When Does an Improper Diagnosis Rises to the Level of Malpractice?
With advances in modern science and medicine, we sometimes expect doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to be infallible and assume they will quickly and accurately determine the cause of an illness or nature of an injury. The likelihood of accurate diagnosis is fairly high now a days, but that doesn’t mean a misdiagnosis is necessarily malpractice. To rise to the level of malpractice, a failure to properly diagnose must involve some type of negligence, as defined by law.
As a general rule, negligence requires a showing of three things:
- The defendant breached the duty to use a certain standard of care;
- The breach of that duty caused an accident or injury; and
- The plaintiff suffered an actual loss as a result of the accident or injury.
In an ordinary negligence claim, the duty required is one of reasonableness. The standard of care a defendant uses must be consistent with what is reasonably expected of persons in society. However, when the defendant is a medical professional and the claim is for medical negligence, the duty is higher. To meet the standard of care, a medical caregiver must exercise the same degree of care that a person with similar training and experience, practicing in the same specialty, would exercise in the same geographic area.
With respect to failure to diagnose, or misdiagnosis of, an illness or injury, examples of negligence that would support a claim for damages include the following:
- Failure to conduct tests that would reasonably be associated with, or used to determine, the actual illness or injury
- Carelessness in conducting, evaluating, or interpreting tests or test results
- Failure to consider conditions commonly associated with visible symptoms
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