Failure to Diagnose
We rely on medical professionals to provide knowledgeable information and competent diagnoses. Sometimes medical professionals misdiagnose a patient. Misdiagnosis and delayed treatment of a medical condition can have debilitating effects on a patient and in some cases can be fatal. For instance, the medical provider might treat a patient for flu when he or she is suffering from a life-threatening gastrointestinal problem.
Failure to diagnose occurs when your doctor fails to correctly diagnose your condition. He may not connect your symptoms with any medical condition, or he may attribute your symptoms to a different condition which you do not have (this is known as misdiagnosis). In other cases, your doctor may take too long to identify your condition, leading to further harm the longer you remain untreated.
A 2014 study revealed that approximately 12 million people, or one out of every 20 adults, are misdiagnosed in the U.S. every year. Of those 12 million, at least 6 million are likely to suffer serious injury or harm as a result of their misdiagnosis.
When diagnosing a patient, most doctors create a list of possible diagnoses based on the patient’s symptoms. The doctor then tries to rule out each condition by examining the patient and performing diagnostic tests, until she has arrived at a definite conclusion. Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose usually means a doctor has not listed the true diagnosis or has been negligent in following up on each listed diagnosis.
Obviously, even skilled doctors can make mistakes, and a doctor that has misdiagnosed your condition may not be guilty of negligence or of medical malpractice. For a legitimate medical malpractice case, a patient must prove the following three things:
- There was a doctor-patient relationship, meaning the doctor had a legal duty of care towards you.
- The doctor breached that duty by mistaking your condition or failing to diagnose it.
- As a result of the doctor’s mistake, you suffered greater injury or harm than you would have if the doctor had diagnosed your condition correctly and in a timely manner.
However, even if all of these criteria are present, there may be other conditions affecting the success of your case. Since even the most competent doctors sometimes make mistakes, the general rule of medical malpractice is to consider whether or not another qualified doctor would have diagnosed the condition correctly. Patients are also responsible for telling doctors about their medical history and any symptoms they may be experiencing, such as headaches or chest pains, which aren’t obvious to the doctor.
Statute of limitations
According to §5-109 of Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Article, you have three years to file a claim for medical malpractice. This three-year span begins on the date the injury occurred, or in other words, on the date the doctor misdiagnosed or failed to diagnose your condition.
However, there are a few qualifiers to this statute. In some cases, the three-year time limit begins not on the date the harm occurred, but on the date the patient noticed or should have noticed the harm. This is known as the discovery rule. In any case, though, the total time beginning on the date of the misdiagnosis cannot exceed five years.
Maryland also has a continuous treatment rule, which means that if the patient’s condition requires a continuing course of treatment, then the three-year time limit does not begin until the date the doctor’s treatment for that condition has ceased. However, this only pertains if the patient does not discover the misdiagnosis during the course of treatment.
Exceptions may also be made for minors. Maryland law states that victims of medical malpractice under 18 years of age are not subject to the three-year statute of limitations until they reach age 18, at which time the three years begin to run, as specified in Piselli v. 75th Street Medical, 808 A.2d 508, 371 Md. 188 (2002).
Additionally, if a person suffers wrongful death as a result of medical malpractice, that person’s family may sue within three years of the deceased’s date of death.
These seemingly conflicting statements can be confusing, so in most cases not involving minors or wrongful death actions, it’s probably safe to assume that the statute of limitations begins on the date the doctor failed to correctly diagnose your condition. However, it’s worth consulting a lawyer to get a final answer.
Contact an Experienced Salisbury Medical Malpractice Lawyer
The failure of a medical professional to give the proper medical treatment is medical malpractice. The doctor may prescribe the wrong medication for the patient or the incorrect dosage and complications can arise. There are many cases where the patient had to suffer because of wrong diagnosis and treatment – things such as a left leg being amputated instead of right leg, or removal of the wrong, non-diseased kidney. In addition, sometimes the medical provider fails to recognize the condition requiring treatment.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, Contact Otway Russo, P.C., at (410) 749-3900.