When you go to the doctor, you reasonably expect a timely diagnosis and treatment for your medical condition. For many conditions, timely treatment is critical to avoid severe long-term health effects and adverse outcomes. Unfortunately, delayed diagnosis due to diagnostic errors affects more than 12 million adults in U.S. healthcare systems annually.  

If your healthcare provider delayed diagnosis and your condition worsened or became irreversible as a result, you could pursue damages through a medical malpractice lawsuit

What Is a Delayed Diagnosis?

Delayed diagnosis occurs when medical professionals fail to promptly diagnose a condition. Diagnostic delays can occur due to diagnostic errors, incorrect diagnoses, or missed diagnoses. Such mistakes are often due to cognitive errors on the part of a medical practitioner.

Patients who receive a late diagnosis may not receive the medical care they need for time-sensitive conditions. This can result in higher medical expenses, as the patient requires more aggressive treatment. For certain conditions, delays in diagnosis can lead to irreversible conditions and even death. 

Examples of Delayed Diagnosis 

For example, delayed diagnosis of an aggressive cancer may mean the patient does not receive chemotherapy in time to stop the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.  Late diagnosis may require the client to undergo more aggressive chemo, radiation, and surgical medical procedures to treat the cancer. If the delay in diagnosis is long enough, the cancer may become untreatable.

Similarly, delayed diagnosis of a chronic condition such as pre-diabetes could result in delayed treatment and significant adverse health effects. A patient with a missed diagnosis could lose the chance to treat pre-diabetes through diet and lifestyle modifications. Instead, the patient may contract full diabetes and suffer the dangerous effects of high blood sugar, such as organ damage, loss of vision, and nerve damage. 

In delayed diagnosis cases where the doctor diagnosed the wrong condition, the misdiagnosed patient may also receive expensive medical care for the incorrect diagnosis. At the same time, their health condition may worsen without a correct diagnosis and the appropriate medical treatment.

How To Recognize When a Delayed Diagnosis May Constitute Medical Malpractice

Although timely diagnosis and treatment are critical for prompt medical care, not all late diagnoses constitute medical malpractice. To establish a delayed diagnosis medical malpractice case, you must be able to show that the doctor failed in their duty of care in one of the following ways:

  • The patient experienced symptoms that should have led to a timely diagnosis.
  • The doctor failed to order appropriate tests or procedures to investigate the patient’s symptoms.
  • The doctor failed to interpret test results correctly.
  • The doctor failed to diagnose the patient’s condition in a timely manner.
  • The delay in diagnosis resulted in the patient’s condition worsening or becoming irreversible. 

A skilled medical malpractice lawyer can help you understand the elements of a medical malpractice claim and guide you through the process. 

Proving Medical Malpractice in Cases of Delayed Diagnosis

Delayed diagnosis claims can be complicated, so it is important to understand the factors that apply to failure to diagnose lawsuits. To prove a medical malpractice claim for delayed diagnosis, you will take the following steps:

Establishing the Elements of Medical Malpractice in Delayed Diagnosis

Medical malpractice lawsuits consist of establishing four primary elements:

  1. Establishing duty of care
  2. Proving a breach of the duty of care
  3. Showing the breach caused injury
  4. Proving the injury resulted in damages

Every medical professional is held to a standard of care for their field. Doctors who act in a manner inconsistent with the standard of care can be held liable for the patient’s losses. 

To prove your medical malpractice claim, you must show that the medical care provider was negligent in their diagnosis, their diagnostic negligence resulted in your adverse health effects, and you suffered losses as a result. Such losses may include medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. 

Gathering and Presenting Evidence To Support Your Medical Malpractice Claim

Evidence is a critical aspect of any medical malpractice claim. While you may understand that a doctor’s delayed diagnosis led to your losses, you must be able to prove it. Documents and evidence you may present to prove your case include:

  • Medical records
  • Medical bills and receipts
  • Expert testimony
  • Witness statements
  • Second or third doctor’s opinions

Your evidence aims to show that another medical professional in the same field would have diagnosed the correct condition given the same information. 

Expert Testimonies in Demonstrating Medical Negligence

Expert testimony is one of the most crucial pieces of evidence in a delayed diagnosis claim. Medical malpractice requires you to prove the doctor failed in their duty to diagnose your condition in a timely manner. An independent review by a doctor in the same field can provide crucial evidence that your doctor’s negligence led to an adverse outcome.  

The Role of Medical Records in Validating Claims of Delayed Diagnosis

To conduct an adequate review, it is important to have a thorough record of your medical history, including preexisting conditions, medical diagnostics, and treatment plans. Your expert witnesses will use these documents to determine whether your doctor operated outside the standard of care for the field. 

The records can also provide necessary details about the reason for your delayed diagnosis. For example, they can show whether there was an issue with recordkeeping or if the doctor failed to note or address certain symptoms. Medical records will also provide dates and results for diagnostic procedures so you can see whether the doctor reviewed them and responded in a timely manner. 

Seek the Help of a Medical Malpractice Attorney for Delayed Diagnosis Claims

Healthcare providers have a duty to diagnose and treat patients in a timely and efficient manner. When they fail to do so, the consequences for the patient can be disastrous. If you or someone you love suffered serious injury or illness due to a doctor’s delayed diagnosis, you could pursue damages through a medical malpractice lawsuit. 

Contact Ratzan Weissman & Boldt today to discuss your legal options with a compassionate medical malpractice attorney. Located in Miami, Florida, our team handles complex medical malpractice claims nationwide.