Birmingham Missed / Delayed Diagnosis Attorneys
One of the most common forms of medical malpractice is the misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of an injury or medical condition. In such cases, diagnostic errors can worsen a patient’s condition. Some patients may even die as a result of the error.
Patients who were harmed by a physician’s misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis often want answers as to why their conditions were not properly identified and treated. The experienced Alabama misdiagnosis lawyers at Serious Injury Law Group handle only personal injury cases. We understand how to tackle even the most complicated issues in order to hold doctors, hospitals and insurers accountable.
Our attorneys are Alabama natives who take pride in helping residents all over the greater Birmingham area. We are here to put our experience and all of our resources to work for you. To learn more, call or contact us online today and schedule a free consultation.
How Common Are Missed and Delayed Diagnoses?
In April 2013, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found after reviewing a quarter-century of medical malpractice payouts in the United States that diagnostic errors accounted for:
- The biggest percentage of claims
- The most severe patient harm
- The highest total of payouts.
“There’s a lot more harm associated with diagnostic errors than we imagined,” said David E. Newman-TokerM.D., Ph.D., an associate professor at Johns Hopkins and leader of the study. The study found that between 1986 and 2010, diagnosis-related payments totaled $38.8 billion. Diagnostic errors not only were the leading type (28.6 percent) but also accounted for the highest proportion of total payments (35.2 percent) of 350,706 paid claims.
A more recent analysis of medical malpractice payouts by Diederich Healthcare found that diagnostic errors accounted for the largest percentage of payment amounts, with 34 percent. According to Diederich, more than $24 million was paid out for medical malpractice claims in Alabama in 2017.
Diederich also found that death was the leading type of outcome in terms of case severity, applicable in 30 percent of cases. Certain types of conditions can often have fatal consequences when they are improperly diagnosed, such as:
- Stroke — A stroke involves blood flow to a part of the brain being cut off, resulting in brain cells being deprived of oxygen and beginning to die. Diagnostic errors can be more common in younger stroke victims, for whom such conditions are generally more rare and appropriate testing may not be ordered. With elderly victims, strokes may be misdiagnosed as being associated with other conditions.
- Heart Attack — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the U.S. has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Not every person who suffers a heart attack knows that they have suffered a heart attack, and doctors may mistake a patient’s symptoms for a less serious condition. When a heart attack is not diagnosed properly, a patient can develop serious complications.
- Cancer — A misdiagnosis of cancer is more likely to occur with a younger adult than an older one. Certain cancer symptoms may be misdiagnosed as signs of other conditions. In some cases, people may be misdiagnosed with cancer and undergo unnecessary chemotherapy, surgery or other treatment. False negatives can defer treatment.
These and other diagnostic errors can have extremely negative consequences for their victims.
Why Do Diagnostics Errors Occur?
Diagnostic errors take many forms. When an injury or medical condition is not properly diagnosed, patients are often harmed much more than they are healed. In general, the three most common kinds of misdiagnosis include:
- False positive — A positive test indicates that a patient has a certain medical condition. If a patient tests positive for a condition they don’t have, it can lead to extremely costly and grueling procedures such as surgery or possible reconstruction. While some false positives might result in little more than undue stress for patients, cases in which additional treatment measures are ordered can lead to excess and unnecessary medical costs.
- False negative — Unlike false positives in which patients usually receive treatment that they do not need, a false negative is usually far more dangerous because a patient does not receive the treatment they actually need. In many cases, false negatives will deprive patients of the treatment they needed to treat their conditions, and certain false negatives may even impact other people when a communicable disease is involved.
- Equivocal results — The term equivocal is synonymous with ambiguous and usually applies to subjects that have more than one interpretation. In a medical setting, equivocal results often apply to interpretations made on inconclusive information and leading to failure to provide an accurate diagnosis.
A misdiagnosis may occur for many different reasons. Some of the most common errors include failures to do the following:
- Conduct a comprehensive physical examination — A comprehensive examination usually includes a complete medical history, a general survey and a complete physical assessment. The physical examination needs to be comprehensively performed as it often supplies an important percentage of the data needed to accurately diagnose a patient.
- Review the patient’s medical history and other factors — Certain patients have very specific needs or conditions that can impact the types of treatment that are best-suited for them. If a physician orders a type of treatment for a patient without an accurate understanding of the patient’s medical history, it can result in additional complications.
- Order a diagnostic test — According to a 2006 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the failure to order an appropriate diagnostic test was the most common breakdown in the diagnostic process. Failure to order X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, computed tomography (CT or CAT) scans or blood tests can lead to conditions not being properly diagnosed and patients being deprived of necessary treatment.
- Have equipment in working order — The FDA defines a medical device as “an instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, contrivance, implant, in vitro reagent, or other similar or related article … intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.” Any kind of technical glitch with a medical device can lead to inaccurate test results.
- Correctly interpret test results — A doctor may misinterpret specific test results. Claims can often be tricky because a physician may be able to argue that their interpretation was consistent with similar medical care providers. Some cases may involve simply indefensible interpretations that constitute medical malpractice.
- Communicate effectively with patients and/or fellow doctors — Many hospital settings involve entire teams of doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel. Everybody who is working on treating a patient needs to clearly communicate steps that have been taken and need to be taken in order to properly care for a patient, but a simple failure to accurately communicate certain instructions can lead to devastating consequences for some patients.
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of a disease or other medical condition — Some physicians interpret certain symptoms as being indicative of a patient having or not having a medical condition when the truth is that their condition is much more serious.
Many of these types of errors listed above tend to occur in emergency room (ER) settings. An ER is often a frantic setting in which medical professionals are trying to act quickly to provide medical care to multiple people, and many mistakes are the result of simply trying to achieve resolutions as quickly as possible when patients might require more intensive treatment.
What Can You Do About a Missed or Delayed Diagnosis?
If you or your loved one received an incorrect or delayed diagnosis in Alabama, contact Serious Injury Law Group as soon as possible. All medical malpractice actions are extremely complex and subject to strict requirements that are difficult for the average person to handle alone.
Our firm not only knows how to complete a comprehensive independent investigation, but we also work with the reputable medical experts needed to prove these types of claims. Missed and delayed diagnosis claims can also be quite expensive to bring, but you do not need to worry about these costs when you work with Serious Injury Law Group. We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay us nothing unless you receive a financial award.
Our firm will know how to calculate all the damages to which you are entitled, and we will make sure that any settlement covers all of these past and expected future costs. If an insurer refuses to provide adequate compensation, Serious Injury Law Group will not hesitate to go to trial for you.
Get Help from Our Birmingham Misdiagnosis Attorneys Today
Did you or your loved one receive any kind of misdiagnosis in Alabama? Do not delay getting help from Serious Injury Law Group. We are committed to fighting for maximum compensation for our clients. Call or contact us online today to take advantage of a free consultation that will allow our misdiagnosis attorneys to review your case and help you to understand all of your legal options.