A study of clinical negligence claims in the U.S. over a 25-year period found misdiagnoses, or diagnostic errors, to be “the most common, most costly and most dangerous of medical mistakes.” The problem is that a missed or delayed diagnosis prevents a patient from getting medical treatment when it is needed in order to prevent the condition from worsening.
If you suspect that you or a loved has been harmed due to a misdiagnosis in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois, you should have your case investigated without delay by an attorney. Medical records should be thoroughly reviewed, and the treatment should be analyzed by qualified medical experts.
To receive a free and confidential consultation, contact Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., today. We can aggressively seek the answers and the compensation you deserve.
Common Types of Medical Misdiagnosis Cases
Many people who are the victims of a misdiagnosis are not certain, at first, whether their doctor did something wrong. Yet, the reality is that physicians make many different kinds of diagnostic errors that can give rise to a malpractice claim.
Common types of misdiagnoses are:
Botched Lab Tests:
Medical labs process hundreds of samples every day. Labs can make errors including:
- Contaminating samples
- Testing the wrong patient sample
- Reporting the wrong results for the wrong patient.
When errors occur, you may be diagnosed with a medical condition you don’t have or your own health problems might not be identified. The facility that performed the testing can be held accountable for unreasonable mistakes.
According to Partners HealthCare Systems, primary care doctors review an average of 40 radiological reports, 12 pathology reports, 460 hematology reports and 360 chemistry test results every week.
Both primary care doctors and specialists also review many other types of diagnostic tests and can make mistakes that include misreading:
- PET scans
- Blood tests.
Failure to correctly read test results can result in the misdiagnosis of serious conditions such as cancer, heart attack and blood clots.
Failure to Order or Follow Up On Testing:
After a survey of 300 doctors and 22 hospitals, the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality reported that 44 percent of diagnostic errors occurred because of a failure to order, read or follow up on test results. Mistakes included:
- Declining to order appropriate tests indicated by symptoms
- Failing to obtain the results of lab tests
- Failure to contact patients with abnormal test results.
Lost lab results have serious consequences. For instance, out of the 582 errors that the Agency for Healthcare Quality identified, 28 percent resulted in death, permanent disability or a near-death medical event.
Medical conditions have recognizable symptoms that doctors should recognize and respond to promptly. For example, a patient complaining of a persistent cough and coughing up blood should be tested for lung cancer.
If a physician fails to recognize symptoms and fails to either refer you to a specialist or order appropriate follow-up testing and treatment, this could result in serious harm.
Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions
A study published in the medical journal, BMJ Quality & Safety, found diagnostic errors to be the leading cause of medical malpractice claims involving death and disability. Another study found that diagnostic errors could impact as many as 12 million people in our country, or one out of every 20 adults.
Johns Hopkins researchers have identified the following to be the most commonly missed diagnoses:
Stroke / Heart attack – The signs and symptoms of a stroke or heart attack such as chest pain or severe headaches may lead to the diagnosis of heartburn, ear infection or a migraine headache. A patient, in turn, may not receive timely, life-saving treatment such as use of “clot-busting” drugs. As NPR reports, one study published in the journal, Diagnosis, found that almost 13 percent of people who were diagnosed with strokes had visited the hospital less than 30 days earlier (and a quarter of these patients were sent home with the diagnosis of a benign condition or no diagnosis at all).
Pulmonary embolism – A study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that emergency rooms delayed diagnosing 33.5 percent of patients who presented symptoms of pulmonary embolism, or blockage in the lung’s main artery.
Pneumonia – One study published in the journal, Critical Care, concluded that standard chest X-rays failed to catch pneumonia (a serious lung infection) in 47 percent of the cases analyzed.
Aspergillosis – A study reported by the World Health Organization noted that people suffering from a fungal infection in the lungs called chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA) often go untreated for the condition because it is mistaken for the recurrence of tuberculosis.
Doctors may also miss or delay diagnosing the following conditions
Cancer – The journal BMJ Quality and Safety estimates that 28 percent of cancer cases are misdiagnosed, including breast cancer and colorectal cancer. The longer the delay in diagnosing cancer, the lower the survival rate due to delays in treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy.
Cerebral palsy – As a study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood noted, many children are misdiagnosed as having cerebral palsy when, in reality, they suffer from a condition that presents similar symptoms. This prevents treatable conditions from being properly addressed by doctors.
Pregnancy-related complications – Doctors may fail to test for or identify numerous problems that arise during pregnancy, which can put the health of the mother and child at risk. Ectopic pregnancy, preeclampsia, miscarriage, RH disease, gestational diabetes and placenta and umbilical cord complications may go undiagnosed or diagnosed too late.
Why Do Missed or Delayed Diagnoses Occur?
Obtaining your medical records is important if you suspect you have a medical malpractice claim based on misdiagnosis. An attorney can review your medical records and consult with experts who can identify what went wrong.
Some of the common things to look for in medical records indicating a doctor made an unacceptable error include:
- Your doctor failed to order appropriate tests given your symptoms such as an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, blood tests or biopsy.
- Medical tests were read incorrectly by a pathologist.
- Your doctor failed to follow up to obtain results of medical tests or failed to communicate test results to you.
- Lab results were misplaced.
- The lab read the wrong sample.
- The lab mixed up your lab results with another patient’s results.
- Your doctor missed obvious signs of serious illness or injury in your test results.
While many different mistakes can lead to misdiagnosis, these are some of the most common red flags that suggest you may have a claim against your physician or care provider.
What Constitutes a Misdiagnosis?
A misdiagnosis can occur when a medical professional listens to a patient’s symptoms and performs certain tests but fails to follow the standard of care and incorrectly diagnoses the patient. A misdiagnosis can also occur when the patient is suffering from a condition but the doctor misses the signs and symptoms and tells the patient that he or she is fine. When a misdiagnosis occurs, patients may suffer harm as their condition becomes worse and they do not receive the proper treatment they need.
What Types of Misdiagnosis Claims Are There?
There are many ways a doctor may make a misdiagnosis. Some of the common types of misdiagnosis include:
- Incorrect diagnosis: This is when a doctor mistakes one medical condition for another. For example, a doctor may tell a patient that he or she is experiencing acid reflux when the patient is actually having heart problems.
- Failure to diagnose: This type of misdiagnosis occurs when a medical professional tells a patient that he or she is not suffering from any medical condition when in fact, the patient does have an illness.
- Failing to diagnose a related condition: Doctors sometimes identify one illness or condition, but fail to recognize another disease the patient is suffering from. When this occurs, the two conditions are commonly seen together. For example, a doctor may correctly diagnose that a patient is suffering from high blood pressure, but may fail to identify that the patient is also suffering from diabetes.
- Failing to diagnose an unrelated condition: In some instances, a patient is suffering from two different conditions that are not related but the doctor only identifies one.
- Delayed diagnosis: Delayed diagnosis occurs when a doctor makes the correct diagnosis, but it takes the physician a long time to properly identify it and the patient becomes worse while the doctor is trying to make a diagnosis.
- Missing complications: Doctors sometimes identify the correct illness or condition but fail to identify complications. For example, a doctor may correctly diagnose a condition but fail to recognize that medication the patient is taking is aggravating the condition.
How Is a Misdiagnosis Claim Proven?
It is important to understand that a misdiagnosis does not always lead to a medical malpractice claim. Sometimes, doctors must try a number of different treatments before they can identify the right diagnosis, and the law recognizes that fact. To prove a misdiagnosis claim, you must show that the doctor did not provide the proper standard of care, or that the doctor did not act in the same manner another healthcare professional would have in the same situation. Expert testimony is the best way to prove this, and in Illinois, plaintiffs must provide a Certificate of Merit when filing a claim. This is a statement that is written and signed by a doctor in the same field of medicine. The Certificate of Merit is an affidavit, which means that it is considered sworn testimony.
What Steps Should I Take After a Misdiagnosis?
When you realize you are suffering due to a misdiagnosis, the two most important steps to take are documenting everything and seeking the help of a lawyer. You should collect the medical records and invoices from the doctor who misdiagnosed you, as well as any records documenting the correct diagnosis. If you suffered other losses, such as missing time from work or needing to hire a house cleaning service because you could no longer perform those tasks yourself, you should also keep any records related to that.
You should speak to a lawyer immediately after learning that you were misdiagnosed. Our medical malpractice attorneys have a network of medical experts we can reach out to, and we can assist with gathering the medical records you need. Medical misdiagnosis claims are also some of the most complicated, and our lawyers can walk you through the process and explain what to expect.
Is Misdiagnosis a Type of Medical Malpractice?
Not all misdiagnoses are considered medical malpractice. Doctors sometimes have to try many different treatments before they can come to a correct diagnosis. This is not always considered medical malpractice. A misdiagnosis is only considered medical malpractice when the doctor acted negligently and took action that another doctor would not have taken under the circumstances.
If I Die as a Result of the Misdiagnosis, Will My Claim Die with Me?
Medical misdiagnoses can be very serious as injuries and illnesses become life-threatening. Many patients fear that if they pass away due to the illness, their personal injury claim will come to an end and their family will be left to cope with the consequences. However, there is still a way to hold negligent doctors liable even if the patient does not survive. The Illinois Survival Act allows the victim’s estate to file a survival claim that can help recover the losses the patient suffered before death. Additionally, the surviving spouse and children can file a wrongful death claim to pursue payment for their losses.
How Long Do I Have to File a Misdiagnosis Lawsuit?
In Illinois, injured patients have two years from the date they learned of, or should have learned of, the medical misdiagnosis to file a claim for compensation. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations, and if you fail to file within this time, you may forfeit any right to compensation. Two years is not a lot of time to file a claim. Prior to filing, an attorney will need to conduct a full investigation, gather evidence, and speak to experts. This all takes time. So it is important that you speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.
How Long Is It Likely to Take Before I Receive Compensation for a Misdiagnosis Claim?
No one can determine exactly how long a medical malpractice claim will take or what the outcome will be. A case may be settled within a year, or it may take up to four years. The important thing is to work with an attorney who can skillfully negotiate with the insurance company and demand the full settlement you deserve. If the insurance company refuses to settle and your case goes to trial, it could take longer to resolve. However, there is no way to accurately estimate without a thorough evaluation of the specific details of your case.
Contact a Misdiagnosis Lawyer Serving Chicago and Illinois
Illinois law allows you to make a personal injury claim for a missed or delayed diagnosis if:
- Your prognosis was worse because of the error
- You had to undergo more invasive, expensive or risky medical treatment
- You experienced significant pain or impairment because of the misdiagnosis
- You received treatment you did not require
- Your loved one died due to the medical error.
In any situation where the physician’s actions caused harm, you should be compensated in full for both economic and non-economic losses that resulted.
At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., our attorneys handle misdiagnosis claims throughout Chicago and Illinois. We are here to help with your case. Give us a call or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation.
Sources / More Information:
- Warning Signs of a Heart Attack, American Heart Association
- Stroke Warning Signs and Symptoms, American Stroke Association
- Global Burden of Chronic Pulmonary Aspergillosis as a Sequel to Pulmonary Tuberculosis, World Health Organization
- Emergency Docs More Likely to Miss Signs of Stroke in the Young, NPR
- 10 Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions, Every Day Health
- Clinical Features of Patients Inappropriately Undiagnosed of Pulmonary Embolism, American Journal of Emergency Medicine
- Normal-Looking Radiographs Can Delay Pneumonia Diagnosis, EB Medicine
- Misdiagnosis is More Common than Drug Errors or Wrong-Site Surgery, Washington Post
- Misdiagnosed Cancer Not Uncommon, ABC News
- Cerebral Palsy: Not Always What It Seems, Archives of Disease in Childhood
- Value of Second Opinions Is Underscored in Study of Biopsies, New York Times