How Delayed Treatment Contributes to Medical Negligence Cases
Whenever you go to a doctor’s office or hospital with symptoms, you want to know what is going on and receive effective treatment to address your condition as quickly as possible. This is important because early treatment can prevent medical conditions from growing worse. Unfortunately, delayed diagnoses are fairly common. According to an in-depth report completed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, most Americans will receive delayed treatment and diagnoses one or more times in their lives. This means that nearly 12 million delayed diagnoses likely occur each year in the U.S. Even though many of these incidents do not result in significant injuries, some delayed diagnoses can have severe consequences up to and including the patient’s early death.
If your condition greatly worsened because of a delayed diagnosis and treatment, you might be entitled to recover compensation through a medical negligence case. Here is an overview of delayed diagnoses and when they might amount to medical malpractice from the medical malpractice lawyers at Raynes & Lawn.
- Delays in treatment, potentially leading to worsened conditions or premature death, emphasize the need for legal understanding in medical malpractice cases.
- Delayed treatment stems from delayed diagnoses or insufficient specialist referrals, necessitating legal consultation to assess potential medical negligence and resulting injuries.
- Proving medical malpractice for treatment delays entails demonstrating breach of duty, harm causation, and actual damages, often requiring input from medical experts and legal professionals.
- Comprehending Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations underscores the importance of seeking guidance from experienced medical malpractice lawyers working on a contingency fee basis for comprehensive legal assistance.
- Taking swift action following treatment delays is vital, as legal time constraints might limit the ability to seek recourse.
What Is Delayed Treatment?
Delayed treatment is a consequence of a delayed diagnosis and occurs when a patient doesn’t receive timely medical treatment for their medical condition. This might include not receiving necessary medication, lab tests, appointments with specialists, or other types of treatment within the time when treatment should have been provided. In addition to being the result of a delayed diagnosis, a treatment delay can also occur when a doctor correctly diagnoses a patient but fails to refer them to follow-up care or a specialist.
Treatment delays can amount to medical malpractice when the patient suffers serious harm as a result. Delayed treatment can cause serious injuries or harm with certain conditions, including cancer. However, it can be difficult for patients to determine whether a treatment delay was caused by a doctor’s negligence. This makes it important to consult a medical malpractice attorney if you question whether your delayed diagnosis, treatment, and worsened medical condition resulted from medical negligence to learn about your rights and potential legal remedies. An attorney can review the medical records and advise you about the merits of your case.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice involves a healthcare provider’s delivery of negligent medical care that deviates from the medical standard of care that a competent provider would have delivered in the same situation. The breach of the standard of care must have also been the cause of the patient’s injuries and resulting economic and non-economic losses.
For delayed treatment, you will need to show that the delay was caused by the doctor’s medical negligence and not some other cause. You’ll also have to prove that the resulting delay in treatment caused your injuries or worsened condition and that you incurred actual damages as a result.
To prove medical negligence, you will have the burden of proving each of the legal elements by a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not, as follows:
- You established a doctor-patient relationship with the provider.
- The provider owed a duty to provide competent treatment as compared to what reasonably competent providers would have delivered under the same conditions.
- The doctor’s actions or inactions amounted to a breach of the duty they owed to you.
- The doctor’s breach of the duty of care caused the treatment delay and your injuries.
- You suffered calculable economic and/or non-economic damages.
Proving a Treatment Delay Was Medical Malpractice
Proving your case will require you to show that the treatment delay resulted from the doctor’s medical negligence. A doctor is medically negligent when they fail to meet the standard of care. The medical standard of care is what a reasonably competent provider with the same experience, education, and skill would have done in the same situation. Proving the medical standard of care and the doctor’s breach requires the help of a medical expert.
In Pennsylvania, medical malpractice plaintiffs must file certifications with the court that a medical expert has reviewed their records and can opine that the doctor’s actions violated the medical standard of care and caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Your medical malpractice lawyer will work closely with a medical expert to determine the standard of care and whether the doctor was negligent.
Once you establish the doctor was negligent, you will need to present evidence showing the delay caused your injuries and harm. Simply showing the doctor was negligent is not enough if you can’t also show that the delay caused your injuries and harm. In some cases, a doctor might have been negligent, but the patient may not have suffered injuries or losses. You’ll need to show that the treatment delay caused you to suffer additional injuries you would likely not have suffered if you had been treated on time. For example, you might present evidence showing that your condition worsened because of the treatment delay, that your condition worsened to such an extent that you could no longer benefit from a specific treatment, or that the treatment’s effectiveness was reduced because of the delay.
Evidence Required for a Medical Malpractice Case
A delayed diagnosis and treatment are not always the result of medical malpractice. Before you will have an actionable case, you’ll have to show that the treatment delay was caused by the negligence of your doctor. This is typically because of a diagnostic error or a delayed diagnosis. If you instead had a treatment delay because you failed to seek medical attention for your symptoms or failed to follow your primary care doctor’s recommendations to see a specialist, you won’t have a case.
If your provider made a diagnostic mistake that resulted in a treatment delay, you could have a case. Some examples of when you might have an actionable claim include the following:
- You went to your doctor with obvious symptoms that your doctor disregarded.
- Your doctor failed to refer you to a specialist when you presented with symptoms.
- The doctor failed to include your actual condition in a differential diagnosis.
- Your doctor performed the wrong tests or failed to order the correct ones.
- The doctor or physician disregarded your symptoms and gave you a clean bill of health.
- Your doctor misinterpreted your lab results.
- The laboratory made mistakes that led to a delayed diagnosis and a treatment delay.
Once you determine that your doctor was negligent, you will then need to show that you suffered real harm because of the treatment delay. You won’t have a case if your doctor failed to accurately diagnose you, but you sought a second opinion and received treatment before you suffered any harm.
Injuries from Treatment Delays
Injuries resulting from delays in medical treatment can have severe and lasting consequences, impacting patients both physically and emotionally. Some common types of injuries that may occur due to treatment delays include:
If a patient’s cancer diagnosis is delayed, the cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body, leading to metastasized cancer. As a result, what might have initially been a treatable cancer could progress to an advanced and more challenging stage, necessitating more aggressive and less effective treatment options.
Need for More Expensive or Invasive Treatment
A delay in receiving timely medical care may necessitate the use of more costly and invasive treatment methods than would have been required if the condition had been addressed promptly. For instance, a treatable condition that progresses unchecked might require extensive surgeries, prolonged hospital stays, or specialized therapies, significantly increasing the financial burden on the patient and potentially causing additional complications and risks.
Additional Emotional and Physical Pain
Treatment delays can result in prolonged periods of physical discomfort and emotional distress for patients and their families. The extended duration of symptoms, coupled with the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the delayed treatment, can significantly impact the patient’s overall well-being and quality of life, leading to heightened levels of stress, depression, and other mental health challenges.
Reduced Treatment Efficacy
In cases where the timely administration of treatment could have resulted in a better prognosis, a delay can diminish the effectiveness of the chosen intervention. For instance, a delayed surgery or medical intervention might allow the patient’s condition to deteriorate to a point where previously viable treatment options are no longer as effective, thereby reducing the likelihood of a successful outcome and potentially compromising the patient’s long-term health and recovery.
Statute of Limitations
It’s important to understand the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. This is a law that sets a deadline for filing a legal claim and seeking compensation through the court process. Pennsylvania has a two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases from the date of your injury or the date you reasonably should have discovered it. This law is found at 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524. While you do have some leeway because of Pennsylvania’s discovery rule, it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as you discover your treatment delay and believe it might have caused your worsened condition to ensure you don’t run into any statute of limitations problems. If you wait too long to file a case, your claim can be time-barred. This means you would be prevented from seeking compensation for your losses.
Why Might a Delay in Treatment Occur?
Treatment can be delayed for multiple reasons. Some potential reasons why treatment might be delayed include the following:
Rare Medical Condition
When a patient presents with a rare or less common medical condition, healthcare providers might not immediately recognize the symptoms or understand the appropriate course of action, resulting in delays in the diagnosis and treatment process. Further consultations with specialists or additional tests may be necessary to accurately identify the condition and develop a suitable treatment plan.
Delays can occur when patients hesitate to seek medical attention, either due to fear, lack of awareness, or other personal reasons. Non-compliance with a doctor’s recommendations or failure to follow through with referrals to specialists can also contribute to delays in the treatment process, allowing the condition to worsen over time.
Healthcare System Issues
Overcrowded emergency departments and shortages of medical staff can significantly impact the delivery of timely and effective care. Under such circumstances, patients might experience extended waiting times, reduced attention from medical professionals, and delays in necessary tests or procedures, potentially exacerbating their medical conditions and leading to complications.
Treatment delays can also be attributed to healthcare providers’ negligence, such as failing to give due attention to a patient’s reported symptoms or medical history, dismissing or downplaying concerns, overlooking critical details during the diagnostic process, or neglecting to order essential tests that could aid in timely and accurate diagnoses. Such oversights or errors in judgment can lead to harmful delays in initiating the appropriate treatment, allowing the patient’s condition to deteriorate or become more challenging to manage.
If the treatment delay is caused by the provider’s negligence, you might have grounds to pursue a claim if it also caused your injuries and harm.
Is It Necessary to Speak With an Attorney?
Pennsylvania law does not require you to hire a lawyer to pursue a medical malpractice case. However, these cases are among the most complex legal matters and are difficult for most people to litigate. To successfully litigate a medical malpractice case, you will need to understand complex legal and medical terminology, understand civil procedures, meet deadlines, and know how the evidentiary rules work. People who attempt to represent themselves are expected to exercise the same level of knowledge as attorneys, and judges do not generally give unrepresented litigants any additional leeway to compensate for a lack of knowledge.
You must also retain a medical expert who can review your medical records and is willing to testify as an expert that the doctor in your case was medically negligent and caused your injuries. Finding an appropriate medical expert in the same field can be hard. When you work with a medical malpractice lawyer at Raynes & Lawn, you will benefit from our extensive network of qualified medical experts and our in-depth knowledge of the laws surrounding medical malpractice cases.
Contingency Fee Basis
Some people are concerned that hiring a medical malpractice lawyer would be too expensive and instead choose to forgo a medical negligence case. However, our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, and we offer free consultations. This means it won’t cost you anything to meet with an experienced malpractice lawyer to determine your rights and legal options. If we agree to accept representation, you won’t have to pay any attorney’s fees until and unless we recover compensation for you through a settlement or verdict in your favor.
Choosing to retain a lawyer can give you peace of mind that your medical negligence case is being handled for you. Instead of worrying about obtaining medical records, negotiating with the malpractice insurer, and litigating in court, you can concentrate on recovering from your injuries or dealing with the aftermath of the loss of your loved one.
Contact Raynes & Lawn Today
If you believe that your delayed treatment and injuries or your loved one’s treatment delay and death were caused by medical negligence, you should reach out to the attorneys at Raynes & Lawn as soon as possible. We can analyze the facts and circumstances of your case and explain its legal merits. Call 1-800-535-1797 for more information about your rights.
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