You trust medical providers to be at the top of their game when working in hospitals and clinics. However, the unsettling truth in the United States is that 26% of healthcare-related legal claims result from a misdiagnosis, even more than happen from surgical accidents.

If you believe you were misdiagnosed and suffered unnecessary illness or injury as a result, you need experienced legal representation from a qualified medical misdiagnosis lawyer. Contact the law office of Lopez McHugh LLP to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your options.

Understanding What Causes Most Misdiagnosis Events

Over 12 million adults each year in the United States who seek medical care receive a misdiagnosis from their doctor. These diagnostic mistakes can be put into various categories including system-based and human error. In many of these instances, you may have a valid claim against a provider.

System errors can result in misdiagnoses when software or machinery malfunctions. They can also happen when the organizational systems of a facility are poor, leading to miscommunication, loss of data, or inefficient processes. The medical providers and the manufacturer of the software or machinery can often be held accountable for any resulting harm.

Human-based mistakes are the most common type of misdiagnosis that leads to legal action. Reasons for these errors include poor data gathering and recording, faulty verification of symptoms, or a failure to consider alternate causes for symptoms. A recent American study of internal medicine patients found that human cognitive mistakes factored into 74% of misdiagnosis events, with system errors accounting for 65% of the diagnostic mistakes.

Why Do Doctors Misdiagnose Patients?

Because all our medical systems are created and implemented by human beings, it can be said that all diagnostic errors are human errors. Even if a software program gives an incorrect assessment of a patient’s condition, it is up to the healthcare staff to evaluate the person in front of them to avoid life-threatening mistakes. So, why do doctors misdiagnose patients?

Researchers have examined some of the root causes of patient misdiagnosis at the individual clinician level. This research has been guided by cognitive psychology, which studies how a person processes information and then develops a plan of attack.

In healthcare, when doctors receive information, research has shown that they frequently use shortcuts or “rules of thumb” to develop their initial diagnosis, especially with patients whose symptoms follow a common pattern. While these shortcuts are useful and time-saving, they do not necessarily take into account unique patient characteristics and symptoms.

Other Factors That Can Contribute to Patient Misdiagnosis

Doctors may diagnose a current patient based on a previous case, be stuck on the initial diagnosis given to the patient instead of taking in new information given, or have their diagnostic decision-making ability hampered by bias. Regardless of these issues, doctors have a duty to appropriately diagnose their patients using all information given at all times.

This is true even if it means changing their diagnosis to better fit the patient’s symptoms and subsequent treatments. Additional factors that can cause doctors to misdiagnose include:

  • Poor teamwork and communication between doctors and assisting medical professionals
  • Unconscious bias toward patients based on gender, age, or race
  • Lack of communication between clinicians from separate practices
  • Failure to obtain or follow up on test results
  • An overcrowded, chaotic hospital environment
  • Fear of being liable for malpractice

Medical Misdiagnosis Can Be Dangerous or Even Deadly

When a doctor’s misdiagnosis leads to incorrect patient treatment, delayed treatment, or no treatment at all, the patient’s illness or injury can become much worse. If a patient is prescribed medication for the wrong illness, it could harm the patient and have undesired side effects. They may even die from the resulting change in their health.

Similarly, if a patient is misdiagnosed with serious medical conditions that require surgery, they may undergo unnecessary surgical procedures that leave them in pain. Patients may also need a significant amount of time to recover, often more than they would have needed without the mistake. All medical errors, including misdiagnosis, are costly and may have the patient facing hefty medical bills they were unprepared to pay.

Regardless of the cause for your misdiagnosis, you have a right to seek compensation and justice for the wrong done to you. You may experience a financial crisis from the weight of medical debt you did not deserve. Working with a skilled medical malpractice and misdiagnosis attorney can help you understand how to proceed and determine your best course of action.

Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions

Misdiagnosis happens with many conditions. However, it occurs more often with some conditions than others, including:


One of the worst diagnoses a patient can receive, cancer is a progressive disease. This means it may take weeks to months to spread throughout the body. When caught early, treatments provide better outcomes for patients. If there is a delay in diagnosis or failure to diagnose, cancer can spread throughout the body with devastating consequences.


Infectious diseases can spread throughout a hospital with a single touch. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated “on any given day, about 1 in 25 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection.” The most common include pneumonia and surgical site infections. Additionally, gastrointestinal infections, urinary tract infections, and primary bloodstream infections occur often.


Bacterial meningitis is very serious. The disease spreads by close contact with someone who has the infection. At first, the disease presents as a simple fever but progresses rapidly within a matter of hours. Patients with bacterial meningitis require aggressive intravenous drugs. Failing to diagnose this condition in time can mean life and death.


An interruption in the blood supply to the brain can cause a patient to suffer a stroke. Patients need immediate emergency medical care to minimize damage and ensure the best chance of recovery. Strokes are one of the most commonly misdiagnosed neurological conditions. This condition requires emergency treatment that may be delayed if misdiagnosis occurs.

Heart attack

When a patient experiences an interruption of the blood flow to the heart, they face severe injury or even death. Patients must go to an ER, receive a diagnosis of a heart attack, and be given immediate treatment for a good patient outcome. Any delay or failure to diagnose dramatically increases the likelihood of serious organ damage or even death.

Women are commonly misdiagnosed when experiencing an adverse cardiac event because their symptoms differ significantly from the “classic” symptoms, which were established by studying only men’s experiences during heart attacks.

Blood clot

Blood clots that form inside the body can pose a serious health risk. If and when they dislodge, clots can cause serious damage to the lungs, heart, brain, and more. If blood clots are not detected immediately, they can lead to death.

Emergency Rooms Are Common Locations for Misdiagnosis

You can experience a misdiagnosis in your family doctor’s office or during a routine hospital visit, but these events are extremely common in emergency rooms. Your situation will usually be urgent, and the entire ER is full of patients in various stages of distress and medical need. The waiting room and treatment areas are often chaotic and potentially understaffed, leading to high-pressure decisions that may be wrong.

In an environment full of people suffering acute medical issues, damaging bodily wounds, and overwhelming pain, a single mistake can lead to a series of consequences that put a patient at more risk than the initial condition that brought them to the emergency room. Emergency staff members depend on clear communication protocols to reduce mistakes. When these protocols are not followed each and every time, it can cause errors in a patient’s medical history, medication record, symptoms, allergy notes, and possible drug interactions.

Experienced caregivers are suffering burnout at a higher rate than ever before, leading to overwork, fatigue, and distractions. Mistakes made when reading charts or administering treatment can lead to serious complications and injuries. Your outcome can change drastically, affecting your health and future.

A Medical Misdiagnosis Lawyer Can Help You With Your Claim

Suffering an unnecessary and unexpected illness from a misdiagnosis can leave you confused and unsure what to do. You may not be familiar with how medical malpractice claims work in your state, and you need someone to fight for your interests while you focus on recovering. At Lopez McHugh, our experienced trial lawyers stand ready to guide you through this difficult time.

Your illness or injury could leave you unable to work for weeks or months. If you are permanently disabled, you lose even more as you face sky-high medical bills. When the worst happens, and someone dies, their family is left with grief, loss of income, and funeral costs. All this can be overwhelming without the help and guidance of a competent and compassionate medical negligence lawyer who understands how to use the law to get you the justice and compensation you need and deserve.

Our team of attorneys can help you understand exactly how to pursue justice and obtain the financial recovery you are entitled to. We excel in gathering evidence to support your case, reviewing the records with our medically trained staff, and developing the strongest case possible based on your circumstances.

Proving Liability for a Medical Misdiagnosis Claim

A misdiagnosis claim falls under the umbrella of medical malpractice or medical negligence. Medical providers, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities are not willing to admit fault; and, other physicians can be reluctant to testify against their fellow practitioners.

In addition, large hospitals can often call on significant legal and financial resources to defend themselves against claims. Lobbyists for the medical industry have done a startlingly effective job of convincing state legislatures to pass laws around medical malpractice that highly favor doctors and hospitals. Successfully bringing a claim requires an extremely proficient medical misdiagnosis attorney.

A common attack our lawyers see is to claim that the victim failed to fully inform their doctor or to carefully follow their instructions. Our legal team will create a strong narrative showing how you have been wronged. We also bring in our own medical experts to testify on your behalf and discuss how your physician failed to meet the standard of care. This helps us refute statements made by defense witnesses who deny liability.

Five Elements of Negligence in a Medical Misdiagnosis Claim

Proving negligence is critical to successfully securing justice and the compensation you deserve. Your medical misdiagnosis lawyer must provide evidence that demonstrates that:

  • You and your doctor have an established medical relationship.
  • Your doctor’s action or lack of action failed to meet the standard of care as established and practiced by others in that field for your circumstances.
  • Your injury or illness is directly related to your physician’s negligence or misdiagnosis.
  • The change in your condition caused you to suffer damages, such as illness, injury, or death, and associated expenses.

Your first thought may be to pursue a claim against your doctor, but experienced attorneys know that many others may also be responsible for your harm. Hospitals, medical organizations, and others may have played a part. Maximizing financial recovery means investigating every possible option and pursuing those that seem most promising in terms of liability. At Lopez McHugh, we examine all avenues that could bring you the restitution you and your family need.

Damages You Can Seek in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

The trauma of experiencing unexpected illness or injury can be upsetting enough, but discovering that your suffering is due to someone’s unnecessary mistake can be even worse. When you are healthy and active, facing a future that is drastically changed due to a misdiagnosis can affect every aspect of your life. Your work, family life, and ability to function in society can be altered forever.

The well-being of your family can be impacted without your income, care, and guidance. As a victim of a medical misdiagnosis, you can suffer any of the following:

  • Amputation of limbs
  • Cancer and other diseases that develop into an incurable state
  • Extended recovery time
  • Increased medical costs
  • Intense physical pain
  • Long-term or permanent disability
  • Lost cognitive and physical function
  • Loss of earning potential if you cannot return to work
  • Lost income while you cannot work
  • Loss of internal organs
  • Premature death
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Treatment that is more invasive or painful

These conditions can bring you significant financial, physical, and emotional burdens. To help offset the effect of these maladies, you can ask for economic and non-economic damages. Economic losses cover those that have a fixed price tag. Non-economic losses are more subjective but no less important to your recovery. These include elements of how your life has been affected by the misdiagnosis.

Examples of medical malpractice damages include:

Economic damages:

  • Medical bills
  • Hospital costs, such as ER and ICU fees
  • Surgery expenses
  • Physical therapy
  • Medication or treatment expenses
  • Travel costs for doctor visits and treatment at special facilities
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning potential
  • Insurance copays and deductibles
  • Home services you can no longer perform, such as cleaning, cooking, and maintenance

Non-economic damages:

  • Loss of companionship with your family members
  • Loss of intimacy with your spouse or partner
  • Inability to enjoy hobbies or previous activities
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Pain and suffering
  • Worsening of preexisting injuries, illnesses, or medical conditions

Medical Malpractice Statutes That Can Affect Your Lawsuit

In addition to specific laws about how you must bring medical misdiagnosis claims against a provider, states often have laws that limit how much you can receive in an insurance settlement or jury award. Usually, these statutes affect the amount of non-economic damages that can be paid. Some limitations are per defendant, while others may be a total amount, regardless of how many defendants are involved.

You will also need to consider the statute of limitations for your location. This governs how long you have to bring a lawsuit. For example, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you must file a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years of the date you knew or should have known about the misdiagnosis. In some instances, the timeline can be extended. However, failing to file your case within the allotted window means you will lose your right to sue forever.

Medical malpractice laws are confusing, and trying to understand them can be overwhelming when you are also dealing with an illness or injury caused by your misdiagnosis. This is when you can benefit from turning your legal difficulties over to an experienced and compassionate misdiagnosis attorney at Lopez McHugh LLP.

Contact Our Misdiagnosis Attorneys Today for Help With Your Case

Most Americans will experience at least one medical diagnostic error in their lifetime. These errors can occur for a variety of reasons, including doctor distraction and inattentiveness to the patient or failure to perform the appropriate diagnostic testing.

You should not have to pay for the inattention, lack of professionalism, or mistakes of someone whose job is to protect your health and well-being. Suffering a physical and financial crisis through no fault of your own must be met with aggressive legal representation against those who harmed you.

Regardless of the cause, if you or someone you love has been a victim of misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose in Pennsylvania, contact Lopez McHugh LLP as soon as possible for a confidential and free consultation. Our attorneys can answer your questions about misdiagnosis claims and explain your legal rights.


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Our firm engaged Lopez McHugh to represent us in a matter involving a customer that had stopped payment on a federal contractor. Mr. McHugh and his team immediately assessed the situation and made contact with the customer's team to negotiate a settlement. Unfortunately the customer did not hold up their end of the deal so a lawsuit was filed. The entire Lopez McHugh team was responsive to our questions and quickly crafted a legal strategy that secured our position.
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