Medical malpractice: Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis

Medical malpractice: Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis


Many people associate medical malpractice injuries caused to a patient by a doctor negligently performing a procedure or prescribing the wrong medication. A large number of patient injuries and deaths are the result of misdiagnosis leading to incorrect medical care being recommended or by delays in making a proper diagnosis resulting in a patient not receiving the appropriate treatment and leading to worsening of a medical condition.

Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis are forms of medical malpractice for which an injured patient could be entitled to compensation from the negligent physician or health care provider. The fact a patient’s medical condition does not get better or becomes worse is not always the fault of the medical provider. The law requires the lawyers for a patient injured through misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis to present evidence proving fault on the part of the doctor.

Proving misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis in court

Physician negligence or medical malpractice requires the existence of a relationship between the doctor and the patient. For example, a person who relies on what a doctor being interviewed on TV says about a particular medical condition and delays seeking medical treatment would have trouble proving the existence of a typical physician and patient relationship.

Assuming a patient’s lawyers can prove the existence of a doctor-patient relationship, they must also prove the doctor failed to act according to generally accepted professional standards as to skill and competence. Proof is required that negligence caused a misdiagnosis or a delay in diagnosis that caused injury to the patient.

How doctors diagnose illnesses and injuries

Identification of an illness or medical condition and determining the proper course of treatment to follow is frequently not an exact science. Doctors use a differential diagnosis method to systematically evaluate possible diagnoses and treatments based upon the following:

  • Examination and observations made of the patient
  • Patient’s medical history
  • Laboratory tests
  • Diagnostic imaging, including X-rays and MRIs
  • Biopsies

The doctor uses the information gathered about the patient to form a list of potential illnesses and conditions. Using probability based upon the information at hand, a doctor determines the most likely diagnosis and treatment. Medical malpractice occurs when it can be proven the doctor deviated from the standards of a skillful and competent physician in the same specialty. Evidence might show the doctor failed to include a diagnosis on the list of potential medical conditions or included it on the list but failed to correctly identify it based on the tests and examinations performed.

The evidence in a particular case might show that inaccurate results from the tests or diagnostic imaging order by the doctor caused the mistake or delay in diagnosis. Depending upon the facts revealed by the investigation conducted by the injured patient’s lawyer, liability for causing the injuries might be on the facility generating the test results or other parties.

Harm to the patient

Delays or errors in diagnosis happen without any harm being done to the patient. As upset as a patient might be over a month’s delay in properly diagnosing a medical condition, medical malpractice requires proof the delayed caused harm. For instance, if a delay in diagnosis causes a worsening of a patient’s medical condition, this would be an injury or harm resulting directly from the delay or misdiagnosis for which the physician could be held responsible.

Medical malpractice lawyers

 The team of lawyers at Diamond and Diamond have years of experience successfully handling medical malpractice claims attributable to delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis. Call our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now. We offer free consultations and case evaluations. Our team of personal injury lawyers represents clients throughout Ontario.

Free consults and contingency fee arrangements apply to all personal injury cases only and to select wrongful dismissal cases, but do not apply to other types of commercial and civil litigation.