Is Missed Diagnosis Considered Medical Malpractice?

March 16, 2022

Misdiagnosis is among the most common medical mistakes. In fact, it is estimated that medical diagnostic errors affect approximately 12 million people every year, and nearly 40,000 to 80,000 people die annually from complications from these misdiagnoses.

Not every medical error constitutes negligence. If you suffered an injury at the hands of a medical professional, it is in your best interest to speak with a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Coplan + Crane. During your free initial consultation, we will listen to the details of your case and explain your rights and legal options.

Understanding Illinois’s “Standard of Care” for Proper Diagnosis

As with all types of medical mistakes, whether a misdiagnosis constitutes medical malpractice depends on whether the patient’s doctor met the requisite “standard of care.” Under Illinois law, all doctors must meet a certain standard of care when diagnosing and treating their patients.

Simply put, if a doctor meets the standard of care, then the doctor is not liable for malpractice even if he or she makes a mistake. But, if a mistake reflects a failure to meet the requisite standard of care, then the patient (or the patient’s family) can pursue a claim for just compensation.

So, when does a missed diagnosis reflect a failure to meet the standard of care? It depends. 

A key element of any medical malpractice claim is proof that the doctor owed a duty to the patient. Generally speaking, this duty arises whenever a patient seeks treatment in a hospital, clinic, doctor’s office, or other medical facility. But, if a doctor provides casual advice to a neighbor, for example, then the doctor’s duty may not apply.

Assuming a doctor owes a duty to meet the standard of care, the next question is whether there are factors that indicate medical malpractice. In missed diagnosis cases, common factors indicating malpractice include:

  • Failing to perform a thorough physical examination
  • Failing to review a patient’s medical records 
  • Failing to perform a comprehensive differential diagnosis 
  • Failing to order necessary blood work, MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, or other tests
  • Misreading a patient’s test results or images
  • Making a diagnosis based on incomplete information

In contrast, there are also some factors that may weigh against a finding of malpractice. For example, circumstances in which a missed diagnosis may not be considered medical malpractice include:

  • The patient failed to provide necessary information about his or her symptoms, medications, or medical history (assuming the doctor did not have reason to inquire further)
  • The doctor needed to make a split-second decision in an emergency situation
  • The patient’s condition was so novel or unique that other qualified doctors would have made the same diagnostic mistake

Absent one of these three scenarios, there are few legitimate excuses for doctors to misdiagnose patients’ conditions with today’s medical knowledge and medical technology. As a result, while some missed diagnoses will not give rise to claims for medical malpractice, many will. It is best to discuss your unique situation with a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer who has significant experience in these complex claims.

Common Misdiagnoses in Hospitals, Doctor’s Offices, and Other Medical Settings

Certain types of misdiagnoses are particularly common. Again, while not all misdiagnoses rise to the level of medical negligence, patients who have the following conditions misdiagnosed will often have claims for medical malpractice:

  • Blood Clots
  • Cancers
  • Celiac Disease
  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart Attack
  • Lupus
  • Lyme Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Stroke
  • Thyroid Conditions

A final key consideration when evaluating a potential malpractice claim is whether a misdiagnosis leads to harm. Even if a misdiagnosis results from a failure to meet the requisite standard of care, it will not give rise to a claim if it does not result in physical, psychological, or financial loss.

But, like misdiagnoses themselves, these losses can take many different forms. Unnecessary complications, deterioration of a patient’s condition, a decline in a patient’s physical or mental health, and failure to obtain necessary treatment are all common consequences of diagnostic mistakes. These consequences can take significant tolls, and they can leave patients and families facing significant and long-term losses.

With all of this in mind, if you have concerns about a missed diagnosis, you should speak with a medical malpractice lawyer about your legal rights. It costs nothing to find out if you have a claim; and, if you have a claim, you will need an experienced lawyer to help you recover the financial compensation you deserve.

Speak with a Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyer for Free

If you suffered because of a doctor’s missed diagnosis, you deserve to know your rights. You may be entitled to compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial losses that occured as a result of a health provider’s negligence. The attorneys at Coplan + Crane have substantial knowledge in these difficult cases and we are committed to helping you move forward.

See what our clients say about us.

To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer at Coplan + Crane, contact us today online or at (708) 358-8080. Our firm helps clients throughout Illinois, including Chicago, Oak Park, and Rockford.