When Failure to Diagnose Is Medical Malpractice

Posted by Randy Andrus | Oct 05, 2022

Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. In 2018, John Hopkins published a study that stated 250,000 people die yearly from medical errors. Other reports claim that number could be as high as 400,000. Failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, and delayed diagnosis largely contribute to these astonishing numbers and are all common forms of medical malpractice.

If you've been misdiagnosed or remained undiagnosed and have suffered from progressing symptoms that have caused further injury and damages, schedule a consultation with our medical malpractice attorney today to learn what legal options you may have to facilitate your recovery and healing. 

What Makes a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Not all medical errors are considered medical malpractice, but if a health provider's negligence played a part and you suffered injury and damages as a result of his or her negligence, you may have a medical malpractice claim. 

Four elements must be present to establish a medical malpractice claim:

  1. Duty of care - A doctor-patient relationship must exist. This means that a patient has hired a doctor and that doctor has agreed to be hired by the patient. Once this relationship is established, the doctor has a duty of care to uphold in providing the same standard of care that a similar, competent professional with the same level of experience in the same realm of medicine would have provided.
  2. Deviation from the standard of care - A deviation from the established standard of care must be proven. 
  3. Direct cause of injury - The next step is to prove that the deviation of the standard of care caused direct injury to the patient.
  4. Damages - Damages that can be compensated by the court must exist. This means that due to the provider's breach of duty, the plaintiff sustained some level of damages (medical bills, physical therapy, additional medication expenses, etc).

In the case of misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, a doctor would have had to breach his or her duty of care and deviate from the standard of care that a reasonable and competent physician within the same area of practice and with similar experience and skill sets would have used in treating the patient. If that deviation then causes injury to the patient, resulting in losses, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.  

Was the Doctor Negligent?

Diagnostic errors in medical malpractice cases can be particularly complex. The misdiagnosis or lack of diagnosis is not in itself evidence that negligence occurred. Even when reasonable care is taken, competent doctors can make mistakes without them rising to the level of medical malpractice. The question will become “did the doctor competently arrive at his or her medical conclusion about the patient?” Determining the answer entails analyzing the steps the doctor took to arrive at his or her conclusion or the differential diagnosis process the doctor took in determining the appropriate course of treatment for the patient. 

The differential diagnosis process assists doctors in identifying diseases, illnesses, and conditions. Understanding the doctor's competency will be determined by examining his or her approach in the diagnostic process and if it differed from that of another reasonable and competent doctor in the same circumstances. Would the reasonable doctor have committed the same diagnostic error? 

Common Conditions Doctors Fail to Diagnose

Several conditions get misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed more commonly than others. Often these ailments are serious and the lack of diagnosis causes worsening conditions and necessitates harsher more aggressive treatment once the ailment is discovered. Sometimes the disease remains untreated for so long that the patient dies. In this case, family members may have grounds to pursue a wrongful death claim against a negligent provider. Commonly misdiagnosed or undiagnosed conditions include: 

  1. Cancer 
  2. Aneurysm
  3. Heart Attack
  4. Stroke
  5. Blood Clot
  6. Pulmonary Embolism
  7. Infection

What to Do If You've Been Misdiagnosed

In Utah, you must file a claim for medical malpractice within two years after the date you sustained the injury or the date you discovered, or should have reasonably discovered, the injury. Utah Code § 78B-3-404.  In addition to this statute of limitations, you must follow a specific process when it comes to medical malpractice lawsuits. If you or a loved one has been misdiagnosed and suffered extensive injury and loss, as a result, don't wait any longer to take action. Contact a medical malpractice attorney to talk about your case and potential legal options. Medical errors can certainly turn your life upside down emotionally, financially, and physically. Medical malpractice claims exist to help patients recover and heal so they can get their lives back on track. If you've suffered any of the following losses, you may be entitled to financial compensation to help you and your family move forward.

  • Past, present, and future medical bills, including X Rays, MRIs, doctor visits, medications, surgeries, physical therapy, hospital stays, and more
  • Past, present, and future lost income, including loss of earning capacity and more
  • Emotional and physical trauma, including loss of enjoyment of life, severe physical pain, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, wrongful death, and more. 

Schedule a Consultation With Our Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you believe you or a loved one was a victim of medical malpractice through failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis, contact our medical malpractice attorney today to determine if you have a claim. Randy Andrus and his team will review your case and guide you through your potential legal options and the best next steps. With over 35 years of experience, Randy is a trusted medical malpractice lawyer who will stand beside you and fight for your right to recover. If you've been injured due to a medical provider's negligence, don't wait for justice. Call 801-535-4645 to schedule your consultation today. You may also fill out our convenient and secure online form, and we will reach out to you. 

While we hope the content on our website provides general information to a general audience, know that it is NOT INTENDED to be a substitute for actual legal advice. We urge you to contact our knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer to review the specific facts of your case. 

We are located at 

299 S Main Street, Suite 1395 

Salt Lake City, UT 84111

We serve the entire state of Utah, including Salt Lake City, Layton, Ogden, Orem, Provo, Sandy, St George, West Valley City, West Jordan, and the entire state of Utah. 

About the Author

Randy Andrus

BIO   Education University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law (LL.M. 1987) Business and Taxation – Transnational Practice Courses and International Bar Association Convention, Salzburg, Austria Southwestern University School of Law (J.D. 1984) Dean's List American Jurisprudence...

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