By: Bell Law
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Can I Sue My Doctor For Misdiagnosis (What Counts As Malpractice?)
The medical mistakes that grab the headlines – when a doctor removes the wrong limb or organ, for example – are quite rare. In fact, most medical malpractice cases arise from a misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis.
If you suffer from cancer, kidney disease, or a number of other conditions, could you be among the twelve million adults misdiagnosed in the U.S. this year?
Could you be injured as the result of a misdiagnosis, and if so, do you have legal recourse?
When a physician’s diagnosis mistake leads to inappropriate medical treatment, delayed treatment, or no treatment whatsoever, a patient’s medical condition can deteriorate, sometimes rapidly.
Can a patient sue a doctor for a misdiagnosis?
HOW IS “MISDIAGNOSIS” DEFINED?
If you suffer from a particular medical condition, and you were inaccurately diagnosed as having another condition, or if the diagnosis failed completely to detect your medical condition, you were misdiagnosed.
In some cases, a medical misdiagnosis might also be the result of a physician’s failure to:
- send the patient to an appropriate specialist
- screen for a particular disease or condition
- read the lab test results properly
- consult properly with the patient about his or her symptoms
- follow through and determine possible causes of the patient’s symptoms
Patients need to understand that a diagnostic mistake by itself does not necessarily constitute medical malpractice.
In a medical malpractice case, the alleged victim, called the “plaintiff,” must prove three elements in the case in order to prevail and win compensation.
What must be proven?
- There was a doctor-patient relationship.
- A typical doctor in a similar medical practice, and in a similar situation, would not have made the same diagnostic mistake; that is, the doctor was negligent.
- The doctor’s negligence caused provable harm or injury to the patient.
WHAT CONSTITUTES MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?
Doctors owe what the law calls a “duty of care” to each of their patients.
When a doctor’s treatment of a patient fails to meet the medical profession’s own minimum standards, that doctor has breached the duty of care, and if the result is harm or injury to a patient, it constitutes medical malpractice.
According to Atlanta medical malpractice attorney Lloyd Bell, “The most important job of a doctor is to accurately diagnose a patient’s illness. Every important medical decision depends on the accuracy of the diagnosis. When a doctor misdiagnosis the patient due to negligence, he or she may be liable for malpractice.”
One of the most serious risks posed by a misdiagnosis is that a patient may receive the wrong treatment or medication after the misdiagnosis of a serious condition.
If your own health deteriorates as the result of such improper treatment or medication, an Atlanta medical malpractice attorney can help you to understand your legal rights and options, which may include a medical malpractice lawsuit.
When any serious medical condition is misdiagnosed, the patient may miss critical early chances for successful treatment, improvement, or healing.
A medical malpractice lawsuit lets a misdiagnosis victim seek justice – as well as compensation for additional medical expenses, pain, suffering, and in the case of income-earners, compensation for lost wages.
WHAT MEDICAL CONDITIONS ARE COMMONLY MISDIAGNOSED?
If you’ve been misdiagnosed – or if you believe that you have been misdiagnosed – by a healthcare provider at any point since you started seeking medical treatment, immediately contact an attorney who routinely advocates on behalf medical malpractice victims.
Some of the more commonly misdiagnosed conditions include: cancer, heart attack, stroke, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, and staph infection.
It’s important to emphasize again that even if one of these conditions – or some other serious disease or medical condition – is misdiagnosed, there is no medical malpractice unless the misdiagnosis caused harm or injury to the patient, and the patient, with an attorney’s help, is able to prove it.
The type of harm we are discussing might include:
- unneeded surgery
- a higher risk for complications
- unnecessary exposure to risky treatments (like chemotherapy or radiation therapy)
- a higher risk for death
IS THERE A STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR TAKING LEGAL ACTION?
In the state of Georgia, after any misdiagnosis that constitutes medical malpractice, a victim has only two years from the date of the injury to take legal action, although that date may come after the actual date that the misdiagnosis took place.
There’s also a “statute of repose” that places an absolute time limit on a victim’s ability to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Georgia – five years after the date of the incident that caused the injury.
But you can’t wait five years – or even two – if you’ve been injured by medical negligence.
If you’ve been injured or your medical condition has deteriorated because of a medical misdiagnosis in this state, it’s imperative to put a skilled Atlanta medical malpractice lawyer on your case as quickly as possible.
When you file a medical malpractice lawsuit after a misdiagnosis, you may be contacted by the doctor’s insurance company.
Refer the company to your medical malpractice attorney.
Don’t sign any document, make a statement, or accept a settlement from the insurance company before you’ve obtained reliable legal counsel.
A medical malpractice lawyer is a seasoned negotiator.
HOW ARE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASES RESOLVED?
Your lawyer will try to settle with the insurance company out of court, and most medical malpractice cases are resolved that way.
However, if an acceptable settlement amount isn’t offered, your attorney will take your case to court and advocate aggressively there on your behalf.
What are the victims of medical malpractice entitled to in the state of Georgia?
If a victim can prove his or her medical malpractice claim, that victim is entitled to “compensatory” damages for quantifiable monetary losses, including all extra, misdiagnosis-related medical expenses, compensation for lost wages, and all other direct monetary losses.
Victims of medical malpractice in Georgia are also entitled to “non-economic” damages for personal pain and suffering endured as the result of medical malpractice.
“Punitive” damages in Georgia are only awarded in cases where a healthcare provider engaged in misconduct, fraud, or malice when dealing with the patient.
DOES GEORGIA “CAP” MEDICAL MALPRACTICE AWARDS?
States sometimes establish “caps” or limits on the award that a medical malpractice victim may receive.
Typically, these caps limit only the non-economic damages awarded for mental anguish, pain, suffering, and loss of companionship or consortium.
Until 2010, Georgia capped non-economic damage awards in medical malpractice cases at $350,000 (or $700,000 if more than one defendant was found liable).
However, in 2010, Georgia’s state Supreme Court – in Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery, P.C. v. Nestlehutt et al. – determined that the state’s cap on non-economic damages was unconstitutional, so currently (as of 2018), there are no caps on either compensatory damages or non-economic damages awarded in this state.
Nothing is a higher priority than your health, and if you are like thousands of others in Georgia – struggling with cancer, kidney disease, or some other serious health threat – you need to understand that medical medical misdiagnosis is not rare.
In fact, it happens far too frequently, and it injures far too many people.
If you are a victim of medical malpractice, put your case in the hands of an experienced malpractice attorney who can provide the advice you need, and if necessary, advocate aggressively on your behalf.
If you’ve been injured by medical malpractice, you are entitled by law to complete compensation, and you’re also entitled to justice.