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Delayed Diagnosis: Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Claim?

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

Making prompt and accurate diagnoses are two of the many responsibilities a doctor has to his or her patients. While medical standards do not require doctors to be correct with their diagnoses every single time, they do require a certain degree of care and prudence in the diagnostic procedure. If a physician negligently falls short of the standards of care, leading to a delayed diagnosis and related patient harm, the injured patient can file a medical malpractice claim in Georgia.

What Is a Delayed Diagnosis?

A delayed diagnosis is different from a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose. With a misdiagnosis, a doctor may diagnose the patient promptly but with the incorrect health condition. With a failure to diagnose, the doctor may send the patient home with the belief that he or she does not have any discernible health condition, when in fact, he or she has an injury or illness. A delayed diagnosis means the doctor ultimately diagnosed the condition, but he or she took an unreasonable amount of time to do so and this harmed the patient.

In a delayed diagnosis case, a patient sought medical care from a physician or hospital for some ailment he or she was suffering but left without a diagnosis. After a certain amount of time passed, the doctor eventually diagnoses the illness. At this point, however, it is too late. The patient has already suffered harm, such as deteriorating physical health, the progression of a disease beyond the point of treatment or the metastasis of cancer. In this scenario, the doctor that negligently failed to make a prompt diagnosis could be liable for the patient’s harm, as a prompt diagnosis would have prevented the damage.

When Is a Diagnosis Mistake Medical Malpractice?

If it takes a considerable amount of time for a doctor to come to the right diagnosis, this is not necessarily medical malpractice. To qualify as malpractice, the doctor must have done something a reasonable and prudent position would not have in the same circumstances, such as ignoring the patient’s complaints, ordering the wrong tests or failing to follow up with the patient. What is reasonable and unreasonable during a diagnosis will depend on the specific circumstances and presiding medical standards.

It often takes testimony from a medical expert in a similar field to confirm what a reasonable amount of time to diagnose the patient would have been. A medical expert is someone with a substantial amount of education, experience and credentials in a field of medicine that is the same or similar to the defendant’s. During a medical malpractice case, an expert can testify as to what industry standards would have had the doctor do in the situation, such as what tests the doctor should have ordered and if the doctor should have sent the patient to see a specialist.

If the defendant failed to do what a reasonable doctor would have in the same situation to promptly and accurately diagnose the patient, the defendant could be guilty of medical malpractice. A delayed diagnosis could lead to payment for the patient if it caused his or her losses. However, if a timely diagnosis still would not have prevented the patient’s harm, the patient may not have a case. It is the patient’s burden to prove that the defendant breached the medical industry’s standards and that this is what caused his or her losses.

What Is the Statute of Limitations in Georgia?

If you believe you have a medical malpractice claim on the basis of a delayed diagnosis, act quickly to pursue financial compensation. Georgia has a strict statute of limitations on all medical malpractice claims. This is a deadline by which you must file, or else forfeit your right to hold the physician responsible for damages. You must bring a medical malpractice claim in Georgia within two years of the act of malpractice or discovery of the error. Missing your deadline generally means giving up all right to compensation. Work with a medical malpractice attorney in Atlanta for assistance with the claims process.