Medical Misdiagnoses: Top Contributor to Medical Malpractice Claims
May 16, 2021
Over the years, numerous studies have reported on the rate of medical misdiagnoses throughout the United States. Some reports suggest that misdiagnosis rates fluctuate between 5% and 15%. According to a Johns Hopkins study, diagnostic errors account for the largest fraction of medical malpractice claims, the largest payouts against healthcare providers, and the highest level of harm against patients. Much of the harm that diagnostic errors produce is preventable, but researchers estimate that somewhere from 80,000 to 160,000 patients experience permanent injury or death from these mistakes every year.
What are Diagnostic Errors?
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine define diagnostic errors as the failure to (a) establish an accurate and timely explanation of the patient’s health problem(s) and/or (b) communicate that explanation to the patient. In other words, diagnostic errors are medical diagnoses that are incorrect, delayed, or missed altogether. Tracking the rate of diagnostic errors is a difficult task for researchers, because in many cases a significant amount of time has passed between the mistake being made and it being detected.
There are other types of major medical mistakes, like giving the wrong medication or the wrong dose, avoidable delays in treatment, and hospital acquired infections. However, data from Johns Hopkins researchers substantiates how diagnostic errors result in death or disability almost two times as frequently as mistakes in other error categories. They found other critical information in respect to diagnostic errors as well, such as:
- Diagnostic errors account for more than 35% of total payouts to injured patients or their loved ones
- They occur more frequently during outpatient care than inpatient care, but inpatient (e.g. hospital) diagnostic errors are more likely to result in deadly harm to patients than outpatient errors are
- Missed diagnoses account for the majority of diagnostic errors, not delayed or incorrect diagnoses (though these also occur frequently)
- The numbers are likely much higher than we think, since researchers tend to examine only the most severe cases (like those that lead to permanent disability or death). Other estimates suggest that when a patient sees a doctor for a new problem, that the misdiagnosis rate hovers around 15%
The Many Consequences of Misdiagnoses: When is it Medical Malpractice?
Diagnostic errors can result in a slew of complications for patients. In the best scenario, an error results in no harm to the patient – it is just that: a provider makes a mistake, notices it right away, and fixes it. But in tens of thousands of other cases every year, patients experience a spectrum of complications that range from moderate to severe to deadly. Not only does a diagnosis need to be correct, but a provider also needs to come up with a plan based on the diagnosis and act on it quickly and effectively, upholding the accepted standard of care for treating patients.
While not every medical misdiagnosis is medical malpractice, ones that are result from a provider acting negligently and directly causing harm to the patient are. A provider is negligent when they omit or perform an act that deviates from the accepted standard of care and as a result, cause harm to the patient. Diagnostic errors are notorious for inflicting serious harm because they involve a healthcare provider failing to identify and adequately treat a patient’s medical problem(s). If a patient has a blood clot in their leg, for example, but a doctor fails to diagnose it in a timely manner or even altogether, the patient could end up having the limb amputated and being permanently disabled.
What Results have Galfand Berger Attorneys Achieved for Medical Malpractice Victims?
The attorneys at Galfand Berger are experienced at defending the rights of medical malpractice victims. The medical malpractice attorneys at our firm understand just how high the stakes are in these cases. We represent clients who have experienced long-term or irreversible effects from avoidable medical mistakes and in the most tragic cases, we represent the grieving family members of deceased victims. Here are just a few examples of recoveries that our attorneys have secured for medical malpractice victims and their loved ones:
- Our client experienced bone fractures after a bad fall. His doctor failed to notice that our client was presenting with the signs and symptoms of a severe infection and instead of treating him, sent him home. This caused major medical complications for our client. Our attorneys were able to secure a $1,300,000 settlement for the injured party.
- Our client was injured when a doctor poked a hole in the wall of her large intestines during an examination. Our client developed a serious infection after the procedure and needed hospitalization and major surgery because of the perforation. The matter settled pre-trial for $800,000.
Medical misdiagnoses do not only result in physical harm to a patient, but they can also upend a person’s career path, their quality of life, and their chances for maintaining financial stability. Often, medical malpractice victims lose time from work or are no longer able to continue working whatsoever. They may incur overwhelming medical bills and they may also experience severe trauma related to the event. As studies continue to shed more light on how diagnostic errors affect patient health and safety – and how widespread they are throughout the medical industry – we can only hope that healthcare systems commit to taking strides toward making major improvements. While some facilities have implemented rigorous, multi-step processes to decrease the incidence of medical mistakes, there are still huge improvements to make. Until preventable diagnostic errors are eradicated from the healthcare industry, there will continue to be injured and innocent victims every day.
If you or a loved one was a victim of medical malpractice and you have questions about filing a legal claim, someone at our firm can help. Contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Individuals Since 1947
Galfand Berger LLP has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.