Is a Missed Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis Evidence of Medical Malpractice in Utah?
Visiting the doctor for a chronic illness, unexplained pain or injury is often bewildering. You might be faced with no available appointments or rushed during your consultation. You may feel like the doctor is not listening or reviewing your pertinent medical history or you could just be looking for answers. Unfortunately, doctors do not always get it right.
Did a doctor make an incorrect diagnosis, or did they fail to diagnose an issue that only got worse? Did you have to visit multiple practices before a correct diagnosis? This is sadly common for many patients, but it can have seriously detrimental effects. You may have legal options to pursue if you have suffered due to a doctor’s negligent mistake. Our personal injury attorneys at Harris, Preston & Chambers specialize in Utah medical malpractice claims including missed diagnosis and misdiagnosis. Click the button below to schedule your free consultation or give us a call.
What is a Misdiagnosis?
Misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor or medical provider makes an incorrect diagnosis about a patient’s symptoms, whether it is an injury or illness. Often misdiagnosis happens if a doctor does not believe a patient’s symptoms are indicative of a more serious illness or injury. They may be rushing to see the next patient or fail to review a patient’s medical history before making an assessment.
For example, a patient visits an urgent care clinic complaining of a severe headache and dizziness and the doctor on staff dismisses her. He does not request blood work, conduct neurological tests, or order a CT scan or brain MRI despite the patient complaining of ongoing worsening of symptoms for the past week. He misdiagnoses her with chronic migraine and prescribes prescription-strength ibuprofen. The next day, the patient suffers a severe stroke and loses the use of her left hand and arm. Her life will never be the same again because the doctor misdiagnosed her symptoms.
What Must the Plaintiff Prove for a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Misdiagnosis is one form of medical malpractice. This is because a doctor acted negligently in failing only for her to suffer a heart attack three hours after discharge. The patient passes away because the doctor misdiagnosed her symptoms. It could result in disability, severe injury, or even death. The patient could be given medical advice that is completely incorrect given the condition they are actually suffering with or undergo more harm or pain because the correct treatment was delayed.
In a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must prove that the treating physician owed the patient a duty of care and that the doctor acted negligently in rendering medical care, breaching their duty. The plaintiff must prove that the doctor’s misdiagnosis was the proximate cause of their injuries or worsening condition and that they are entitled to damages as a result.
What About a Missed Diagnosis?
A missed diagnosis occurs when a doctor fails to make a diagnosis at all, essentially telling the patient that there is nothing wrong with them. It may also occur if a patient is suffering from more than one issue and the doctor only identifies the cause of the plaintiff’s chief complaint, overlooking another, more serious medical problem.
Often people suffering from autoimmune or chronic pain disorders may have to visit multiple doctors before they obtain the correct diagnosis. For those with multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, this waiting period can mean the difference between better quality of life or the progression of severe disability. A doctor might miss a diagnosis in a young patient because they are “too young” to be contracting the illness. They might write off spotting and cramps as normal in a young woman who actually suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome. Or blood work might not indicate cause for concern on an exam, yet the patient is still suffering from unexplained pain.
Is a Missed Diagnosis Considered Medical Malpractice?
There are multiple examples of missed diagnosis, and it can leave the patient feeling defeated and out of options. Each day a patient’s illness or injury is not treated could substantially affect their mobility, independence, and ability to work or care for their children. Doctors do make mistakes, and some of these mistakes could be extremely serious or even deadly.
A doctor’s failure to diagnose an illness in an early stage could result in increased costs, time missed from work, and advanced, more invasive treatment for the patient at a later stage. Even worse, a patient might accept a doctor’s mistaken advice that there is “nothing wrong with them” only to continue to suffer from pain or sickness. While patients might be hesitant to pursue legal action, a Utah doctor’s missed diagnosis is not just a simple mistake but has forever changed the trajectory of a patient’s life. For that reason, a missed diagnosis is considered another form of medical malpractice.
What Damages is a Plaintiff Entitled to?
There is no cap for economic damages due to a misdiagnosis, incorrect diagnosis, or missed diagnosis in Utah. If a plaintiff can produce medical bills accumulated as a result of the doctor’s failure to diagnose their condition or injury correctly, they can seek compensation for those losses. Some plaintiffs have been forced to visit multiple doctors and specialists seeking an answer for chronic pain or a mysterious illness, and with each day that passes by a chronic condition may only worsen.
Plaintiffs are also able to obtain non-economic damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other damages not tied to a bill or invoice. The cap for non-economic damages in Utah is $450,000, according to Utah Code §78B-3-410 (2010). Plaintiffs can also recover damages for lost wages and future lost wages attributed to the defendant’s malpractice and any out-of-pocket medical expenses, rehabilitation, and occupational therapy, or durable medical equipment.
Procedural Steps for Filing a Misdiagnosis or Missed Diagnosis Claim in Utah
The plaintiff must establish that the medical provider failed to render the same level of care that a reasonable practitioner would have dispensed in similar circumstances. In cases of misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis, the plaintiff may rely on testimony from their treating physician and specialists regarding the condition they suffer from, and how their current physician came to that conclusion. They may also rely on extensive medical history and records of treatment after the misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis occurred to prove they are entitled to damages sought.
There are also procedural requirements a plaintiff must adhere when filing a claim in Utah. A plaintiff must file a notice of intent to sue with the physician or hospital defendant at least 90 days prior. The plaintiff then files a request for prelitigation panel review within 60 days of filing the notice of intent, according to Utah Code § 78B-3-416 (2020). A panel is then commissioned to review the plaintiff’s complaint. The panel may subpoena the plaintiff and defendant for medical records related to the claim, and all proceedings remain confidential. Panel proceedings are not binding on litigation but they are required before a medical malpractice claim can move forward in litigation.
Conclusion on Missed Diagnosis vs Misdiagnosis
If you or a loved one were misdiagnosed, mistreated, or neglected by a medical provider, contact our Utah medical malpractice attorneys at Harris, Preston, and Chambers. Our medical misdiagnosis lawyers are dedicated to advocating for our clients. We understand how frustrating and detrimental a missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis can be to your health and peace of mind. We tirelessly advocate on behalf of our clients to obtain justice. Call our medical malpractice attorneys today to schedule a consultation and review your options. Click the button below to get your free legal strategy session.