A typical medical malpractice lawsuit involves a doctor who makes a mistake. A classic example might be a doctor who amputates the wrong leg on a patient. But in many medical malpractice cases, the problem isn’t what the doctor did, but what the doctor didn’t do.
Some of the most serious and complicated medical malpractice cases involve claims of misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose.
What the doctor missed
These cases involve serious illnesses such as cancer that can become extremely serious if they are not treated in time. The plaintiff in these cases is the patient or their surviving family members, and they claim that the doctor’s failure to diagnose and treat the illness in time led to a worsened condition.
Medical malpractice law recognizes that doctors are only human and can make mistakes. They can’t be expected to cure every disease and save every patient. However, they must provide their patients with medical care that is up to the standards of their profession. If they fail to do so, and the patient is injured as a result, they may be found liable for the patient’s damages.
A worsened condition
Once the plaintiff has shown that the doctor’s treatment fell short of professional standards, and that this shortfall caused their injury, the plaintiff has to show what they suffered as a result. This leads to another area where misdiagnosis cases can get very complicated.
In the example of the amputation mistake, the patient can show what damages they suffered as a result of losing their leg. For instance, they can show medical and rehabilitative costs, pain and suffering and so on. This is no simple task, but it’s even more complicated when the damages stem from a failure to treat a condition. The actual injury to the patient comes from the illness. The doctor didn’t cause the illness, they failed to act against it.
In these cases, the plaintiff has to show that they suffered a worsened condition because of the doctor’s mistake. They have to show what their condition was like when they were finally treated, contrasted to what it would have been like had they been treated in a timely manner, and show how much they suffered due to this worsened condition.
To provide this kind of evidence, plaintiffs typically have to rely on expert witnesses. These are usually other doctors or medical experts who are called upon to examine the facts and give their professional opinions. Of course, the defense will have its own expert witnesses, who will likely reach different conclusions.
It is no easy task for the court to sort through all this evidence, and it’s not easy for the plaintiff to present the evidence in a way that is going to convince the court. It is crucial that the injured and their families talk to lawyers with experience in medical malpractice cases involving claims of misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose.