Getting a second opinion is always a good idea when you suspect a medical issue, but what should you do when a second or third doctor makes a diagnosis that the first doctor(s) missed?
Going to the doctor when you suspect a serious health issue is at hand can be nerve-racking. Naturally, a second or third opinion is often recommended for patients, and sometimes those subsequent doctors will find and diagnose problems that the first doctor missed. In the case of some diagnoses, the time between doctor visits can have serious consequences on a person's health. For example, an aggressive cancer can progress rapidly between weeks. If you've been the victim of a missed diagnosis, you may be curious about whether you have any legal recourse against the doctor who missed it.
A study that compiled data from over 350,000 medical malpractice cases over the course of 25 years found that missed or wrong diagnoses were the leading reason for malpractice payouts, so if you're in this situation, you're certainly not alone. The study shows that most diagnostic errors happened to in outpatients, and that missed diagnoses on people who were in the hospital already were more likely to be fatal. If this sounds like your experience, there are some things you'll need to relay when you meet with a medical malpractice lawyer.
1) How Much Time Elapsed Between Doctor Visits?
Depending on how long you waited or had to wait between doctor visits in order to get a second opinion or see a specialist, the damages to your health can vary greatly. For example, if you go to a doctor for chronic headaches and they send you home with a prescription for migraine medication but you get a second opinion from a doctor who performs an MRI and finds a brain tumor, the consequences can be much more dire than, for example, if you went in for what you thought was a broken ankle but it turned out to only be a sprain. The time elapsed between doctor visits can have a serious consequence on what sort of compensation and damages you should be seeking.
2) Were You Given Completely Incorrect Treatment?
Depending on the misdiagnosis, the treatment that the doctor prescribes could cause even further consequences. If you are prescribed a medicine that you don't need—that is, if it's meant to treat an ailment you don't actually have—it could cause internal damage or make you sicker than you already were to start. In a similar vein, if you're not treated at all, the effects could be worse. If you have an infection and aren't given antibiotics, the issue could worsen over time.
3) How Could the Doctor Have Missed the Diagnosis?
Of course, doctors are human beings—we all make mistakes, even when we're at work. Unfortunately, when doctors make mistakes at work, the outcomes can be tragic. Sometimes, a misdiagnosis can be an innocent mistake like reading an x-ray incorrectly or simply not seeing something, but sometimes a misdiagnosis can occur when a doctor is too busy or simply neglects to consider all the possible options. If someone comes in with a stomachache, it doesn't just have to be because they ate something bad. A doctor's responsibility is to gather as much information as possible, order tests, and draw educated and informed conclusions from all of that data. If all options aren't explored, it's easy to be misdiagnosed. In certain cases, the consequences can be dire—if someone has chest pains due to a heart attack but the doctor doesn't perform the proper tests before sending the person home, and that person dies, it's obviously a serious issue.
How Can a Malpractice Attorney Help You?
When you're the victim of a misdiagnosis, a medical malpractice attorney can help you navigate your way toward the compensation you deserve. Trying to go it alone can result in you getting a drastically reduced settlement amount or even no settlement—insurance companies have plenty of tricks up their sleeves in order to make cases like these go away, but lawyers know the tricks and can help you counter the companies and get the compensation you deserve.