How Common Are Misdiagnoses?

How Common Are Misdiagnoses?

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How Common Are Misdiagnoses?

If you wonder how common misdiagnoses are, the statistics paint a shocking picture. According to Docpanel, 12 million adults are misdiagnosed in the US each year, including 10-20 percent with serious conditions. Cancer diagnoses are particularly affected, with almost half of cancers misdiagnosed. Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis can have tragic consequences and lead to unnecessary treatments, increased medical bills, physical pain, emotional distress, and even death. 

If you or a loved one experienced an injury due to a misdiagnosis, you could file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Damages available could include medical expenses, awards for pain and suffering, and others. Morgan & Morgan is here to help. Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers leave no stone unturned in fighting for fair compensation for victims of reckless medical professionals and hospitals. Contact us for a free case review to clarify your options.

What Qualifies as a Misdiagnosis?

A misdiagnosis occurs when a medical professional fails to recognize a patient’s condition or disease, leading to inaccurate treatment or no treatment at all. Misdiagnosing a minor illness may have little or no consequence, as the condition could resolve on its own. However, a victim’s life might be cut short when a doctor misdiagnoses a potentially deadly and fast progressing disease such as cancer, stroke, or heart attack. Moreover, a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can cause disability, unnecessary pain and suffering, and a shortened life expectancy. 

How Common Are Misdiagnoses of Serious Conditions?

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), doctors may be misdiagnosing up to 20 percent of serious conditions. Some of the most often misdiagnosed serious diseases include:


Stroke is a very time-sensitive condition. Treating patients suffering from stroke immediately can help to limit damage and save lives. Consequently, a misdiagnosis can lead to lost opportunities and failure to treat the patient promptly. Conditions that can mimic stroke symptoms include migraines and epileptic seizures, among others. According to Neurology Today, younger stroke patients are prone to experience a misdiagnosis and could be sent home from the hospital with suspected vertigo or alcohol intoxication.


When an individual develops sepsis, the outcome generally depends on timely treatment. Delayed response and treatment can result in life-altering consequences or death for the patient. Undiagnosed sepsis can lead to gangrene, amputation of limbs, and organ failure, potentially severely impacting a patient’s future life quality and lifestyle. However, the condition can be challenging to diagnose, especially when a doctor fails to assess the patient thoroughly or misinterprets the symptoms of the disease for another condition. 

Lung Cancer 

Lung cancer, when detected early, can potentially be successfully treated and, in some cases, even cured.  However, misdiagnosing lung cancer means losing precious time. A patient may not receive treatment until the cancer is advanced when long-term survival rates are generally low. Medical conditions producing similar symptoms as lung cancer include:

  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Acid reflux
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Other Serious Conditions

There can be other severe conditions prone to misdiagnoses, including:

  • Heart attack
  • Severe blood clots
  • Meningitis and encephalitis
  • Cancers

Most of these diseases have in common that early treatment can save lives and reduce the possibility of lasting health consequences for patients. On the other hand, a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can impact a patient for life or lead to an early death.

Other Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions

According to the AARP, commonly misdiagnosed conditions include:

Lupus – An inflammatory disease with symptoms similar to rheumatoid arthritis or chronic fatigue.

Parkinson's disease – A degenerative disease of the central nervous system that can mimic stroke, Alzheimer’s, and head injuries.

Fibromyalgia – A chronic condition causing widespread muscle pain, with symptoms resembling chronic fatigue or arthritis.

Lyme disease – A severe infection caused by a tick bite that can mimic the flu, meningitis, depression, and other conditions.

Multiple sclerosis – An autoimmune disease with symptoms resembling viral infections, Alzheimer’s, and lupus.

Celiac disease – An immune reaction from ingesting gluten, with symptoms mimicking irritable bowel and other gastrointestinal conditions.

Chronic fatigue syndrome - A disorder causing extreme fatigue and symptoms mimicking hepatitis, sinus problems, and other conditions. 

Misdiagnosis of the above conditions may not have the same dramatic consequences for a patient as misdiagnosing a heart attack or cancer. However, individuals could spend years searching for answers to their debilitating symptoms. Without adequate treatment, patients can suffer from physical and emotional anguish, reduced life enjoyment, and lost income due to the inability to perform at work. They may also incur steep medical bills due to a misdiagnosis.

Do You Have a Misdiagnosis Case?

A staggering 28 percent of misdiagnoses are life-altering or life-threatening, according to Docpanel. Moreover, the medical costs associated with misdiagnosis can be astronomical. However, to have a case, a patient needs to prove that a doctor or medical institution acted negligently by not following the accepted standard of medical care. The patient must also show that:

  • There was a doctor and patient relationship 
  • The doctor breached their duty to treat the patient adequately
  • The patient has an injury and damages as a direct result 

For example, a woman is diagnosed with a benign cyst when suffering from breast cancer. Her doctor failed to order additional diagnostic tests ruling out cancer. As a result, the patient did not receive treatment until her tumor was bigger. In this case, the misdiagnosis resulted in more aggressive treatment, higher medical costs, unnecessary pain and suffering, and a reduced life expectancy. The breast cancer patient could have a medical malpractice case and pursue damages.  

Compensation for Victims of Misdiagnoses 

Every medical malpractice claim is unique, and settlement amounts can vary widely.  However, harmed patients could pursue various damages, depending on their so-called “economic” and “non-economic damages.” Examples of economic damages include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Future medical costs
  • Costs of household assistance or a health aide
  • Lost income and future lost income
  • Costs to modify the victim’s home or vehicle
  • Out-of-pocket expenses

The suffering of misdiagnosed patients can be immeasurable and include great physical and emotional distress. Therefore, successful claimants could be entitled to the following non-economic damages and others:

  • Physical pain and anguish
  • Emotional suffering
  • Reduced life quality
  • Disability

If you were misdiagnosed, you deserve the best legal representation and the best chance of getting the settlement you need. Morgan & Morgan never settles for less. Our attorneys fight tooth and nail for the best possible outcome in medical malpractice cases. 

Misdiagnosis Leading to Wrongful Death

Losing someone unexpectedly is heartbreaking. No amount of compensation can turn back the time. However, filing a lawsuit could prevent those left behind from experiencing unprecedented financial hardship when someone dies due to a misdiagnosis.

If your close relative passed away due to medical negligence, you could file a wrongful death lawsuit and hold a medical professional accountable for your loved one’s death. You could be entitled to damages such as:

  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • Medical expenses before death
  • Lost income and benefits from the decedent
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of parental guidance 
  • Loss of inheritance
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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

Morgan & Morgan

  • Can I Sue My Doctor for Misdiagnosis? 

    You can potentially sue your doctor for medical malpractice if they get your illness or injury wrong or fail to diagnose your condition thoroughly. However, to have a legal case, the misdiagnosis must have caused your injury or your loved one’s death. 

    The first step to determining whether you qualify for a lawsuit is consulting with a medical malpractice attorney or law firm to assess your options. 

  • Why Do Misdiagnoses Happen?

    There can be several reasons for misdiagnoses and not all qualify for a lawsuit. Some reasons for delayed or missed diagnoses can include:

    • Inexperienced, overconfident, or overworked medical professionals
    • Unclear or wrong test results
    • Failing to order the relevant diagnostic tests
    • Interpreting test results incorrectly
    • The patient failed to disclose all of their symptoms
  • How Much Is the Average Misdiagnosis Settlement? 

    There is no average misdiagnosis settlement as injuries and damages can vary extensively from one case to another. However, some medical malpractice cases can reach seven figures, particularly when a court orders the defendant to pay punitive damages in addition to compensatory awards. However, in most cases, a settlement is designed to reimburse the victim for their medical costs, income losses, and physical and emotional ordeal in connection with a critical medical error. 

    An attorney will determine the value of your settlement by calculating your past and future expected damages. If a patient is permanently impaired or terminally ill due to a medical error, damages for pain and suffering can reach high amounts. A medical malpractice lawyer at Morgan & Morgan can analyze your case and inform you of what your case could be worth.

  • What Is the “Standard of Care”?

    The concept of “standard of care” is of critical importance in a medical malpractice lawsuit. To have a legal case, the plaintiff (the injured person filing the lawsuit) has to show that their doctor or hospital failed to adhere to the common standard of care expected in a similar situation. In other words, the patient must prove that a competent doctor would have arrived at a correct diagnosis when applying a reasonable standard of care in the same circumstances. 

    For example, suppose a patient is suffering from excruciating headaches and dizziness. Rather than sending them home with headache medications, a prudent doctor would most likely have ordered tests to rule out a stroke or another serious condition.

  • Do I Need a Lawyer for My Misdiagnosis Case?

    Although misdiagnoses are common, medical malpractice litigation can be much more complex than other personal injury claims such as car accidents. Evidence needed to litigate a case can be extensive and involves gathering and interpreting medical documents and finding medical expert witnesses to testify on the patient’s behalf. Making mistakes such as missing a court deadline or errors on an important document could result in losing your rights. Therefore, consider hiring an attorney to represent you in a medical malpractice case.

    Do Not Just Hire Any Lawyer

    While any personal injury lawyer could handle a misdiagnosis case, you should find someone who has a successful track record and years of experience in fighting and winning these complex claims. Moreover, medical malpractice cases can be expensive to litigate. A law firm must have the resources to fight claims that could last years. Morgan & Morgan, as the largest personal injury firm in the country, has the resources and experience to handle medical malpractice cases. 

  • How Can Morgan & Morgan Help Me?

    Our highly motivated and experienced medical malpractice lawyers can handle all aspects of your misdiagnosis case, so you can concentrate on your health. We can: 

    • Determine whether you can file a misdiagnosis lawsuit
    • Ensure you receive the medical care you need
    • Help you navigate the legal process 
    • Communicate with your doctors and gather crucial medical documents
    • Hire respected medical expert witnesses to testify on your behalf
    • Negotiating a fair settlement with the defendant or their insurer 
    • Take your case to trial and fight vigorously for the best outcome

    Morgan & Morgan’s medical malpractice lawyers understand the devastating effects of misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses. We can be your shoulder to lean on during a stressful time and ensure that you have the best possible chance of receiving the settlement you deserve. Our attorneys have won a variety of medical malpractice cases, with some settlement amounts reaching seven and eight figures. 

  • Contact Us Now for Help 

    When you are seriously ill, fighting a lawsuit against a powerful medical institution or doctor can feel intimidating and stressful. Morgan & Morgan understands the physical and emotional turmoil medical malpractice victims experience. We know that compensation won’t give you your health back. However, getting what you deserve can help to make your future and the future of your family more comfortable and avert potential financial chaos. Moreover, receiving a payout can pay for your medical bills and help you access costly treatments. 

    You do not have to go it alone. Morgan & Morgan has your back. We are determined to hold negligent medical providers fully accountable for their failures. We have an army of lawyers ready to work for you and the resources required to fight for as long and as hard as it takes. Contact us now to find out for free how we could help you get the justice and compensation you deserve.

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