When Delayed Diagnosis Leads to Lawsuits

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A delayed diagnosis is devastating. It can even be life-threatening. For victims, it can leave them wondering what might have been.

Healthcare providers have a legal duty to provide service with skill and attentiveness. When they don’t, the victim may have a legal claim.

When a delayed diagnosis leads to harm, a victim and their family may hold medical care providers accountable. The victim or family may receive compensation through a medical malpractice claim.

Understanding Delayed Diagnosis

What is a delayed diagnosis?

A delayed diagnosis occurs when a person seeks medical attention but they do not receive a diagnosis for the symptoms they are experiencing within a reasonable amount of time. The diagnosis may be correct, but it is made after an unreasonable time considering the presented symptoms.

Examples of health conditions that may have a delayed diagnosis

Some health conditions that may have a delayed diagnosis are:

  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease, cardiovascular disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Lung disease
  • Autism

Source: Oman Med. J, Delay in Cancer Diagnosis

Lawsuits for Delayed Diagnosis

What are some reasons a diagnosis could be delayed?

Each situation varies, but here are some possible explanations for a delayed diagnosis:

  • The medical care professional doesn’t have the training and experience that they need to understand the medical condition
  • A doctor didn’t know what questions to ask to learn more about symptoms
  • There could have been a referral to a specialist, but one was not made
  • Records are lost, mislabeled, or confused with other records
  • Lack of attention to the patient and their symptoms prevents the identification of the health condition
  • Confusion occurs between multiple possible causes and conditions
  • Staff is overworked and trying to treat too many patients at one time
  • Symptoms are dismissed as being routine or not harmful; the patient’s concerns are not taken seriously
  • The treatment facility lacked the resources to conduct tests and evaluations
  • Treatment is given for symptoms, and the treatment masks the more serious condition

A delayed diagnosis may result from a lack of training, poor attention, inadequate professional skill, or a lack of resources. Whatever the cause, the harm to the victim may be devastating.

How does delayed diagnosis lead to irreversible harm?

Delayed diagnosis may lead to irreversible harm because the person cannot receive timely medical attention. In some cases, a timely diagnosis can make a medical condition curable that would otherwise be fatal. In other situations, the person’s life may be extended, or their quality of life may be improved. The person may also suffer from mental and emotional anguish from knowing their health outcome is worse than it may have been with a timely diagnosis.

Is a delayed diagnosis medical negligence?

A delayed diagnosis may be medical negligence if it is unreasonable. Medical professionals must carry out their work with reasonable skill, attention, and resources. If they make an error, whether it is an action or omission, it may be medical negligence.

Part of competent medical care is making a diagnosis within the appropriate amount of time. The healthcare professional should listen to the patient’s concerns, conduct an examination and ask follow-up questions. They should conduct tests and employ the help of a specialist when necessary based on the symptoms presented by the patient.

There are many ways that a delayed diagnosis may result in harm. The person may need additional and more costly medical care than may otherwise have been necessary. They may have a prolonged healing period, or their life may have been cut tragically short. When a delayed diagnosis results in harm to a patient, they may have a claim for medical negligence.

Can a victim claim compensation for a delayed diagnosis?

A victim of a delayed diagnosis may have a claim for compensation. It may be a medical malpractice case based on the care provider’s failure to meet their professional standards. To bring a claim for compensation, the victim must show the elements of medical negligence, including that the care provider breached their professional duty and causation of harm. Compensation is based on the medical expenses that result from the delayed diagnosis, physical suffering, emotional and mental anguish, and potentially shortened life span. The compensation for any delayed diagnosis claim may be significant because of devastating harm that may result to the victim.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of delayed diagnosis, we invite you to talk to our law firm. Lawyer Bobby Jones can review your case and help you claim compensation. Contact our team today.

The team at Bobby Jones Law LLC works tirelessly for the injured in South Carolina. His achievements include:
  • More than $60 million collected for our clients
  • Multiple recoveries exceeding $1 million, including an eight-figure settlement
  • Recognized by Best Lawyers in America
  • Named among the “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Named to the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers
  • Named to Super Lawyers 2017–2024
  • Member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum
  • Selected as Legal Elite of the Upstate 2021–2023
We’re humbled to be considered one of the top firms in the Upstate and invite you to learn what sets our award-winning legal services apart. Call or request a consultation online.
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