For many medical issues, early diagnosis and intervention are key to a successful recovery. When you wait too long to see a medical professional, the injury or damage can become much more severe, even life-threatening. The same type of damage can occur if a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional does not diagnose your condition promptly enough to be helpful.
A delayed diagnosis delays treatment, often making matters much worse. In some circumstances, the window of opportunity to cure an ailment may close by the time your doctor makes a correct diagnosis. In others cases, the resulting medical complications you face may significantly increase your recovery time.
Early intervention with regard to life-threatening conditions, such as cancer, can be vital. If the malignancy is detected early, your doctor may be able to remove the cancerous cells and prevent you from having to go through radiation or chemotherapy. Both of these treatments for cancer can be extremely painful or uncomfortable as well as time-consuming and expensive. Your doctor’s quick thinking and appropriate treatment recommendations may help you avoid them altogether.
If you believe that you or a loved one has had to undergo additional treatment or has suffered more pain and suffering because of a delayed diagnosis, you may have a legal claim. The medical malpractice attorneys at Nagel Rice will be able to evaluate your situation and help you determine your next steps.
Examples of Nagel Rice Successful Resolutions of Medical Malpractice Cases
As evidence of our successfully resolved cases, we have won:
- $6 Million verdict in a delayed diagnosis of colon cancer
- $4.25 Million verdict in a missed facial tumor
- $980,000 settlement in a misdiagnosed cancer case
- $3.5 Million verdict in a case involving failure to diagnose Hepatitis C, reversed on appeal
Click here to review more medical malpractice verdicts and settlements.
Medical Malpractice and Delayed Diagnosis
When most people think of medical malpractice, horror stories of leaving medical instruments inside surgical patients come to mind. While those terrible situations do indeed happen, delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis are far more common causes of medical malpractice claims. In fact, misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis are two of the most common types of medical malpractice. As many as 40 percent of all medical malpractice claims involve one or the other.
Unfortunately, patients often do not realize that there has been a delay in diagnosis until long after they have started to display symptoms of a medical problem. Some patients also mistakenly believe that if the doctor finds the problem eventually, he or she is not subject to legal liability—which is certainly not the case. The law in both New York and New Jersey recognizes that delays in diagnosis can be just as harmful as failures to diagnose a condition at all.
Why Is a Prompt Diagnosis So Important?
When a doctor fails to properly diagnosis a patient, it is as if the patient chose not to go to the doctor. Without a diagnosis, there can be no treatment. For example, if a patient is suffering from chest pain and having trouble breathing, the patient cannot get help until someone identifies the underlying cause of the symptoms. If the correct diagnosis is, for example, a pulmonary embolism, appropriate treatment must be started immediately if the patient is to survive. In serious, emergency situations, a delay of even a few minutes in making a correct diagnosis can result in death.
Although a doctor’s failure to diagnosis you promptly is not the initial cause of a medical problem, a mistake of this kind can certainly worsen your prognosis. In a situation in which diagnosis has been delayed, the physician may have caused additional pain and suffering or resulted in an avoidable loss of life.
Causes of Delayed Diagnosis
Hospitals are notoriously understaffed across the country. Nurses and doctors may not have time to give patients the individualized attention they need. Problems related to staffing are a common cause of delayed diagnosis. Other common reasons include:
- Poor coordination among staff members
- Doctor’s failure to order appropriate tests
- Inadequate follow-up with patients
- Delayed scheduling (for testing or regular appointments)
- Poor tracking of test results
- Miscommunication or lack of communication between providers
- Misinterpretation of test results, medical charts, or X-rays
- Lost paperwork
- Failure to refer a patient to a proper specialist
Simple carelessness and inattention can also be factors in late diagnosis situations.
Proving Medical Malpractice Based on Delayed Diagnosis
As the victim, you and your attorney have the burden to prove that medical malpractice occurred and that you suffered damages as a result of that malpractice. In New York, a plaintiff must show two basic elements for a medical malpractice claim:
- The doctor or medical professional deviated from accepted medical practices.
- The departure from accepted practices was a proximate cause of the injuries or damages the patient suffered.
New Jersey has similar requirements to New York regarding proof of medical malpractice.
In the context of delayed diagnosis, you must show that another doctor with similar experience and knowledge would have seen or heard about your symptoms and diagnosed you more quickly.
Underlying any medical malpractice case is the presumption that there is a professional patient-doctor relationship involved. You cannot assert a medical malpractice claim against someone who has not deliberately chosen to be responsible for your medical care.
It is also important to specifically delineate which portion of damages — pain and suffering, lost wages, or medical expenses — was the direct result of the delayed diagnosis. You will not be able to recover damages that occurred before you consulted the medical professional.
Getting Help from a Medical Malpractice Attorney
Keep in mind that any delay in diagnosis that causes pain and suffering, increased medical bills, or lost work time can be grounds for a medical malpractice claim. You have legal rights to be compensated in such situations.
Medical malpractice cases are complicated, leading some patients to shy away from the process. An experienced medical malpractice attorney, however, can help you navigate the applicable laws in New York or New Jersey regarding delayed diagnosis claims. Your attorney can also negotiate with your doctor’s insurance company on your behalf. Call us at 973-618-0400 or fill out the contact form to schedule a consultation and learn about your legal options. From our offices in Roseland and New York City, our medical malpractice lawyers serve clients throughout New York and New Jersey.
Nagel Rice LLP helps their clients with their delayed diagnosis claims throughout New Jersey including Bergen County, Essex County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Passaic County, and Sussex County.