What is a Delayed Diagnosis?

CALL (800) 863-5312 to speak with a medical malpractice attorney at Zinda Law Group about your delayed diagnosis claim

Many of us take what our doctors say as factually accurate; we might not question their advice or advocate for our own treatment. However, it is not uncommon for doctors to underplay particular symptoms or even ignore them altogether. This can lead to a delayed diagnosis that could have severe impacts on your long-term health.

You may not know what a delayed diagnosis is or what to do if your diagnosis was delayed, but the first thing to know is that a delayed diagnosis can constitute medical malpractice. While this article provides answers to some frequently asked questions about delayed diagnoses, a medical malpractice lawyer near you can help you determine if you are eligible for compensation because of a delayed diagnosis.

Zinda Law Group has medical malpractice attorneys who are well-versed in delayed diagnosis claims. Call (800) 863-5312 for a free case evaluation with a medical malpractice attorney today.

What is a Delayed Diagnosis?

A delayed diagnosis is a medical injury that occurs when a patient’s medical condition is not diagnosed within a reasonable time; however, just because your diagnosis was delayed, does not mean it is a case of medical malpractice. Some conditions are hard to diagnose or can evolve over time, making diagnosis take longer.

While there are many legitimate reasons for why a diagnosis can take longer than you’d like, added time to your diagnosis can also occur because of doctor neglect. If a doctor is negligent in their care, you may have a medical malpractice claim.

There is a difference between a delayed diagnosis and a missed diagnosis. A missed diagnosis is when a doctor fails to correctly diagnose a patient altogether; typically, a missed diagnosis is only discovered after it is too late, and a patient has succumbed to the condition. A delayed diagnosis, on the other hand, gives the doctor an opportunity to correct course before a patient’s health is too far gone.

Although a delayed diagnosis and a missed diagnosis are different medical injuries, they can be equally dangerous. A delayed diagnosis can have several serious consequences for your health. First, it could cause doctors to put you through uncomfortable treatments or diagnostic tests that may not be necessary; a delayed diagnosis could also affect your prognosis and limit your ability to recover from a particular disease or condition.

Most seriously, however, a delayed diagnosis can be fatal. For example, if a doctor delays a cancer diagnosis, the cancer can progress beyond when chemotherapy is beneficial. In this case, a delayed diagnosis can cause death.

Can I Sue for a Delayed Diagnosis?

A delayed diagnosis can have serious consequences for your finances as well as for your health. Receiving a delayed diagnosis does not necessarily mean you will be compensated, though. Several legal elements must be met for a delayed diagnosis to constitute medical malpractice.

It is usually best to speak with a medical malpractice lawyer to determine whether a delayed diagnosis could lead to a feasible lawsuit. Nevertheless, it can still be beneficial for you to know the requirements for a delayed diagnosis if you are considering filing a lawsuit.

There Was a Doctor-patient Relationship.

This element is usually the easiest to prove. Typically, if you go into a doctor’s office to be examined, then a doctor-patient relationship exists. This is an important part of the claim, however, because doctors owe a particular duty of care to their patients which, if not given, can lead to malpractice.

This standard of care does not exist if there is no doctor-patient relationship. One example where a patient-doctor relationship may not exist is if the physician is evaluating on behalf of a third party, such as an insurance company. However, in most situations, if you’ve received a delayed diagnosis, there was likely a doctor-patient relationship. 

The Doctor Was Negligent.

A diagnosis can take longer than you’d like for several reasons that do not rise to the level of negligence. A doctor may be hindered by the diagnostic testing available at their facility, they may have two equally feasible diagnoses, or they may have misunderstood your explanation of your symptoms. The bottom line is very skilled doctors make diagnostic errors all the time.

However, if a doctor does not follow the standard of medical care that is required for their patients, it can be a case of medical malpractice. The medical standard of care is not a legal standard but is instead determined by medical professionals. There are many ways a doctor can negligently delay a diagnosis. Some examples include:

  • Failing to refer a patient to a necessary specialist
  • Seeing red flags in blood work and not ordering further testing
  • Not taking a patient’s reported symptoms seriously
  • Ignoring protocol for treatment
  • Rushing through patient visits

When deciding whether the standard of care was met, the court will rely heavily on expert testimony from other medical professionals. They will testify as to whether or not they would’ve responded to the situation in the same way. Often, this testimony becomes a question of credibility.

The Delayed Diagnosis Caused Harm.

Even if a doctor negligently delayed your diagnosis, you might not be able to recover compensation. The delay must have caused you actual harm; for example, if a diagnosis is delayed but that delay doesn’t actually impact your prognosis, you likely won’t be compensated. Medical malpractice compensation is intended to make you “whole” for a loss that you’ve incurred; therefore, if there’s no loss or harm, you likely won’t have a claim. 

What do I do if my Diagnosis was Delayed?

If you suspect that you were the victim of a delayed diagnosis, there are several steps you can take to help your medical malpractice lawyer determine whether you have a claim.

1. Seek Medical Attention

The most important thing to do when you’ve received a delayed diagnosis is to tend to your health. You should continue with the appropriate treatment and prioritize managing symptoms and recovering. It can also be a good idea to get a second opinion on your diagnosis; a delayed diagnosis can be indicative of an extremely difficult diagnosis, so getting another doctor’s insight might be helpful.

2. Gather and Maintain Medical Documents

Medical documents can be critical evidence if you and your attorney decide to bring a medical malpractice suit. Medical bills, records, and pieces of correspondence can provide details that demonstrate how your delayed diagnosis came about. These documents provide a log of the actions your doctor took and can reveal where other steps should have been taken.

These documents could also help your attorney determine the amount of money owed to you if you get a favorable ruling or settlement. Make sure you share these documents with your personal injury attorney. They should be able to help determine if you have all of your medical records and can help you get those that have not been turned over to you.

3. Journal Your Condition

Another piece of important evidence can be a catalog of the symptoms you’re experiencing and the steps you’re taking to treat your condition. This can help your attorney substantiate your assertions about your health. It can also demonstrate that your timeline of events is credible.

As time passes, it can be difficult to remember when certain symptoms set in or intensified, and it can be difficult to know when you told specific details to your doctor. A journal might also demonstrate which treatments were useful and which outside factors aggravated your condition. Journaling your experience can point out particular instances of medical neglect.

4. Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney

As you can see, several considerations play into whether your delayed diagnosis could be compensable. A personal injury lawyer who works in medical malpractice will be able to help you evaluate the legal soundness of your claim. The legal requirements to prove a delayed diagnosis are technical, and having a trained attorney to help you navigate the legal questions and process can help you focus on getting better.

An attorney can also help you determine the type of compensation you might be eligible for. You might be compensated for medical expenses and other economic damages, but it is possible that you could be compensated for non-economic damages as well. These could include pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of companionship.

If a doctor acted particularly negligently in your case, your attorney may be able to help you pursue punitive damages. These are meant to punish bad actors to deter the behavior in the future. Ultimately, a medical malpractice attorney can help you maximize your compensation and get the money you deserve.

Speak with Zinda Law Group's Medical Malpractice Lawyers 

A delayed diagnosis can have major impacts on your health and your finances. Speaking to an attorney can take your focus off of the legal process and redirect it toward your recovery. Zinda Law Group has experienced medical malpractice lawyers ready to help you figure out what to do if your diagnosis was delayed.

At Zinda Law Group, we don’t think finances should be a barrier to recovery for victims of medical malpractice. You won’t pay a cent for our services unless you are compensated. That is Zinda Law Group’s “No Win, No Fee Guarantee.”

If you or someone you love has received a delayed diagnosis, contact Zinda Law Group. Call (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with a medical malpractice attorney today.

Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.