How Could I Be Harmed by a Misdiagnosis or Other Diagnostic Error?
Diagnostic errors are the most common type of medical mistake made by health care providers. These are cases where a health care provider misdiagnoses a patient or provides a delayed diagnosis. There are multiple types of diagnostic errors that affect thousands of patients in the US each year. The different types of diagnostic errors include:
- Delayed diagnosis: As the name implies, this is where a health care provider makes the correct diagnosis after a significant period of time has passed. In such cases, your health care provider may have delayed ordering tests or failed to recognize symptoms.
- Missed diagnosis: Your health care provider could discharge you with a clean bill of health when you are still suffering from an illness. This could lead to a missed diagnosis.
- Misdiagnosis: If you went to the hospital suffering from a heart attack but were misdiagnosed with acid reflux, it could be an example of a misdiagnosis. These are cases where a health care provider mistakes one condition with another.
- Failure to identify complications: You could be suffering from a health condition that is being aggravated by other complications. Your doctor could make the correct diagnosis while failing to identify complications that could worsen the condition.
- Failure to recognize related illnesses: Your doctor could fail to recognize that you are suffering from two related health conditions. He or she may diagnose one condition but not the other.
Diagnostic errors are more than capable of causing injuries or death. A diagnostic error involving bacterial meningitis is a perfect example. Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis is where a bacterial infection is responsible for causing this inflammation. Health care providers have a very limited window of time to treat this condition before death or permanent injury occurs. What could happen if you had this condition and did not promptly receive antibiotics and other treatment? You could die within hours. Brain damage, coma and limb loss are also possible outcomes.
Can I File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for a Diagnostic Error?
There are times where you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit for a diagnostic error. Certain criteria would have to be met to bring forward a successful claim. Before we are able to move forward in Connecticut, we are required to have a physician or similar health care provider review the medical evidence and provide us with a written opinion letter concluding that the diagnostic error was malpractice. The law on this is contained in Connecticut General Statutes section 52-190a.
You should never wait to speak with an attorney if you believe negligence caused the diagnostic error. Although there are a few exceptions, you have a limited window of time to file a claim. It is also possible that multiple parties are responsible for the diagnostic error. You may also be able to hold those parties accountable.
The Hartford medical malpractice lawyers at Walsh Woodard, LLC could review the specifics of your situation at no cost. We could help you determine whether medical malpractice occurred. If we believe there is sufficient evidence in your case, we also will seek out the physician review at no cost to you.
 The statute provides: (a) No civil action or apportionment complaint shall be filed to recover damages resulting from personal injury or wrongful death occurring on or after October 1, 1987, whether in tort or in contract, in which it is alleged that such injury or death resulted from the negligence of a health care provider, unless the attorney or party filing the action or apportionment complaint has made a reasonable inquiry as permitted by the circumstances to determine that there are grounds for a good faith belief that there has been negligence in the care or treatment of the claimant. The complaint, initial pleading or apportionment complaint shall contain a certificate of the attorney or party filing the action or apportionment complaint that such reasonable inquiry gave rise to a good faith belief that grounds exist for an action against each named defendant or for an apportionment complaint against each named apportionment defendant. To show the existence of such good faith, the claimant or the claimant’s attorney, and any apportionment complainant or the apportionment complainant’s attorney, shall obtain a written and signed opinion of a similar health care provider, as defined in section 52-184c, which similar health care provider shall be selected pursuant to the provisions of said section, that there appears to be evidence of medical negligence and includes a detailed basis for the formation of such opinion. Such written opinion shall not be subject to discovery by any party except for questioning the validity of the certificate. The claimant or the claimant’s attorney, and any apportionment complainant or apportionment complainant’s attorney, shall retain the original written opinion and shall attach a copy of such written opinion, with the name and signature of the similar health care provider expunged, to such certificate. The similar health care provider who provides such written opinion shall not, without a showing of malice, be personally liable for any damages to the defendant health care provider by reason of having provided such written opinion. In addition to such written opinion, the court may consider other factors with regard to the existence of good faith. If the court determines, after the completion of discovery, that such certificate was not made in good faith and that no justiciable issue was presented against a health care provider that fully cooperated in providing informal discovery, the court upon motion or upon its own initiative shall impose upon the person who signed such certificate or a represented party, or both, an appropriate sanction which may include an order to pay to the other party or parties the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred because of the filing of the pleading, motion or other paper, including a reasonable attorney’s fee. The court may also submit the matter to the appropriate authority for disciplinary review of the attorney if the claimant’s attorney or the apportionment complainant’s attorney submitted the certificate.
(b) Upon petition to the clerk of the court where the civil action will be filed to recover damages resulting from personal injury or wrongful death, an automatic ninety-day extension of the statute of limitations shall be granted to allow the reasonable inquiry required by subsection (a) of this section. This period shall be in addition to other tolling periods.
(c) The failure to obtain and file the written opinion required by subsection (a) of this section shall be grounds for the dismissal of the action.
Are Medical Mistakes a Leading Cause of Death in the US?
Many of us already know that heart disease and cancer are leading causes of death in the US. You may not know that medical mistakes also kill hundreds of thousands of people in the US each year. Depending on who you ask, medical mistakes could be responsible for anywhere from 250,000 to 440,000 deaths annually.
According to a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, 440,000 people die in the US each year from preventable medical mistakes. A study published in British Medical Journal (also called BMJ) put this number at roughly 252,000 per year. By comparison, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show that heart disease and cancer are responsible for 610,000 and 590,000 deaths respectively.
Why are so many people in our country dying while receiving health care? Unfortunately, the answer is never simple and varies substantially with each case. However, there are common errors that can be divided into specific groups.
- Diagnostic errors: Research has shown that diagnostic errors are responsible for more preventable deaths than any other type of medical mistake. Johns Hopkins University estimates that 80,000 to 160,000 patients die or suffer significant injuries each year due to diagnostic errors. You may never receive a correct diagnosis if you are affected by this mistake. In other cases, you may receive an incorrect diagnosis followed by a correct one at a later date. Your doctor could also fail to diagnose a second health condition caused by the first one.
- Medication mistakes: There are cases where patients are given the wrong medications. They may also be given the wrong dosages. Perhaps they are given two medications that should never be taken together. All of these medication mistakes could result in permanent injury or death. Medication mistakes can occur in any type of health care setting.
- Never events: The word “never event” is an umbrella term used to describe a specific group of mistakes that should never occur. This term could refer to specific types of surgery mistakes, such as performing a surgical operation on the wrong part of the body.
- Infections/poor sanitation: If your doctor does not follow basic handwashing and sanitation procedures, they could be putting you and others at risk of developing an infection. The same could be said if they failed to properly sanitize equipment before an operation.
When are Medical Mistakes Considered Medical Malpractice?
Medical mistakes have to meet certain criteria to be considered medical malpractice. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you make this determination if you or a loved one were harmed by a health care provider. Our law firm could review the details of your case at no cost to help you determine whether medical malpractice occurred. If we determined that malpractice did occur, we could begin laying the groundwork to pursue damages against the doctor, hospital, health facility or other parties.
Walsh Woodard, LLC has a proven record of success helping victims of medical malpractice and their families.