Misdiagnosis Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

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A recent review of medical malpractice claims identified the most common causes involved in lawsuits resulting in significant verdicts for the injured parties.

In August, EmPRO, a New York-based provider of medical malpractice insurance, posted the findings of its review of medical malpractice litigation on the firm’s website. The lawsuits reviewed ended with what the company called “high-indemnity claims,” all over a four-year period.

The company relayed that the misdiagnosis of a potentially deadly disease was the leading allegation in those high-dollar medical malpractice lawsuits (“Failure to Diagnose Cancer is a Leading Cause of Malpractice Claims and Payments”).

Diagnostic Error Lawsuits

About 60% of the 162 high-indemnity medical malpractice claims involved allegations of diagnostic errors, which included:

  • Failure to diagnose
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Wrong diagnosis

While misdiagnosis allegations accounted for 60% of the lawsuits, they disproportionally accounted for 70% of the total plaintiff financial awards.

A cancer misdiagnosis was alleged in a majority of those lawsuits.  More than two-thirds of the high-indemnity medical malpractice lawsuits involved a cancer misdiagnosis allegation, with the top three types of cancers being:

  • Breast cancer – 18% of the misdiagnosis medical malpractice lawsuits
  • Lung cancer - 17% of the misdiagnosis medical malpractice lawsuits
  • Cancer of the urinary system - 11% of the misdiagnosis medical malpractice lawsuits

These findings echo those from another medical malpractice insurer provider, Coverys, which conducted a review of medical malpractice lawsuits closed between 2013 and 2017 (““Claims Data Signals & Solutions to Reduce Risks and Improve Patient Safety”).

Misreading Cancer Test Results

The results, published in 2018, showed that radiologist error allegations were found in a significant number of lawsuits, including the misreading of cancer test results.  The top cancers in those misdiagnosis claims were:

  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Ovarian cancer

That same study found that miscommunication issues that often led to a lack of follow-up to abnormal test results, which in turn often resulted in severe patient harm, were prevalent in the lawsuits.

Communication Errors and Medical Malpractice Claims

Following the original post, EmPRO posted another item in September that also highlighted miscommunications as a leading factor in high-indemnity medical malpractice lawsuits (“Flaws in Clinical Judgment and Communication Gaps are Leading Factors in Malpractice Cases Closed with Large Payments”).

The authors’ review of the same high-payout lawsuits found two leading factors among them:

  • Communication gaps
  • Clinical judgment errors

Almost half of the medical malpractice lawsuits included communication gap claims.  Nearly 30% involved poor communications between doctors and the patients and their families.  Another 20% involved communication breakdowns among doctors.

Allegations of a doctor’s clinical judgment errors were contributing factors in nearly 90% of the high-indemnity medical malpractice lawsuits.  Examples of these errors are:

  • Patient assessment issues
  • The selection and management of therapy
  •  Failure or a delay in obtaining a consult or referral

The authors noted that a failure to adequately take a patient’s history can lead to an incorrect assessment of a patient’s condition. Ignoring or not having a key piece of a patient’s history may cause a doctor to not order a test or imaging that could have diagnosed the condition sooner.

Another key error in clinical judgment, according to the authors, is not sending a patient to a specialist when needed; even more so if the patient has complex medical issues.

When preventable errors are made during medical treatment – especially when a serious condition is missed or not diagnosed in an appropriately timely manner - patients and their families may endure catastrophic injuries and losses.

If you suspect you or a loved one was the victim of substandard medical care, contact a personal injury lawyer with the details of your experience.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles November 18, 2021

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