Medical Malpractice: Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis

Updated March 13, 2023.

A physician has a duty to his or her patient to make an accurate diagnosis of the patient’s medical condition. When a physician fails to make an accurate diagnosis or misdiagnoses a patient leading to incorrect, delayed or no treatment worsening the patient’s condition or resulting in death, the physician can be liable to the patient for medical malpractice. The law does not hold doctors legally responsible for all diagnostic errors. A patient must prove three things in order to prevail in a lawsuit based upon a wrong diagnosis:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed;
  • The doctor did not provide treatment to the patient in a reasonably skillful manner;
  • The doctor’s failure to accurately diagnose the patient’s condition in a timely manner deprived the patient of a substantial possibility of survival or a better outcome.

A skillful doctor can make a diagnostic error even when using reasonable care. The key is determining if the doctor acted competently in arriving at a diagnosis. A doctor is required to engage in a systematic method to identify a condition or disease in a patient. This systematic method is known as “differential diagnosis.”  Based upon the patient’s symptoms and complaints and the physical examination of the patient, a doctor is required to make a list of the diseases or conditions which can explain the patient’s condition. The physician then rules out or confirms each disease or condition by asking detailed questions about the patient’s symptoms and medical history, ordering diagnostic tests or referring the patient to another physician.  Negligent or improper diagnosis cases can involve the failure to diagnose heart attack, dissection, various forms of cancer, orthopedic fractures, infection, eye injury, meningitis, stroke and others.

At Lacy Katzen we are experienced in representing patients and their families who have suffered harm or death as a result of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

Contact us if you believe you have experienced medical malpractice in Rochester, NY or surrounding areas.

If you have any questions, please contact Peter Rodgers.


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