Misdiagnosis and other medical mistakes are the third leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. The misdiagnosis numbers have steadily increased as the amount of time that doctors spend with their patients has steadily decreased, so there is most likely a relationship between the two. On average, doctors listen to their patients for only eighteen seconds before interrupting them. It is nearly impossible to properly diagnose a patient in such a short time window.
Ongoing tort reform makes it difficult for medical malpractice victims to obtain fair compensation. Physician screening boards are the latest trend. In some states, a panel of doctors must decide whether or not a physician was negligent before the victim can file a legal claim, and it is not too hard to predict what the board’s finding will be in all but the most egregious cases. These screening panels are not in Florida yet, but it may be only a matter of time before they are part of the legal landscape in the Sunshine State.
Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions in Florida
Typically, misdiagnosis involves a failure to distinguish among several possible illnesses. In addition to the aforementioned lack of communication, many doctors do not order a full range of diagnostic tests, out of fear that the insurance company will refuse to pay for them. The combination often leads to misdiagnosis of:
- Cancer: If the patient has no apparent risk factors, such as age, family history, or lifestyle, many doctors immediately dismiss cancer. That’s especially a problem for rare forms of cancer, like mesothelioma.
- Heart Attack: The symptoms vary greatly, making heart attacks difficult to diagnose. For example, many women do not feel significant chest pain during cardiac episodes.
- Stroke: Doctors almost never diagnose strokes in people under 65. Instead, they ascribe the clear stroke symptoms to migraine headaches, moderate vertigo, or even alcohol intoxication.
- Lyme Disease: This bacterial infection comes from a tick bite, so many patients do not even know they have been exposed to the disease. So, on average, these victims go from doctor to doctor for over a year before they are correctly diagnosed.
Most of these conditions are degenerative, so if they are not treated promptly and properly, they get much worse.
Compensation in Florida Misdiagnosis Cases
Misdiagnosis-related medical bills are usually very high. For example, cancer treatments sometimes exceed $30,000 a month; in 2005, that figure was about $4,500 a month. A Florida medical malpractice lawyer can secure the funds that victims need to deal with their illnesses. Moreover, an attorney can also connect victims with specialists, so they can get the best available care.
Medical bills and other economic losses are just the beginning of the story. Misdiagnosis victims must also deal with substantial noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Compensation is available for these losses as well.
Finally, many misdiagnosis cases involve institutional negligence. Hospitals and clinics want and need to make money just like any other business, so they will keep doctors’ calendars as full as possible until someone makes them change. The punitive damages available in these cases often foster such change, so current victims protect future patients.
Reach Out to Aggressive Attorneys
Misdiagnosis is one of the worst forms of medical malpractice. 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).