If the misdiagnosis causes injury, then yes, you can sue a doctor for misdiagnosis. Medical misdiagnosis, mostly negative misdiagnosis, is the leading cause of medical malpractice claims. From a legal standpoint, almost all misdiagnosis is negligence, or a lack of care.

When misdiagnosis causes injury, an attorney may be able to can obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages are usually available in these cases as well.

False Positive Misdiagnosis

Occasionally, doctors tell people they’re sick when, in fact, they’re fine or they have a much less serious illness.

Usually, false positive misdiagnosis leads to unnecessary medical bills and physical pain. In-patient hospital care costs more than $3,000 per day. Furthermore, many serious illness treatments, like cancer treatments, have painful side-effects. If the cancer diagnosis was a false positive, the victim paid these medical bills and endured this physical pain for nothing.

False positive misdiagnosis also causes severe emotional distress. Many serious illnesses are expensive to treat. Furthermore, these treatments last for months or years, and the fatality rates are high. If the diagnosis was a false positive, many victims understandably feel very angry.

Failure to Diagnose

A lack of information, specifically a lack of reliable evidence, usually causes both false positive diagnosis and failure to diagnose. 

In a well-publicized 2015 survey, 97 percent of doctors admitted they ordered unnecessary tests. As a result, many doctors were saddled with the dreaded “defensive medicine” label. Now, almost ten years later, the pendulum has swung in the other direction. Many doctors are so anxious to avoid this label that they don’t order necessary tests.

When doctors don’t gather evidence and over-relay on their professional instincts, diagnosis errors follow, especially in areas like:

  • Cancer: Risky lifestyle choices, like smoking, drinking, and physical inactivity, can lead to  cancer. Therefore, if the patient makes good lifestyle choices, most doctors don’t consider the possibility of cancer. If they diagnose it late, the consequences could be fatal.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: Similarly, as far as most doctors are concerned, heart disease is a lifestyle or age-related condition. Moreover, most doctors look to signature symptoms, such as severe chest pain, to diagnose heart attacks. Many female heart attack victims don’t have severe chest pain, so the misdiagnosis rate among females is particularly high.
  • Head Injuries: Initial head injury symptoms, like confusion and pain, mimic accident shock symptoms. Accident shock usually goes away, but head injuries are permanent and degenerative. So, if doctors don’t perform the right tests, they could send patients home with severe brain damage.

Liability Issues

Doctors, as medical care team leaders, are responsible for patient care issues.

The doctor is personally responsible in most ways, but the doctor is very rarely financially responsible for damages.

Sometimes, a professional malpractice insurance company bears this burden. These matters are very difficult for a medical malpractice lawyer to resolve. Quite simply, insurance companies make money by collecting premiums and lose money by paying claims. The company hires lawyers to minimize the number of claims it must pay.

Other times, a hospital or clinic is financially responsible for misdiagnosis damages. That’s especially true if the doctor was a legal employee of a facility. These claims are complex as well. Frequently, an out-of-state holding company legally owns the hospital or clinic.

What Should You Do?

It is always a good idea to get a second medical opinion and maybe even a third if you feel like a medical professional is not listening, ordering the correct tests and/or you are still feeling ill. If you have been misdiagnosed, consider speaking with one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys for a free legal consultation.