Misdiagnosis occurs when your doctor:

  1. Diagnoses you with a condition or illness you don’t have
  2. Fails to diagnose you with a condition or illness you do have

In both instances, the true cause of your symptoms is going unaddressed and untreated. If you’re worsening despite following your doctor’s treatment plan, you may have been misdiagnosed.

Misdiagnosis is both a medical and a legal issue. Unlike other forms of medical malpractice, in misdiagnosis cases, the doctor is almost always the person legally at fault. Even if a nurse failed to correctly take a person’s blood pressure, for example, the doctor is ultimately responsible because that the is the person who diagnosed you incorrectly.

Image of doctor and patient.

Signs You May Have Been Misdiagnosed

There are 3 primary indicators that you have been misdiagnosed:

  • Your medication isn’t working
  • Your symptoms are worsening or aren’t improving
  • A second opinion differs from your doctor’s

Additional indicators of misdiagnosis include:

  • Your diagnosis was made without corroborating tests or other diagnostic tools
  • A common diagnostic tool wasn’t used or its results were ignored
  • Tests were conducted in a haphazard or careless way
  • Your symptoms are common to multiple conditions
  • Your doctor rushed through your conversation and did not allow you to ask questions
  • Your doctor dismissed your concerns or symptoms

Some conditions also have symptoms that are similar to those of other illnesses. Lyme disease, for example, can look like mono or the flu. If you received a diagnosis and are following the treatment plan but aren’t improving, research your diagnosis, including the tests and tools that are usually used to diagnose it. Your doctor may not have conducted these or didn’t conduct enough to rule out other possible illnesses. I’ve also represented people whose doctor didn’t believe them about their symptoms or dismissed their symptoms as unimportant. This behavior is known as medical gaslighting, and is most often experienced by women, people of color, and people with chronic illnesses.

As a registered nurse, I encourage anyone who is experiencing health problems and isn’t improving to get a second opinion.

Why Is Misdiagnosis So Serious?

Being misdiagnosed is very dangerous for your long-term health because the true nature of your condition isn’t known. It also leads to more suffering and expense because you are paying for ineffective treatments. Your symptoms are persisting or worsening, and long-term complications and mental health problems like anxiety or depression may develop as a result in delayed treatment. You may be missing work or not able to work your full shifts because of your misdiagnosed condition, which is costing your family money.

Some conditions, if not treated properly or within a certain timeframe, can lead to permanent damage or even death. I’ve heard horrible stories of doctors who dismissed patients as hysterical or difficult instead of taking their expressed symptoms seriously. I’ve also faced doctors in court who genuinely care about their patients. But both types of doctors can misdiagnose their patients. Together with my clients, we hold both types of doctors responsible for the suffering and expense that resulted from their misdiagnosis.

Steps To Take If You’ve Been Misdiagnosed

1. Get a Second Opinion

If your health isn’t improving despite following your medical provider’s treatment plan, seek a second opinion as soon as possible.

2. Document Everything

Take notes on every conversation and appointment and keep copies of every test result, prescription, and all written communication about your condition and treatment.

3. Get the Required Treatment

Don’t delay the proper treatment while you seek legal counsel. See to your health first.

4. Consult a Medical Malpractice Attorney

As a former ER nurse and a medical malpractice attorney with three decades of experience, I’m uniquely capable to help you protect your future health and your legal rights.

What Legally Qualifies as Misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis is a form of Medical Malpractice. To have a legal case, your situation must meet the 4 following criteria of medical malpractice cases, and all 4 must be proven in court.

1. A relationship existed between the healthcare professional and the patient.
2. The medical professional was negligent.
3. The medical professional’s negligence caused the injury to the patient.
4. The patient suffered actual injuries as a result of the negligence.

In other words, the doctor must have been caring for you, their patient, and that doctor must have been negligent in such a way that it caused you an injury that led to suffering.

If you were misdiagnosed but suffered no harm because of it, that doesn’t qualify as a medical malpractice case. If you were misdiagnosed but the doctor wasn’t negligent, if your condition is very rare and generally not well known outside of specialists for example, it isn’t medical malpractice.

How Much Is My Misdiagnosis Case Worth?

The amount of compensation you are owed will depend on how badly you were harmed by the misdiagnosis. The greater the expenses and pain and suffering you endured, the greater the amount you are entitled to. If a misdiagnosis led to a heart attack or stroke, you would receive a higher settlement than someone whose broken foot was not diagnosed for a prolonged period. If your misdiagnosis affected your ability to work, the wages you lost as a result are calculated into your compensation. If you endured a lengthy hospital stay or surgery because of the misdiagnosis, your compensation should cover those expenses as well as reflect the hardship this placed on you and your family.

I represented a person whose cancer was misdiagnosed, allowing it to grow and spread. Because of this, they had to endure a more aggressive treatment plan than if the cancer had been caught when they first went to their doctor with their symptoms. In this case, the settlement was $750,000. In another instance, someone’s spinal cord injury was misdiagnosed in the ER, delaying necessary treatment and resulting in permanent damage. That verdict was for $5.2 million.

Some law firms put calculators on their websites to try to lure you with the idea of a large settlement. The truth, though, is that a fair settlement will look differently for each case, and there can be a wide range in compensation for these types of cases. I offer free consultations for anyone seeking to understand their legal options.

Is Suing for a Misdiagnosis Worth It?

As a registered nurse as well as an experienced medical malpractice lawyer, I know there can be anxiety about filing a legal claim, especially after a long, painful medical experience. But I also know that you didn’t deserve what happened to you. You shouldn’t have had to suffer because of someone else’s negligence. By filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, we will hold that doctor accountable for the ways their negligence harmed you and negatively affected your family.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen medical professionals who are routinely negligent, and the only way to prevent them from continuing to harm their patients is by holding them legally accountable for how they harmed you. To me, the chance to hold someone responsible and stop them from hurting someone else is at least worth a conversation. Call my office today to set up a free consultation.

How Can I Get the Most Compensation Possible?

I have 2 recommendations for people who may have been misdiagnosed or know that they were.

1. Document everything. Take notes during all your appointments and write down everything you can remember about your situation, from when you first noticed your symptoms to your first appointment through to today. It will be a lot to write down, but it’s important to have as many records and details as possible. Look up times and dates for your past appointments and print out any relevant emails or other communications from your doctor’s office or hospital. Ask for copies of your medical records. Keep the receipts for your prescriptions and any medical aids you might have had to purchase because of your misdiagnosis and your proper diagnosis. If you can, take photos of your injury or infection, especially if it worsens, and as it heals. Makes copies of every piece of documentation you have and keep both the originals and the copies in a safe place.

2. Hire an experienced misdiagnosis attorney. Look for an attorney with extensive experience winning misdiagnosis cases like yours. You want someone who listens to you, understands your medical records, and appreciates the full ramifications of how this misdiagnosis will affect the rest of your life. I offer free consultations to all my potential clients so I can hear your unique story. Bring copies of all your documentation with you so I can get the best picture of what occurred medically and give you the best legal advice.

Contact my office today to set up your free consultation.

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We feel she made our future brighter despite what had happened. We cannot thank Tracey enough for representing us during this life changing ordeal. WE would highly recommend her to anyone. She and her staff are not just our lawyers, but they are our friends.
– Janice C.

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