When is Misdiagnosis Medical Negligence? Determining Liability in Healthcare Errors

Understanding Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis can be classified into three main types:

  • Incorrect diagnosis: This occurs when a healthcare professional provides a specific diagnosis based on a patient’s symptoms and test results. However, the diagnosis turns out to be incorrect, and the patient actually suffers from a different condition.
  • Delayed diagnosis: In this situation, a medical professional eventually arrives at a correct diagnosis, but does so after a significant delay.
  • Failure to diagnose: This type refers to a situation where a healthcare professional fails to identify a patient’s condition even after examining their symptoms.

Misdiagnosis can happen due to various reasons such as misinterpretation of test results, inability to accurately recognize symptoms, inadequate examination, or failure to consider the patient’s medical history. Proper diagnostic tests, routine screenings such as cervical check and timely referrals for additional examinations, should help to prevent misdiagnosis and promote accurate identification of patients’ conditions.

Is Misdiagnosis Considered Medical Negligence?

Misdiagnosis can be a severe and distressing event, as we rely on doctors’ expertise for proper assessment of our medical conditions. In cases where a healthcare professional fails to accurately diagnose, or there is a delay in diagnosis, the patient may be entitled to file a medical negligence claim.

A misdiagnosis may lead to missed opportunities for early treatment, causing permanent damage, prolonged pain, suffering, or even fatality in extreme circumstances. It is essential to establish that the duty of care was breached and the standard of care was not met, demonstrating liability and causation. It’s crucial to have a strong medical negligence claim based on these factors to achieve a favourable outcome.


Various Forms of Misdiagnosis Claims

Misdiagnosis claims encompass a variety of conditions, including:

  • Strokes: Even if promptly diagnosed, strokes can result in severe consequences. If warning signs are overlooked, outcomes may worsen. Stroke misdiagnosis can lead to legal claims.
  • Meningitis: Delayed diagnosis and treatment of meningitis may have dire consequences, sometimes proving fatal.
  • Diabetes: Misdiagnosing or delay in diagnosing diabetes can seriously impact a patient’s quality of life and, in some cases, lead to complications such as blindness, amputations or kidney failure.
  • Ectopic pregnancy: Misdiagnosing ectopic pregnancies and labelling them as miscarriages can result in unnecessary surgery and health complications.
  • Broken bones: If a doctor fails to accurately diagnose a broken bone from the information and diagnostic tests provided, the patient may experience health complications, a more severe break, or increased pain as a result. This can lead to broken bone misdiagnosis claims.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Because the symptoms of IBS are similar to those of bowel cancer, misdiagnosing IBS may lead to a delay in identifying bowel cancer. Early detection of bowel cancer can significantly improve survival rates, making a timely diagnosis crucial.
  • Epilepsy: Misdiagnosing epilepsy may give rise to claims if negligence causes a delay in diagnosis and avoidable suffering.
  • Cancer: Timely cancer diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment. If cancer diagnosis is delayed due to negligence, patients may be eligible for financial compensation. Some common cancer misdiagnosis claims include bowel, breast, cervical, lung, prostate, ovarian, skin, testicular, and pancreatic cancer.

Misdiagnoses may result from various factors, such as misinterpretation of test results, miscommunication, false positives, or false negatives. These issues may cause delayed or incorrect treatments, misunderstandings about a patient’s condition, or even missed opportunities for improvement. A proper diagnosis is essential to ensure patients receive appropriate and timely care, and any identified negligence in this process can form the basis for a misdiagnosis claim.


Healthcare Professionals Involved in Medical Diagnoses

Various medical professionals are responsible for diagnosing patients, such as:

  • General Practitioners
  • Consultants
  • Emergency Medical Practitioners
  • Dentists
  • Oncologists
  • Audiologists
  • Radiologists
  • Laboratory Technicians
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Dermatologists
  • Obstetricians

Time Limits for Misdiagnosis Claims

The Statute of Limitations sets strict time limits for initiating legal actions related to medical negligence. Generally, claims must be filed within two years (minus one day) from the date of the negligent act.

In some cases, victims immediately become aware of the negligence. However, the concept of “date of knowledge” comes into play when a person realizes the negligence after some time has passed. In these situations, the two-year time limit starts from the date they discovered their injury and its connection to someone’s negligence.

Special Cases:

  • Children: The claims process differs for minors (individuals under 18 years old). They can initiate a claim within the first two years after turning 18. However, it’s recommended that a parent or guardian start the claim on their behalf without delay.
  • Individuals with intellectual impairments: These individuals also benefit from an extension, similar to the one provided for minors.

By understanding and adhering to these time limits, victims of medical misdiagnosis can ensure their claims progress smoothly through the legal process.


What may a Medical Misdiagnosis Injury Cover

Medical misdiagnosis compensation claims typically consider two types of awards – general damages and special damages. While each case is unique and determined by its individual circumstances, the following information gives an overview of these two categories.

General Damages deal with the compensation for pain, suffering, loss of amenity, and the emotional and physical injuries resulting from the misdiagnosis. This estimation relies heavily on medical evidence and the claimant’s testimony.

Special Damages address financial losses and out-of-pocket expenses incurred due to the misdiagnosis. A solicitor will create a document called a schedule of special damages that includes all relevant information and supporting documents like receipts and payslips.

Some common examples of expenses covered are:

  • Travel Expenses: Costs of travelling to and from medical appointments with treatment experts.
  • Loss of Earnings: If the misdiagnosis prevents a person from working, past and possibly future lost wages may be recoverable.
  • Medical Expenses and Bills: Costs incurred from visits to GPs, consultants, and other medical practitioners.
  • Care and Assistance: Compensation might be necessary to help a person adapt to the impact of the misdiagnosis, such as specialised care, home modifications, adjusted vehicles, and the input of occupational therapists or quantity surveyors.

The value of a medical misdiagnosis claim depends on many factors, including the individual’s circumstances, the severity of the injury, and the person’s recovery progress. Therefore, it is essential to approach each case with a clear understanding of the elements involved and a knowledgeable legal practitioner.


How to Make Misdiagnosis Claims

In order to succeed in a misdiagnosis medical negligence claim, specific evidence is required, including:

  • The level of care you received was lower than what a competent physician with the same qualifications would provide.
  • The negligence led to additional injury, loss, or damage.

Duty of Care

In general, a doctor-patient relationship implies that the doctor owes a duty of care to the patient.

Breach of Duty

A breach of duty occurs when the care provided falls below the standard expected of a competent physician with the same qualifications.

Establishing Causation

It needs to be demonstrated that the incorrect diagnosis directly caused harm to the patient.

If you believe that you or a family member has experienced misdiagnosis medical negligence, it is crucial to act promptly and seek legal advice. At HOMS Assist, the process of investigating your case is made simple. Upon receiving your consent, a copy of your medical records is obtained and a panel of medical expert witnesses is engaged to review these records. If the expert’s opinion indicates negligence, a legal action on your behalf will be instigated.

Over 50 Years of Expert Legal Experience Assisting Patients

In need of help with a misdiagnosis medical claim? Contact HOMS Assist today by calling 1800 207 207 or reaching out online.

Frequently Asked Questions

What aspects are evaluated to determine medical negligence?

Several factors need to be considered, including:

  • The physician’s duty of care and whether it was breached
  • Whether the breach directly resulted in the patient’s harm
  • The extent of the harm, including physical, emotional, or financial losses

Can one receive compensation for misdiagnosed medical conditions?

Yes, if it can be proven that the misdiagnosis led to worsened health outcomes, unnecessary treatments, or other forms of suffering, a patient may be eligible for compensation.

How should one proceed with legal action against a doctor for misdiagnosis?

The steps involved include:

  1. Seeking expert advice from a medical negligence solicitor
  2. Conducting an independent expert medical examination
  3. Gathering relevant medical records and evidence
  4. Filing the legal claim
  5. Negotiating settlements or proceeding to court if necessary

What are the crucial elements of a claim involving incorrect medical diagnosis?

The key elements of a misdiagnosis claim include:

  • Proving breach of duty of care
  • Establishing a direct link between the misdiagnosis and the harm caused
  • Quantifying the damages, such as pain, suffering, and financial losses

What is the applicable deadline for initiating a medical misdiagnosis lawsuit?

Different jurisdictions have different deadlines, but typically, the time limit for filing a medical misdiagnosis claim will be within a certain period from the date of the alleged negligence or when the misdiagnosis first became known to the patient.

How can a patient provide evidence of harm or injury stemming from a misdiagnosed medical condition?

To demonstrate harm or injury, a patient needs to provide relevant documentation, including:

  • Medical reports indicating the misdiagnosed condition and its consequences
  • Detailed accounts of the treatments and procedures undergone as a result of the misdiagnosis
  • Evidence of additional expenses incurred, such as medical bills or loss of earnings
  • Expert testimony on the probable outcome if the correct diagnosis had been made earlier

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