If your treating physician has failed to diagnose you timeously, this could be a form of medical malpractice. If this has occurred, your physician should be held accountable and your medical malpractice attorneys can help you file a delay in treatment lawsuit. When you go to see a medical professional, you can reasonably expect to have your condition diagnosed and treated in a timely manner. Medical conditions often require swift treatment, before they worsen or any further consequences arise. Unfortunately, there may be a situation where your doctor fails to make a timely diagnosis. This could result in negative consequences, ranging from your condition worsening to a worst-case scenario of death.
What Are the Common Causes of Delayed Treatment?
Delayed treatment usually occurs when your physician makes a late diagnosis. This differs from a misdiagnosis, where your physician diagnoses you with a condition that you do not have. Delay in treatment is characterized by the patient not receiving the appropriate form of medical treatment, whether this be medication, physical therapy, lab testing, or anything else, within the appropriate timeframe. There can be several causes for this, including:
- Your physician fails to consult adequately regarding your symptoms or correctly identify them.
- Your physician not ordering lab work and testing when it is required.
- Labs failing to notify your physician of the results of your lab tests.
- Physicians failing to carefully review test results or your patient history.
- Your physician not referring you to a specialist.
- Any clerical errors, such as mistakes during shift changes or incorrect taking of notes.
A delayed diagnosis can have severe consequences. This is the case in illnesses that worsen without effective treatment. Examples are types of cancers, which can be treated if diagnosed early, but can spread and become terminal if the diagnosis is delayed.
When Is Delayed Treatment Considered Medical Malpractice?
Not every case of delayed diagnosis counts as medical malpractice. If you do not seek medical attention timeously, withhold relevant information from your physician, lie about your symptoms, or not don’t reveal your symptoms to your physician, then the reason for the delayed diagnosis is your conduct. Such conduct could lead to your physician not being able to diagnose you or providing a wrong diagnosis. Your physician then is not at fault and cannot be liable.
A late diagnosis is only considered medical malpractice if your physician fails to use the same level of care and skill that another physician, with a similar level of expertise, would in the same situation. If another similarly skilled and experienced doctor would diagnose your condition promptly, then your doctor will likely be considered negligent, and the late diagnosis will likely constitute medical malpractice.
Sometimes parties other than your physician cause the delay. Skillful doctors also make mistakes, even if they are being careful. Every case will be different, but there are some common scenarios where a late diagnosis will likely lead to your physician being considered liable for malpractice. Your physician might not take your complete medical history, dismiss your symptoms as a less severe condition, find abnormal test results but fail to order further testing, or not refer you to a specialist, even with signs indicating that he or she should. Your physician can also fail to analyze your medical records properly, or be under the influence of an intoxicating substance during your diagnosis, affecting his or her ability to give you proper medical advice.
There may be times when a physician fails to provide an accurate diagnosis due to human error from someone else. This can be in situations where defective diagnostic equipment did not give accurate results, a technician missed medical problems in tests such as x-rays or biopsies, or someone used incorrect testing procedures for your condition. It can also happen when your records are incomplete or erroneous. In such a situation, the fault will not fall on your physician, but whichever healthcare professional was negligent, causing the delay in your diagnosis.
Proving a Delayed Diagnosis as Medical Negligence
In proving a delayed diagnosis as medical negligence, you will need to prove four elements.
Healthcare Provider-Patient Relationship
It must be shown that the person or party who led to your delayed diagnosis had an established relationship with you. You are unable to bring a lawsuit against a person or party who did not treat you. Typically, if you are under a healthcare provider’s care, this relationship will be established. This can be appointments or procedures with a doctor, being admitted to a hospital, or even a home health care provider, if you have suffered some form of home health care negligence.
The Healthcare Provider Violated the Standard of Care Owed
To prove that your healthcare provider violated the standard of care owed to you, you will need to show that he or she was negligent in some form. If another similarly skilled healthcare provider with the same level of training would have been able to follow a correct procedure and make a prompt diagnosis, and your healthcare provider did not do so, then he or she is likely negligent, and has violated this standard of care.
The Delay in Treatment Caused Harm
It is not sufficient to establish that there was a delay in diagnosis and treatment. This delay must have caused actual harm to the patient. A delay in treatment may lead to harm where:
- The condition worsens.
- The symptoms associated with the condition worsen.
- The treatment’s effectiveness decreases.
- There is prolonged or intensified pain or discomfort.
The Delay in Treatment Caused You to Suffer Damages
Your delay in treatment must have resulted in some form of damages. If you have received a delayed diagnosis, your attorney can help you recover economic damages for past and current medical bills, lost wages, ongoing treatment, and rehabilitation. You can also claim non-economic damages for pain and suffering, loss of physical ability or brain function, or emotional distress.