Delayed Diagnosis in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Doctors are human and can make mistakes, but when negligence results in substandard care and delayed diagnosis, the results can be catastrophic to the patient. Failing to diagnose a herniated disc in a patient when first presented can delay necessary treatment and result in permanent paralysis and disability. When a doctor fails to order vital tests upon initial contact with a patient that is later diagnosed with cancer, the delay in diagnosis can mean the difference between a treatable form of cancer and a terminal case of cancer.
Unfortunately for the victim of a delayed diagnosis, the burden of proof that the doctor’s negligence led to the delay falls on their shoulders. Lawsuits resulting from delayed diagnosis are often difficult to prove and require the counsel of an experienced and knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney. It is vital that the patient and their family seek counsel as soon as possible to determine if they are entitled to compensation.
New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP have a long history of successful outcomes for those individuals who have suffered injury or death as a result of a delayed diagnosis. We are committed to helping our clients obtain the highest level of compensation and justice available.
Proving Medical Malpractice due to Delayed Diagnosis
There are three criteria for proving medical malpractice in the case of a delayed diagnosis. Patients must prove that a relationship was established with the physician; that negligence on the part of the physician resulted in the delayed diagnosis; and that harm, injury or death resulted from the negligence. Each of these components must exist for a case to be successful.
Proving the Doctor-Patient Relationship
Once a patient has been seen and examined by a doctor, a relationship has been established. In the case of medical malpractice resulting from a delayed diagnosis, it is not necessary for this relationship to extend beyond this initial meeting. If the physician failed to diagnose an existing condition, injury or illness, they can still be held liable if the diagnosis is made later by another physician and has resulted in injury to the patient.
Establishing Negligence in a Delayed Diagnosis
Establishing negligence on the part of the physician is the first task in a medical malpractice claim. Patients need to prove that the attending physician did not diagnose an illness, injury or condition as quickly as a competent doctor would have in a similar situation. An example of this standard of care is if a doctor delays diagnosing lung cancer because he instead treated the patient for bronchitis or COPD, thus delaying a cancer diagnosis and treatment to stop the progression of the cancer. To prove the doctor’s negligence, the patient could get a second opinion from another physician that would have ordered a lung X-ray before making the official diagnosis.
The patient must also prove that a breach in the standard of care took place. In the case discussed above, the breach in the standard of care that delayed the diagnosis of lung cancer was made when the physician did not order the lung X-ray quickly enough, thus resulting in the spread of the cancer. Had the physician ordered the lung X-ray on the day the patient was seen, critical treatment could have begun, increasing the odds of survival for the patient.
Proving that Harm to the Patient Occurred because of the Delayed Diagnosis
Patients bringing suit against a doctor for a delayed diagnosis must also prove that they suffered undue pain, increased medical bills, lost wages and earning potential, and experienced a significant loss of functioning and independence. The laws can be tricky here. Doctors can be found guilty of delaying a diagnosis, but patients cannot always claim compensation for pain and suffering unless it was directly caused by the delay in diagnosis.
An example of this type of situation can be found in a case wherein a patient consults a doctor for back pain and the physician fails to diagnose a herniated disc. In time, the doctor properly diagnoses the herniated disc and the patient undergoes surgery to repair the disc.
This delay in diagnosis would not result in compensation for pain and suffering since the surgery would have been necessary even if the herniated disc was diagnosed at the initial visit. However, if the disc caused a permanent disability that could have been prevented with a diagnosis at the initial visit, the patient has a good chance of a successful suit.
Consultation with a Competent and Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer is Crucial for a Successful Claim
Whenever a delayed diagnosis has occurred, it is wise to consult an experienced and competent medical malpractice attorney to see if you can bring suit against the responsible physician. Pain and suffering, loss of wages due to recovery time or disability and a significant effect on the patient’s lifestyle are factors that are key to proving medical malpractice. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can review the details of your case and determine your ability to bring a successful claim against the doctor. Compensation from the claim can help relieve the burdens thrust upon the patient due to the doctor’s negligence resulting in a delayed diagnosis.
New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP Represent Victims of Delayed Diagnosis
If you or someone you know has suffered injury or death as a result of a delayed medical diagnosis, the experienced team of knowledgeable New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP can help. Call us at 732-777-0100 or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation today.Our offices are conveniently located in Red Bank, Toms River and Edison, New Jersey allowing us to serve clients throughout the state.