Dealing with Diagnostic Errors

Diagnostic Errors in Medical Malpractice

Learning that you have a severe or life-threatening illness changes your world. Perhaps the only thing worse is discovering that your diagnosis should have been made sooner or that you were treated for the wrong condition–and now it is too late to take effective action.

Diagnostic errors can be defined as a diagnosis that is missed, delayed or wrong. In an important 2013 study on medical malpractice, one researcher reported that diagnostic errors could easily be the biggest patient safety problem in the United States. The analysis found that these errors account for the largest number of claims, the most severe patient harm, and the highest malpractice payouts. The estimated number of patients suffering permanent injury or death as a result of misdiagnosis, doubled from 80,000 to 160,000. And the research concluded that this number is probably too low.

The human toll of diagnostic errors is incalculable, and the financial consequences may be profound. No amount of recovery money can restore you and your family to where you were before the malpractice, but it can help to ease the medical and financial stresses that follow.

The Dennehy Law Firm has successfully handled many diagnostic error cases, including missed or delayed diagnosis of cancers, infections, heart attacks, and brain disease. We find that the key in these cases is putting together the elements to determine whether the doctor and/or hospital met the standard of care in treating the patient, and whether their negligence caused harm.

We go behind the records in order to understand how the error could have occurred: does the chart reflect critical thinking? Was the doctor rushed? What was the doctor thinking? Was there follow-up of abnormal test results? Did technological support identify risks proactively rather than after the fact? We believe that making hospitals and physicians accountable for their actions helps to make the medical care system safer for everyone.

About Susan Dennehy

In 1996, she began her own firm, the Dennehy Law Firm. The firm is devoted exclusively to representing patients and their families in medical safety cases. Her diverse legal experience for both sides gives her a unique perspective on the practice of medicine and the rules that regulate doctors and hospitals. 
Susan has lectured nationally on courtroom strategies and has taught trial skills to law students at Cardozo School of Law’s annual trial program. She is a member of the award winning TRIAL magazine publication committee and is a reviewer and author.
Susan Dennehy has achieved the “AV® Peer Review Rating,” the highest distinction awarded by Martindale-Hubbell®. The “AV peer review rating shows that a lawyer has reached the height of professional excellence…and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity.” She is also listed in the 2011 Martindale-Hubbell® Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers and is recognized as one of New York’s Women Leaders in the Law®, 2013 and 2014.

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