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Washington, DC Failure to Diagnose Malpractice Lawyer

Doctor giving sad news to woman patient.

Diagnostic error is more common than you may think. Each year, thousands of patients suffer injuries, illnesses, and even death due to botched diagnoses. This kind of medical malpractice can lead to serious legal consequences.

Dr. Michael M. Wilson has over three decades of experience helping medical malpractice victims secure the compensation they deserve. As a lawyer and physician, he has the training and skill to handle even the most complex medical malpractice claims. If you believe you are the victim of medical malpractice, contact The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates for a free consultation.

What Is a Diagnostic Error?

According to a study published by the National Academy of Sciences, diagnostic error is defined as “the failure to establish an accurate and timely explanation of the patient’s health problems or communicate that explanation to the patient.” This normally takes one of three forms:

  • Failure to Diagnose – Not diagnosing a patient with a present illness or condition
  • Misdiagnosis – Diagnosing a patient with the wrong illness or condition
  • Delayed Diagnosis – Correctly diagnosing a patient later than they should have been

This may sound simple enough. However, consider the following explanation from the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine: “There are over 10,000 known diseases and 3,500 kinds of laboratory tests, but there is only a small number of symptoms, so that any one symptom may have dozens or hundreds of possible explanations.” No wonder diagnostic error is so prevalent. Common causes include:

  • Failure to review a patient’s medical history
  • Failure to perform a complete physical exam
  • Failure to consider the correct diagnosis
  • Disregarding a patient’s symptoms
  • Failure to order diagnostic testing
  • Testing errors, such as false positives or false negatives
  • Misinterpreting diagnostic testing results

How Often Does Diagnostic Error Occur?

Diagnostic error is unnervingly common. In fact, it is the most common and costly form of medical error. An estimated 12 million people in the United States are affected by outpatient diagnostic errors each year. The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine further reports that diagnostic error leads to anywhere between 40,000 and 80,000 annual deaths in hospital settings alone. The numbers are likely higher when other medical settings are included.

According to an extensive study conducted by CRICO Strategies, the risk management division of the Harvard Medical Institutions, some sicknesses are more likely than others to result in diagnostic error. The study surveyed 124,000 medical malpractice cases over a ten-year period and found that “missed or delayed diagnosis” played a role in 21% of all cases. Of these cases, the following areas generated the bulk of diagnostic errors:

  • Cancers – 30%
  • Cardiac/stroke – 18%
  • Complications of care – 17%
  • Digestive system – 7%
  • Nervous system – 7%

How Do You Prove Liability for Diagnostic Error?

The key to securing compensation in most personal injury lawsuits is showing that the defendant was negligent. In other words, plaintiffs must prove that the defendant did not take the level of care an ordinary person would have taken to avoid harming others by their actions.

In general, the same is true in medical malpractice cases. However, because the practice of medicine is highly diverse and specialized, it can be difficult to define the appropriate standard in each case. Because of this difficulty, most jurisdictions define the standard very loosely. Consider the following laws adopted in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia:

  • Virginia – The standard of care “shall be that degree of skill and diligence practiced by a reasonably prudent practitioner in the field of practice or specialty . . . and the testimony of an expert witness . . . provided, however, that the standard of care in the locality . . . is more appropriate than a statewide standard.”
  • Maryland – The standard of care shall be “the standards of practice among members of the same health care profession with similar training and experience situated in the same or similar communities at the time of the alleged act giving rise to the cause of action.”
  • District of Columbia – “A licensed physician shall conform to the prevailing standards of acceptable medical practice as determined by the Board or a peer review panel appointed by the Board.”

As these excerpts show, the law in most jurisdictions leaves plenty of room for lawyers to argue about the standard of care on a case-by-case basis. It does not help, of course, that most lawyers have no training in medicine. However, as a lawyer and physician, Dr. Michael M. Wilson has the necessary training to (1) understand the appropriate medical standard in your case and (2) compellingly communicate that standard to a jury.

a medical malpractice claim

What Compensation Is Available in a Failure to Diagnose Malpractice Lawsuit?

The compensation available in a medical malpractice case will vary widely depending on the harm suffered by the patient. That said, if you are suffering the consequences of a misdiagnosis, you may be legally entitled to compensation for the following:

  • Medical care expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lowered earning capacity
  • Permanent disfigurement and disability
  • Aggravation of a previous disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Wrongful death

Importantly, most jurisdictions — including Virginia and Maryland — place legal caps on damages available for medical malpractice, especially when it comes to subjective losses like pain, suffering, and lowered quality of life. The District of Columbia places no such caps.

Is There a Deadline for Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

Yes. In general, the deadline to file medical malpractice lawsuits in the District of Columbia is three years from the date you were harmed. Further, plaintiffs must give medical malpractice defendants notice of their intention to file a lawsuit at least 90 days prior to doing so. Failure to comply with the governing deadlines can have a devastating effect on your case.

However, there are a few key exceptions to these strictly enforced rules. First, the deadline may be extended if the plaintiff was a minor, mentally incapacitated, or imprisoned at the time they were injured. Second, it may be extended when the defendant hides to avoid litigation. Third, in cases where an injury or illness is not immediately discovered, the countdown begins on the date the plaintiff reasonably should have discovered it.

Contact an Experienced Washington, DC Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Because the practice of medicine is highly technical and specialized, medical malpractice cases are often more complex than other personal injury cases. Accordingly, it is important that malpractice victims consult with a knowledgeable attorney experienced in this area of the law.

As a trained attorney and physician, Dr. Michael M. Wilson is ready to evaluate and handle even the most complex medical malpractice cases. If you believe you are a victim of diagnostic error, contact The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates today for a free consultation.

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