In the last 25 years diagnostic errors – not surgical mistakes or medication overdoses – accounted for the largest number of medical malpractice claims in the U.S.

A misdiagnosis can be scary and costly with patients receiving health care, surgery, and/or medications that are not medically necessary. How does a diagnostic error happen? There are three subcategories to diagnostic errors:

  • Wrong diagnosis. For example, a patient is having a heart attack and is misdiagnosed with having acid indigestion.
  • Delayed diagnosis. The most common delayed diagnosis is cancer. Initial symptoms may be treated as a minor illness until the symptoms become more severe or worsen.
  • Missed diagnosis. Sometimes a physician may hear a combination of symptoms that are similar to another patient and may mistakenly conclude that the patient has the same illness or disease as the other patient.

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins found that medical malpractice payments for diagnosis-related lawsuits amounted to $38.8 billion between 1986 and 2010. The study looked at those that rose to a level of a malpractice payout. What is more frightening is that the researchers estimate that 80,000 to 160,000 US patients are suffering from a misdiagnosis annually. David E. Newman-Toker, M.D., Ph.D, who lead the study stated, “Overall, diagnostic errors have been underappreciated and under-recognized because they’re difficult to measure and keep track of owing to the frequent gap between the time the error occurs and when it’s detected.”

Here are more facts about medical diagnostic errors:

  • Of 350,706 paid claims between 1986 and 2010, 28.6% were for diagnostic errors and accounted for the highest proportion of total payments.
  • 8% of diagnostic errors were made in outpatient care.
  • 2% of diagnostic errors were made in inpatient care.
  • Inpatient diagnostic errors were more lethal (48% vs. 36.9% for outpatient).
  • Highest payments were made in cases of serious neurologic harm (including quadriplegia and brain damage); and even higher payments for errors that resulted in death.

No one deserves to experience a medical diagnostic error but the probability is high that you will experience a misdiagnosis in your lifetime. If a diagnostic error happens to you – or someone you love – our Florida medical malpractice attorneys will be there to help you – just as we have helped many others in the same position.