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Medical Malpractice

Proving Medical Malpractice in a Delayed Diagnosis Case

April 28, 2023

Getting the right medical treatment depends upon getting the correct diagnosis. With many medical conditions, a timely diagnosis can literally spell the difference between life and death, or at least between a disease or illness that is easily treated and one that may require months of intense treatment. A misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can cost you your health. If you did not receive the correct diagnosis at the outset of your treatment, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your options. 

Difficulties in Making a Diagnosis

One of the challenges of a delayed diagnosis case is that some medical conditions are simply difficult to diagnose. Your doctor may need to order a battery of different tests, wait for results, and begin another round of tests. It may take several weeks or even months to correctly diagnose your condition. Along the way, there may be confusing symptoms. Some treatments or medications may result in temporary improvement. The bottom line is that getting a proper diagnosis may take a considerable amount of time. Hopefully, your physician was transparent with you, explaining the challenges of diagnosing your condition and setting reasonable expectations. 

Negligence Can Result in a Delayed Diagnosis

Despite what we just discussed, many delayed diagnoses are the result of negligence. Some of the most common examples of negligence that can arise in a delayed diagnosis include the following: 

  • Failure to make an adequate examination. When doctors rush through their evaluation of their patients, they can easily miss important symptoms that can lead to an improper diagnosis.
  • Failure to review the medical history. As part of the examination, the physician should review the patient’s medical history for any details that may lead them to a correct diagnosis.  
  • Failure to order tests. Failing to order the correct tests or any tests at all can lead to delays in making the correct diagnosis. 
  • Testing errors. Labs sometimes make mistakes in conducting their tests, such as contaminating the samples, making errors in the testing process, or mixing up the results. These mistakes can yield false results that lead to an incorrect diagnosis, thereby delaying the doctor from making the correct diagnosis. This clearly would not be the fault of the physician, but you may have a claim against the laboratory. 
  • Delays in testing. Laboratories can also be responsible for delays in testing – maybe they are backlogged or have simply lost the order. While this is the fault of the laboratory, the physician may be partially at fault for not following up with the lab in a timely manner.
  • Misreading test results. Doctors can also make mistakes in interpreting the results of your tests. This is why they will often review the tests with a specialist, such as an oncologist if they suspect the patient may have cancer.

Each of these is an example of negligence that gives rise to a delay in making the correct diagnosis. Proving negligence is the first step in proving your case. If your diagnosis was delayed due to any one of these issues, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. 

The Connection Between Your Harm and the Delayed Diagnosis

Once you have established that the delay in your diagnosis was caused by negligence, the next step is to show that the delay caused you harm that you otherwise would not have suffered. The fact that your diagnosis was delayed due to your doctor’s failure to make an adequate examination, for example, is not sufficient to prove medical malpractice. Your illness would likely have resulted in harm regardless of your diagnosis, so you must be able to prove that the delay caused harm that would have been otherwise avoided with a timely diagnosis. 

Proving that you suffered unnecessary harm as a result of the delay can be difficult to do and will likely require expert testimony. This is another reason why you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible if you received a delayed diagnosis. 

Contact Ragain & Clark if You Have Suffered as a Result of a Delayed Diagnosis

Medical malpractice cases are extraordinarily complex. At Ragain & Clark, we have over 30 years of experience in helping medical malpractice victims get fair compensation. From evaluating your claim to gathering the evidence you need, we can help you navigate your claim from start to finish. To discuss your case and how we can help, call us today at 406-651-8888 (Billings) or 307-388-6400 (Worland) or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.


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