According to the government, twelve million Americans are misdiagnosed every year. That’s about a 5 percent error rate. A 95 on a grade school spelling test is a very good score. But a 95 in the context of a doctor-patient relationship is sadly inadequate. That’s because this bond is one of the strongest ones in Florida law. Patients are almost entirely dependent on their doctors for medical information. That dependency creates a very high legal duty.
Damages in a medical misdiagnosis case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Moreover, given the high duty mentioned above, many misdiagnosis victims receive additional punitive damages.
Why Does Misdiagnosis Happen?
In a bygone era, most doctors had a personal relationship with most patients. In fact, the same doctor might care for multiple people in the same family. But those days are long gone.
The relationship is gone, and so is the communication. Most doctors listen to their patients for about eleven seconds before they interrupt or redirect them. It’s impossible to hear about a patient’s symptoms in eleven seconds. So, doctors lack this information when they diagnose an illness.
Many doctors also lack scientific information. Some physicians do not order a full battery of diagnostic tests. They are afraid the insurance company will not pay for all the tests. Other doctors conduct tests but rely on technicians or other non-physicians to interpret the results. These individuals have nowhere near the experience or training that the doctor has.
Finally, many medical schedules are packed to the gills. To make as much money as possible, many doctors see about nineteen patients a day. That number has increased substantially since 2010. There’s no time to research conditions or consult with colleagues about a difficult diagnosis. There’s barely enough time to get ready for the next patient.
Cancer is a good illustration of the misdiagnosis dilemma. Many doctors view cancer as a lifestyle or family history illness. So, for example, many doctors do not diagnose lung cancer in nonsmokers with no family history. Cancer survival rates have improved substantially since the 1990s. But to take full advantage of these improvements, early diagnosis is critical.
Your Claim for Damages in Brandon
A personal injury attorney cares about you as well as your legal claim for damages. So, an attorney’s first priority is usually connecting you with a physician. Since the doctor usually has a relationship with the lawyer, the doctor understands the gravity of the situation. Additionally, since the doctor probably has a letter of protection form the attorney, fear of nonpayment is not an issue. So, the doctor does what’s necessary to properly diagnose the patient’s condition.
Legally, the practice group, hospital, or clinic which employs the doctor is usually responsible for damages. The respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) rule applies if the tortfeasor (negligent actor) was:
- An Employee: Doctors are often independent contractors or even distinct legal entities from the clinics where they work. These loopholes may provide tax benefits, but they are meaningless in this context. Anyone the employer controls to any extent is an employee. That control could include things like hours worked or facilities provided.
- Acting Within the Course of Employment: Seeing a patient is definitely within the course of employment.
Additionally, the victim/plaintiff’s injuries must be a foreseeable consequence of the tortfeasor’s negligence.
Connect with Assertive Attorneys
Misdiagnosis is all too common in Florida. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).