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Can I Sue a Doctor for Medical Misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis · Aug 19, 2020

Seema Madhavan

Seema MadhavanCase Manager

Yes, you can sue your doctor or medical professional for a misdiagnosis. Many medical malpractice lawsuits result from a missed or improper diagnosis from the medical professional. However, you must first clarify that the misdiagnosis constitutes medical malpractice.

The patient must prove that there was a misdiagnosis and that the misdiagnosis caused medical harm.

Examples of Misdiagnosis:

A misdiagnosis can be one where the medical professional fails to diagnose the problem at all, or diagnoses it erroneously. In order to justify a lawsuit, there must be medical harm that is caused by one of the following:

  1. The doctor failed to consider the true cause of the medical ailment. For instance, if the doctor did not include the correct diagnosis in the differential diagnosis list. 

  2. The doctor delayed or improperly dealt with the treatment for cause of the medical situation

  3. There were errors in the diagnosis test which involved human error

In each of these circumstances, the patient must prove that the misdiagnosis was a breach of the “standard of care.” Meaning, a similarly skilled doctor in a similar situation would have performed properly, and this doctor did not. 

Effect of the Misdiagnosis

Additionally, the patient must provide evidence that the misdiagnosis was the cause of additional medical damage. Cases of damage can be when the wrongful or lack of diagnosis caused:

  1. A delay in the treatment of the current medical problem

  2. The current medical condition to worsen

  3. The death of the patient, referred to as “wrongful death”

Medical Misdiagnosis May be More Common than You Thought

According to a study, “approximately 12 million US adults every year” are victims of medical diagnostic errors and “about half of these errors could potentially be harmful.” Therefore, it is vital for you to know what to look out for and how to minimize the chance of misdiagnosis. Common examples of misdiagnosed illnesses include:

  1. Heart Attack

  2. Cancer

  3. Depression

  4. Celiac Disease

  5. Lyme Disease

What you Can Do to Prevent Misdiagnosis

  1. Communication is key

    1. Speak to your doctor if the treatment does not seem to be working

    2. Ask questions to your doctor

  2. Ask a second opinion to review your case fully

  3. Remind your doctor of your family medical history

  4. Don’t leave anything out


Singh H, Meyer AND, Thomas EJThe frequency of diagnostic errors in outpatient care: estimations from three large observational studies involving US adult populationsBMJ Quality & Safety 2014;23:727-731.

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