When Can I Seek Compensation for a Doctor’s Misdiagnosis?

Doctors use a wide range of tests and equipment to diagnose their patients’ ailments. When you visit the doctor, you trust that they have the knowledge and expertise necessary to identify the cause of your discomfort and prescribe appropriate treatment. If your doctor misdiagnoses your condition, you may endure numerous difficulties.

A recent study of outpatient diagnostic errors in the U.S. indicates that misdiagnosis is a serious medical error that affects approximately 12 million people in the United States every year. In other words, one in 20 adults receives incorrect diagnoses annually.

Misdiagnosis accounted for 5.08 percent of all outpatient hospital visits. In addition, a 25-year summary of U.S. malpractice claims shows that diagnostic errors are the most common medical error to affect patients. Misdiagnosis is the most dangerous and most expensive of all medical errors, with half of the recorded misdiagnosis cases resulting in death.

With stakes this high, the severity of misdiagnosis cases should be evident. If a medical professional incorrectly diagnosed you or a loved one, you might be able to seek compensation for your losses related to the faulty diagnosis. Contact a medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your options.

What Is Misdiagnosis?

When Can I Seek Compensation for a Doctor’s Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis is a medical error in which a doctor incorrectly attributes a patient’s symptoms to an illness or injury. A misdiagnosis may seem small at the time, but the truth is that misdiagnosis can cause significant physical, mental, and financial harm.

For example, if your doctor diagnoses your gastrointestinal distress as GERD but you have celiac disease, you may experience worsening symptoms while paying for medication that does not treat your actual condition. Maybe you unknowingly continue to eat wheat, rye, and barley, which exacerbates your symptoms.

The ongoing discomfort may compromise your ability to work, reduce your quality of life, and create mental and emotional distress. Over time, you could endure long-term damage to your intestinal tract, leading to nutrient malabsorption, anemia, and cancer.

Regardless of your condition’s severity, a misdiagnosis places your health and well-being at risk. A medical malpractice lawyer can help you seek compensation for your losses if you have suffered illness or injury due to misdiagnosis.

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Misdiagnosis Due to Doctor Negligence

One of a doctor’s primary responsibilities is to diagnose a patient’s condition to determine how to treat or cure them. Doctors use a wide range of diagnostic procedures, depending on the illness or injury.

Diagnostic imaging equipment such as X-rays, C.T. scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs visually depict conditions. Doctors may also use laboratory tests to analyze levels of substances, chemicals, enzymes, and other indicators in the patient’s blood or bodily fluids. Cancer diagnoses often require biopsies, in which pathologists analyze the patient’s blood or tissue for abnormal cells.

Doctors use these diagnostic techniques to identify the patient’s injury, illness, or condition. Unfortunately, doctors do not always correctly apply their knowledge and diagnostic tools to determine the cause of the patient’s ailment, resulting in high misdiagnosis rates. These errors can occur at any point during a patient’s treatment.

When Does Misdiagnosis Occur?

Misdiagnosis can occur at any point of patient-doctor interaction, from initial discussions and testing through treatment and follow-up.

Doctor’s Visit

When you go to the doctor for your first visit, they should pay attention to your symptoms, ask pertinent questions, and follow up with appropriate testing. Whether you are in the office for a regular check-up or to address a specific issue, your doctor must attentively address your concerns and seek answers to any unusual or concerning symptoms. Doing so may involve analyzing your symptoms, asking about your lifestyle, and ordering diagnostic tests.

Diagnostic Tests and Screening

Doctors examine their patients for signs of illness or injury. If there is an issue, they may request diagnostic testing such as imaging, scanning, or blood tests to diagnose the problem accurately. A negligent doctor may not pay attention to the patient or misattribute symptoms to unrelated causes, such as smoking, drinking, or obesity. A doctor may also fail to request the proper tests to address symptoms, resulting in misdiagnosis.

Test Result Analysis

Even if they request the correct tests, a doctor can still misdiagnose a patient. Doctors who rush or are inattentive may misread results, misinterpret the findings, or even look at the wrong patient’s file. Doing so can lead to misdiagnosis, resulting in delayed treatment, incorrect medication prescription, or worsening symptoms.

Treatment Options

Your doctor may prescribe treatment like medication, activities, or lifestyle changes depending on your condition. Early diagnosis can mean the difference between successful and failed treatment in many cases. When doctors misdiagnose patients, they may treat them for the wrong illness or decide not to treat them. Some diseases like diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions may end the patient’s life if left untreated.

Discussion and Follow-up

Following a diagnosis, your doctor should educate you regarding your condition and discuss your treatment options. This discussion helps you understand how to make decisions to preserve or improve your health. If your doctor fails to communicate your diagnosis or condition, you may proceed under the assumption that you have another disease or no disorder at all. This misdiagnosis can easily lead to worse symptoms, illness, and death.

Misdiagnosis Can Cause Significant Harm

While misdiagnosis is serious under any circumstances, a malpractice suit must prove that the misdiagnosis caused you harm. The harm caused by a misdiagnosis can take many forms and may include:

Snowballing Symptoms and Unnecessary Treatment

If your doctor misdiagnoses your condition, your symptoms may worsen if the disease is progressive and you do not receive appropriate or timely treatment. If they diagnose the wrong illness, you may also receive treatments you don’t need, including medication and therapy that can cause organ injury, strokes, heart attacks, and other life-threatening damage. For example, if you are incorrectly diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe blood pressure medication that dangerously lowers your blood pressure.

Surgical Errors

In some cases, doctors may perform unnecessary surgery on a patient due to a misdiagnosis. Surgical errors cause the patient undue pain and suffering and result in lasting health issues. In addition, recovering from unnecessary surgery could delay treatment or surgery for the patient’s actual condition.

Delayed Treatment

Delayed diagnosis can create significant issues for the patient. Doctors who fail to diagnose cancer in the early stages, for example, must often treat advanced cancer with more aggressive chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery that would not have been necessary if they had diagnosed cancer correctly. The patient faces more invasive procedures and lower quality of life during treatment, and they are more likely to die from the delay in treatment.


From treatment delays to medication errors, every aspect of misdiagnosis can ultimately lead to patient death. If your loved one received incorrect treatment, wrong medication, unnecessary surgery, or experienced delayed treatment due to a doctor’s failure to diagnose that resulted in their death, contact a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

Commonly Misdiagnosed Illnesses and Conditions

Since many factors can cause misdiagnosis, medical professionals easily misdiagnose illnesses and conditions with similar symptoms. Doctors and specialists should be aware of the potential for mimicry, but incorrect testing and inattention sometimes cause doctors to overlook the defining characteristics of an illness and misdiagnose another.

Common conditions that doctors misdiagnose include:

  • Cancer
  • Celiac disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lupus
  • Lyme disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease

If your healthcare provider misdiagnoses you with any of the above conditions, you may be able to seek compensation for harm caused by the wrong diagnosis. Contact a medical malpractice lawyer with experience in misdiagnosis to discuss your next steps.

What to Do if Healthcare Professionals Misdiagnose You

If you believe that healthcare providers have misdiagnosed you or a loved one, you may be able to seek compensation for medical malpractice.

Follow these steps to protect your right to compensation for your losses:

  • Seek a Second Opinion: In a misdiagnosis, you may seek a second opinion from another doctor or follow up with the doctor who misdiagnosed you. If you visit your original doctor, do not accuse them of malpractice, as this can make it challenging to obtain the documents you need.
  • Request Medical Records: As soon as possible, request a full copy of your medical records about the misdiagnosed illness or injury, including any documentation for preexisting conditions that may have affected your misdiagnosis.
  • Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney: In Illinois, you must submit your claim within two years of the date of the misdiagnosis. Therefore, you must contact a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible after you learn of the misdiagnosis. Different states have different time limits, so speak with a lawyer in your area for more information.

A lawyer with knowledge of local medical malpractice laws will understand medical procedures, laws governing medical practice, and negotiation tactics used by medical practitioners, their insurance companies, and their legal counsel.

Damages You Can Claim for Misdiagnosis

Since every medical misdiagnosis claim is different, each claim’s value differs.

Common damages you can claim for medical malpractice due to misdiagnosis include:

  • Existing and future medical expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Vocational training and career change costs
  • Long-term and in-home medical treatment
  • Medication, therapy, and rehabilitation
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional distress
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Loss of companionship
  • Wrongful death

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer to Discuss Your Options

Misdiagnosis is a significant cause of injury and death for patients across the U.S. Incorrect diagnoses claim the lives of thousands of patients every year, and those who survive often experience devastating long-term effects. To protect your right to fair compensation for damages due to malpractice, partner with a medical malpractice lawyer who has experience working with malpractice cases.

A knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer will help you compile the necessary documentation and evidence to prove that your doctor’s misdiagnosis harmed you. They will obtain witness testimony from medical professionals and economic experts to establish the value of your claim and aggressively negotiate on your behalf for a fair settlement. If negotiations fail, a medical malpractice lawyer can represent your case in court to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.

Contact a medical malpractice law firm with questions about your misdiagnosis claim.

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