Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis Lawyers
Representing Patients Harmed by Diagnostic Errors in Vancouver and Throughout British Columbia
One of the key responsibilities of any medical practitioner is to provide an accurate diagnosis of a patient’s complaint. Prompt diagnosis of an illness or injury means treatment can begin sooner, increasing the likelihood of a favourable outcome. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis of serious conditions are commonplace.
Diagnostic errors are at the core of many medical malpractice claims. An incorrect or delayed diagnosis can lead to severe complications for which doctors and other medical professionals may be liable. However, unravelling how the misdiagnosis occurred can be extremely difficult.
Klein Lawyers has the knowledge and experience to help you hold doctors, surgeons, and hospital staff accountable for misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis. Please contact us for a free consultation in Vancouver, Surrey, Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, or Langley by calling (604) 874-7171 today.
Medical Misdiagnosis Errors
Misdiagnosis is one of the leading issues in what are classified as “adverse events.” Adverse events are injuries, complications, and deaths related to medical care – many of them preventable.
The Canadian Adverse Events Study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that 7.5 percent of patients admitted to Canadian hospitals suffered some kind of adverse event. More than 1,500 extra days in the hospital were associated with these events, and 20 percent of adverse events resulted in death. These events were deemed preventable in as many as 51 percent of cases.
Considering that most patients are likely to suffer misdiagnosis at least once in their lives, these statistics create a frightening picture of the potential for misdiagnosis. When misdiagnosis does occur, the impact on patients can be devastating.
What Is Misdiagnosis?
Misdiagnosis is easy to define: It is the failure of a medical practitioner to arrive at the correct diagnosis of a patient’s complaint. Patients who are misdiagnosed may be told they are healthy when they are not, or their symptoms may be misidentified as a different condition.
Common examples of misdiagnosis in medical malpractice claims include:
- Misdiagnosing a heart attack as a less serious condition, such as angina, indigestion, or even heartburn
- Misdiagnosis of cancer due to errors in reading lab tests or failure to order appropriate labs – the most commonly misdiagnosed types of cancer include:
- Breast cancer
- Lymphoma (cancers of the lymph nodes)
- Colorectal cancer
- Lung cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Melanoma (an aggressive form of skin cancer)
- Sarcomas (tumours that develop in bone and soft tissue)
- Errors in prenatal screening and failure to monitor the mother and baby during labour; both errors increase the risk of a birth injury
- Failure to diagnose the early symptoms of a stroke
- Misdiagnosis of uncontrolled diabetes
- Misdiagnosis of appendicitis
- Misdiagnosis of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, etc.
Misdiagnosis often stems from simple errors, such as failing to order a blood test or imaging. Unfortunately, seemingly minor mistakes by healthcare workers can lead to life-altering harm for patients and their families.
Read More: Do I Have a Case for Medical Negligence?
Is Misdiagnosis Medical Malpractice?
Most serious illnesses and medical emergencies have standard protocols for diagnosis. Although doctors and other practitioners are afforded wide discretion in diagnosing and treating patients, misdiagnosis may constitute medical malpractice if:
- The provider’s failure to diagnose involved an error that represents a significant deviation from the standard of care
- This error directly led to injury (i.e., a worsening of the patient’s health, complications, etc.) and/or other damages.
The most complex aspect of misdiagnosis claims is identifying the applicable standard of care (the actions that can be reasonably expected of a healthcare provider under the circumstances) and presenting evidence that the practitioner breached the standard. Some events, such as a heart attack, are commonplace and have well-defined steps for diagnosis and treatment. If doctors fail to perform tests and misdiagnose a heart attack as heartburn (a tragically common situation), the patient likely has a strong case.
However, some illnesses are extremely difficult to diagnose, including autoimmune disorders, certain infections, and emergent conditions with unusual presentations. Doctors are trained to “think horses, not zebras, when they hear hoof beats.” In other words, the medical profession makes allowances for misdiagnosis of rare complaints precisely because they are uncommon.
Misdiagnosis in these cases is fairly common and typically does not involve negligence on the part of your doctor. As a result, it can be difficult in such a situation to argue that diagnostic malpractice led to your injuries.
Can You Sue for a Misdiagnosis?
If malpractice was a factor in the misdiagnosis of your condition, you do have the right to bring a claim against the doctor responsible. Depending on the circumstances, your doctor and other healthcare professionals (as well as the hospital or private medical centre where you received treatment) may all be liable for your injuries.
One of the major challenges of filing a misdiagnosis lawsuit is the limitation period for bringing medical malpractice claims. Although the Limitation Act of British Columbia generally requires injury claims to be brought within two years of the injury, this time limit is subject to what is known as the “discovery rule.”
By law, discovery of an injury occurs on the first day that the claimant knows or should reasonably know that “injury, loss or damage had occurred.” The claimant must also know or should reasonably have known:
- “that the injury, loss or damage was caused by or contributed to by an act or omission;”
- “that the act or omission was that of the person against whom the claim is or may be made;”
- “that, having regard to the nature of the injury, loss or damage, a court proceeding would be an appropriate means to seek to remedy the injury, loss or damage.”
One of the unique facets of medical malpractice litigation is that the injury as well as the error that caused harm may not be discovered until many years after the fact. You may still be able to file suit for injuries and damages stemming from misdiagnosis after the basic limitation period (two years) elapses, but doing so can be challenging.
It is important to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible if you or a loved one suffer harm due to diagnostic error. Contact a misdiagnosis lawyer at Klein Lawyers in Vancouver and other areas of British Columbia today for a free consultation.
How Do You Prove Misdiagnosis?
Another challenge in any medical malpractice claim is proving that a doctor or other practitioner committed an unacceptable error. Diagnosis often involves many tests and may require referral to one or more specialists.
Thorough review of your medical records is essential for determining how you were misdiagnosed. At Klein Lawyers, we partner with leading medical experts to determine:
- Whether the standard battery of tests was performed for your complaint
- If the tests were administered properly
- If the test results match the diagnosis and plan of care documented in your medical chart
Expert witness testimony can help establish how your doctor violated the standard of care, resulting in misdiagnosis. Testimony from medical experts is also crucial for determining how a diagnostic error resulted in your injury and subsequent damages.
Can You Get Compensation for Misdiagnosis?
Failure to diagnose can have far-reaching consequences for patients and their families. The damages you may be able to recover in a misdiagnosis claim will depend on the losses you and your loved ones experience.
Potential compensation for medical malpractice in cases involving misdiagnosis may include:
- Medical expenses for care of an advanced or complicated condition, including hospitalization, surgery, etc.
- Lost income
- Loss of earning capacity, if the misdiagnosed condition prevents you from working
- Expenses for assistive devices, home and vehicle modifications, at-home services, and other out-of-pocket costs stemming from disability caused by the misdiagnosis
- Pain and suffering
- Lost quality and enjoyment of life
- Bills associated with hospice and palliative care, if the misdiagnosis results in a terminal or inoperable condition
If your loved one died as a result of a misdiagnosis, you and your family may be able to bring a wrongful death claim against the doctor and other medical providers responsible for the failure to diagnose. You may be entitled to recovery of damages such as medical expenses incurred prior to your loved one’s death, as well as reasonable costs related to funeral services and the final disposition of your loved one’s remains (i.e., burial or cremation).
Most doctors in British Columbia are members of the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). The CMPA defends member physicians in malpractice claims, rarely settling unless the negligence of the provider was egregious and indefensible.
With this in mind, it is important to hire a lawyer experienced in complex litigation and capable of taking cases to trial. Klein Lawyers has extensive trial experience, and we are committed to pursuing the full compensation you and your loved ones deserve in claims involving misdiagnosis and other forms of medical malpractice.
Delayed Diagnosis Errors
Cases of misdiagnosis are often “righted” at a later date by a physician who performs the appropriate tests, interprets the results correctly, and accurately advises the patient of his or her condition. Doctors may even discover their own error in some cases and deliver the correct diagnosis.
Unfortunately, delays in diagnosis can have serious consequences.
What Is a Delayed Diagnosis?
A delayed diagnosis occurs when an accurate assessment of a medical condition is not made in a timely fashion. Either the patient’s complaint goes undiagnosed entirely, or the issue is initially misdiagnosed and (potentially) diagnosed correctly through further testing and/or by seeing a different doctor.
Delaying a diagnosis leads to a delay in treatment. Patients may suffer a number of adverse consequences if a medical issue goes undetected through the negligence of a provider, including:
- Worsening symptoms
- Metastasis (the spread of tumours beyond the initial site where cancer develops)
- Fatal complications
If the correct diagnosis is delayed, patients may also undergo costly and unnecessary medical procedures for an illness they don’t have. These treatments carry their own set of risks which can exacerbate the patient’s existing (and undiagnosed) condition, as well as result in additional injuries.
Can You Sue a Doctor for Delaying Treatment?
As with cases of misdiagnosis, patients may be able to sue for delayed diagnosis if a doctor or other practitioner was negligent and this negligence resulted in injury and damages. Delayed diagnosis claims may involve the following issues:
- Failure to order necessary lab tests, imaging, etc.
- Misreading and misinterpreting test results
- Failure to communicate test results to patients
- Failure to refer the patient to an appropriate specialist
- Failure to review the patient’s medical history and make informed decisions about testing for potential issues
Both economic and non-economic damages may be recoverable in claims involving injury and wrongful death stemming from a delay in diagnosis. Testimony from medical experts is crucial for establishing that delayed diagnosis directly resulted in your condition getting worse.
Lawyers for the defence will commonly argue that diseases such as cancer can get worse in spite of timely diagnosis. The courts have largely upheld these arguments, making it difficult for claimants to recover compensation for a delayed diagnosis unless causation can be effectively established.
Contact a Diagnosis Error Lawyer Today
If a doctor fails to diagnose a serious or life-threatening illness or injury, the effects can be catastrophic. Timely treatment may be delayed, resulting in significant medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other life-altering harm. Potentially treatable conditions may be neglected too long, leading to irreversible complications and – worst of all – death.
The team at Klein Lawyers has the knowledge and resources to handle complex claims involving medical malpractice. We thoroughly investigate to determine how errors on the part of healthcare professionals led to your injuries. In partnership with leading experts, we fully assess your damages and pursue a favourable result on your behalf through settlement negotiations and at trial as necessary.
Please call Klein Lawyers at (604) 874-7171 today for a free case evaluation. Our medical malpractice lawyers handle claims involving misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and other diagnostic errors on behalf of clients in Vancouver, Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Langley, Surrey, and other areas of British Columbia.