I Suspect that My Doctor Has Committed Medical Malpractice
A medical malpractice claim is established when a doctor or other medical professional acts negligently during the administration of medical care.
A negligence claim requires four elements: duty, breach, causation and damages. The claim must also be brought within a certain amount of time.
Not All Bad Outcomes are Due to Negligence
A bad outcome is not always grounds for a medical malpractice claim. Just because a medical procedure did not have the desired or expected outcome does not necessarily mean that the doctor acted negligently in the administration of your care.
For example, most instances of misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis can be traced back to an act of negligence on the part of the doctor or medical care provider; however, this is not always the case. A skillful and careful doctor could use reasonable care and still make a diagnosis error. Sometimes patients develop very rare conditions, or have a plurality of conditions that work together to produce a patient’s unique and unusual symptoms. A careful doctor would perform an examination, conduct research, and arrive at a list of possible diagnoses, and would conduct testing until they could arrive at a diagnosis that fits the symptoms and circumstances of the patient.
A doctor could also arrive at an innocent misdiagnosis if the doctor relies upon inaccurate laboratory data or test results obtained from another party. A malfunctioning piece of diagnostic equipment could render inaccurate test results, and would not be the fault of the doctor. Nor is it the fault of the diagnosing doctor if a lab technician makes a mistake or commits a human error during processing of the lab data. A lab technician could accidentally swap the samples or x-rays of two patients, or could record the results of a test on the incorrect patient’s report. In this case, while the doctor may not be liable, the laboratory responsible for the inaccurate data likely is liable for negligence.
In order to prove negligence regarding a doctor’s diagnosis error, liability is limited to the doctor’s actions. It must be shown that a similarly situated doctor, in the same specialty, would not have provided a misdiagnosis, and that the patient suffered harm from that diagnosis error.