An incorrect diagnosis from a medical professional can cause many life-changing problems. If this has happened to you, our specialist solicitors can pursue a medical misdiagnosis claim to help get the justice you deserve.
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What is a medical misdiagnosis?
Doctors, nurses and surgeons are expected to diagnose a wide range of conditions and diseases, and to recognise damage caused by accidents to organs and limbs. In addition, they are required to offer appropriate treatment to their patients or refer them to someone else who can.
Broadly speaking, a misdiagnosis will fall into one of three categories:
A failed diagnosis, where the patient’s condition is missed altogether
A late diagnosis, when there is a delay in determining the patient’s condition
An incorrect diagnosis, where another illness or injury is diagnosed instead of the one actually affecting the patient
Because the human body is complex, healthcare professionals will not get a diagnosis right every time, and the law does not expect them to. However, what is expected is that the decisions they make and the steps they take to diagnose and treat their patients should be ‘reasonable’, and should be comparable to how other doctors or health professionals would act in a similar situation.
How do I know if my misdiagnosis was due to medical negligence?
A medical misdiagnosis can lead to a patient receiving incorrect treatment, their treatment being delayed, or them not receiving any treatment at all.
If a healthcare professional fails to recognise your symptoms and prescribes the wrong treatment, fails to investigate appropriately, or doesn't refer you to a specialist, and you suffer as a result, the healthcare professional may be liable for medical negligence and you may be entitled to compensation.
When we investigate a misdiagnosis claim, we speak to relevant, impartial medical practitioners to clarify whether the actions or inactions of a healthcare professional were reasonable. If these experts determine that the professional breached their duty of care to their patient, then this can lead to a misdiagnosis case.
It is important to clarify that ‘substandard’ care is not the same as ‘suboptimal’ care. For a healthcare professional to breach their duty of care, their actions or inactions must be something that no reasonable professional in their position would have done.
What are the main causes of medical misdiagnosis?
There are several circumstances that can cause a medical misdiagnosis, and lead to a successful claim:
Failing to diagnose or spot symptoms of a serious underlying health condition
Mistaking symptoms as signs of a different health condition
Not recognising complications that may change or worsen a condition
Not considering the patient’s condition as one of several differential diagnoses
Failing to arrange appropriate diagnostic tests or refer the patient to a specialist
Misreading test results, scans or slides
Inaccurately reporting test results as normal
Misplacing the report of an investigation
An incorrect diagnosis may mean that a patient is given surgery or medication for a condition that they don't have. This can include undergoing a treatment or procedure that is unnecessary, such as removal of tissue that has been wrongly diagnosed as being cancerous.
It can also mean that the real condition goes untreated, causing additional pain and suffering and, sometimes, requiring the need for more invasive treatment. Additionally, by the time an accurate diagnosis is made, a patient’s prognosis may have worsened.
How can a medical misdiagnosis impact your life?
When considering the impact of a medical misdiagnosis, we consider three primary questions:
How has the patient’s injury or illness progressed as a result of the diagnosis?
How have their treatment options changed as a result?
How has their prognosis changed as a result?
Extent of illness or injury
Firstly, the longer that a disease or injury is allowed to develop, the greater impact it can have on a person’s overall health. This can present them with more discomfort and challenges over time, such as:
Additional sick days, leading to loss of earnings
Inability to spend time with loved ones or complete daily tasks
It is important to highlight that, by the very nature of a misdiagnosis, a patient will have already been suffering from an illness or injury, and the treatment for this could require the patient to take time off work or undergo ongoing therapies.
To determine a suitable value of compensation, we will work with medical experts to establish what a patient should have experienced had they been diagnosed correctly, and what has changed as a result of their misdiagnosis.
Due to the delay caused by a misdiagnosis, the treatment options that were once available to a patient may no longer be applicable, and more severe treatments may be required instead.
For example, if a patient loses feeling in their foot due to a vascular occlusion, surgery may be able to open up the vessel and allow blood flow to resume. However, if a healthcare professional misdiagnoses this as another condition, by the time it is identified it may be too late to prevent the need for an amputation.
The change in treatment options can have significant consequences, from financial losses due to the patient taking more time off work to treat and recover from their condition, to the need for long-term care and therapies that may have otherwise been avoidable.
There is also the potential for a patient to receive unnecessary treatment for a condition that was wrongly diagnosed. This could result in:
Risk of further injury as a result of the treatment
Masking the real condition for longer, allowing its symptoms to worsen
Impacting a person’s work or lifestyle due to the side effects of this treatment
The longer an illness, injury or condition is left undiagnosed, the more it can impact a person’s future wellbeing. This can include:
Reduced life expectancy
Needing to take regular medication or undergo frequent treatments
Needing to use a wheelchair, crutches or other mobility aids
Recurrences of the same or similar conditions
Long-term psychological and emotional strain
In cases of a cancer misdiagnosis, it may take several months for a misdiagnosis to have changed someone’s prognosis or treatment options. However, in this window of time, their cancer may have progressed from surgery to remove a tumour and some radiotherapy, to a prolonged course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy to treat the issue.
In the most tragic circumstances, the cancer may progress to the stage where treatment is no longer possible.
Conversely, in circumstances such as sepsis misdiagnosis or meningitis misdiagnosis, the window for a patient’s prognosis to change is far shorter – they may progress from slightly unwell to critically ill in a number of hours.
Where do I start with a misdiagnosis claim?
By reaching out to specialist medical negligence solicitors, like our team at Gadsby Wicks, you give yourself the possibility of a successful outcome and receiving the compensation you deserve, whether you are making a claim against an NHS trust or a private practitioner.
At the start of your claim, we will work with you to establish what happened, and thoroughly investigate all available evidence, such as:
Independent medical opinion
We will speak with impartial medical experts with a strong understanding of our legal tests to establish whether you have a viable negligence claim, and determine how your circumstances have changed as a result of your misdiagnosis in order to calculate an appropriate value of compensation.
We will be with you at every stage of the claims process, and can provide our services on a ‘No Win No Fee‘ basis. This means our payment is recovered from the compensation you receive – if your claim is unsuccessful, you pay nothing at all.
If you would like to discover how we have supported clients in the past through their misdiagnosis claims and the outcomes we have achieved on their behalf, you can read a number of our case studies below:
How will medical misdiagnosis claim compensation help me?
The purpose of compensation following a successful claim is to help someone get back to the position they were in before the negligence or, if this is not possible, support changes to their life moving forward.
With this in mind, compensation following a misdiagnosis claim can cover a wide variety of costs, including:
The cost of necessary treatments
Loss of earnings incurred while undergoing and recovering from treatment
Future financial losses due to being unable to work, or the need to change their employment
Any necessary equipment or aids
Therapies or support for any psychological harm caused by the experience
Paying others for services that the claimant cannot perform themselves anymore (such as gardening and household chores)
Any adaptations required to the home or to vehicles
The value of a successful compensation claim will largely depend on the long-term ramifications of the misdiagnosis on the claimant’s life. For instance, if a person’s fractured foot is misdiagnosed and discovered two weeks later, this may well have a lower value than a misdiagnosis of breast cancer that continues for several months.
How long do misdiagnosis claims take to settle?
In the majority of cases, we would expect a misdiagnosis claim to take between two and five years to reach final settlement. This will vary depending on the stance taken by the defendants, and how long it takes medical experts to determine an accurate prognosis.
How long do I have to make a misdiagnosis claim?
As is the case for all medical negligence claims, there is a set time limit of three years from when the injury is realised for someone to make a misdiagnosis claim. There are some exceptions to this – children have until their 21st birthday, and there is no time limit for anyone who is mentally incapacitated.
Sometimes, a claimant who suffered a medical misdiagnosis will not become aware of this until months or years later. A patient who receives a cancer misdiagnosis might not be correctly diagnosed with their condition for several years afterwards.
In these instances, date of knowledge is incredibly important. This means the three-year time limit to make a claim does not start when the misdiagnosis occurred, but when a claimant should have reasonably suspected they had been misdiagnosed.
Furthermore, even if you have exceeded the three-year limit, we recommend contacting us if you believe you have a claim. Each claim is at the discretion of the Court, and we have the experience and expertise to advise you on whether your claim is viable.