous medical professional did not diagnose your loved one properly. You might get involved in this process by hiring an experienced medical malpractice misdiagnosis lawyer to provide you with support and answers during this difficult time. You might be your loved ones only opportunity to get help in the form of a lawsuit, and given their need to focus on their treatment during this time, it might be critical for you to help them when they have been misdiagnosed with an illness.

Misdiagnosis Consequences

When you are trying to figure out “what do I do if I am misdiagnosed with an illness,” you may need to evaluate your right to file a legal claim. Misdiagnosis can have far reaching consequences for a person's health. Sometimes a physician might call for treatment that ultimately ends up being harmful for you because you do not have the underlying condition. For example, entering an intensive care unit could dramatically increase your chances of a fatal injury.

Getting a second opinion is one way to decrease the chances of getting misdiagnosed and to help put you on the path to getting the treatment that you do need. But what happens to the physician that misdiagnosed you? This information might become the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Can You Prevent Misdiagnosis?

All too often, misdiagnosis happens and it could have been prevented. Physicians must do their due diligence to approach each case with the same standard of care as another professional. There are some steps that patients can take to decrease their chances of being misdiagnosed, including getting a second opinion. Bring the following things to your doctor's appointment to decrease your chances of getting misdiagnosed.

  • A copy of all blood work and lab work
  • A list of questions you have about your symptoms and condition
  • A written description of your medical history and any other current health conditions
  • Progress charts of any symptoms if you keep them
  • A list of all supplements and medications you take as well as the length of time and the dosages for them

Asking questions about your care and trying to find out if there are any other possible conditions that could produce these symptoms can be helpful for protecting your interests and getting a better diagnosis.

How Do I Know if I Have a Legal Case?

Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis can cost you valuable treatment time and can also lead to medical bills for treatments you didn't need. Far too many medical malpractice lawsuits are associated with delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis. When a doctor's mistake leads to improper or delayed treatment or no treatment at all, you are the one paying the consequences. A mistake in a diagnosis by itself, however, is not enough to carry a medical malpractice lawsuit and this is why you should speak to an experienced medical malpractice misdiagnosis lawyer when looking for what do I do if I am misdiagnosed with an illness.

The only way to know for sure whether or not you have a case for medical malpractice misdiagnosis is to meet with the lawyer. By the time you meet with an attorney, you should already have evidence from another physician or other testing laboratories indicating that a different decision should have been made. Since this is a firm component of the lawsuit argument your employer will make, you can make things much easier for them by presenting things in a chronological fashion and coming to the table to meet with your medical injury lawyer in an organized way. Your lawyer cannot confirm that you have a case until they have reviewed the specifics of your claim.

How Can I Prove Medical Malpractice?

Diagnostic errors are not the only reason why a doctor could be held responsible under the law. Patients have to prove three different elements to show that a medical malpractice lawsuit is warranted. These include that a patient doctor relationship existed, that the doctor was negligent in failing to provide treatment in a competent or reasonable manner such that a similar provider would and that the negligence caused serious and actual injury to the patient. Most medical malpractice and misdiagnosis cases are focused on the last two elements and you will need to gather evidence and medical records that help to support your claim. For example, perhaps you saw another physician for a second opinion after receiving treatment recommended by the first physician. 

If the second physician suggested and later confirmed that you did not have this condition at all, this information can become important details for your misdiagnosis claim. A delayed diagnosis or a misdiagnosis on its own is not enough to meet the grounds of negligence. Even when using reasonable care, knowledgeable doctors can make diagnostic errors. The critical impact of this is whether or not the doctor acted competently and used a differential diagnosis method. This systemic method is used to identify a condition or a disease in a patient. A doctor will make a list of all the diagnoses in order of probability based on the symptoms presented by the patient. The patient has to prove that a doctor in a similar specialty under relatively similar circumstances would not have misdiagnosed the patient's condition or illness. 

This usually means proving one of the following two factors:

  • The doctor included the initial correct diagnosis on the list in their differential diagnosis but did not get additional opinions or perform the right tests to confirm this possibility
  • The doctor did not include the correct diagnosis on their list for differential diagnosis to begin with and someone else with similar experience under similar circumstances would have.

Inaccurate results are another way that you could end up with a misdiagnosis. If diagnostic equipment was inaccurate or if human error occurred along this process, your doctor might have made your differential diagnosis decision based on information that was inaccurate. In these circumstances, you need to be familiar with the rights available to you so you can decide how to proceed. One of the key aspects of your case is in proving that the negligent misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis caused substantial injuries or caused your true condition to progress beyond what it normally would have. In the rare case that a doctor diagnoses a patient with an illness or a condition that the patient doesn't have, the patient can also show that they have experienced psychological repercussions of being diagnosed with this condition. In all of these circumstances, it falls to you to investigate the support provided by an experienced knowledgeable misdiagnosis lawyer.

What You Can Expect After You File a Suit

Unfortunately, you are dealing with many different consequences as a result of being misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, and to make matters worse, you can expect that the medical department of the hospital at fault will respond swiftly and strongly once you allege a misdiagnosis. You need to be prepared for what to expect when this occurs and to have the appropriate evidence to support your claim. It can be very difficult to move on with your life after you have been misdiagnosed, but you might discover that the hospital or the physician may downplay the impacts of your misdiagnosis. You need to have an attorney who can help guide you through the evidence that you will need to collect as well as the proper storytelling and illustrate how this incident changed your life. 

The more evidence you have and the more experience your lawyer has in these types of cases, the more easily you’ll be able to navigate this process and to understand what options are available to you. In some misdiagnosis cases, the other side might want to settle as soon as possible. In others, you might need to be prepared to go to trial. 

If you have been misdiagnosed and think you have a case, you can contact Morgan & Morgan for a free case evaluation to get started.