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Misdiagnosis & Failure to Diagnose

female patient awaiting diagnosisMalpractice attorneys representing victims of medical misdiagnosis throughout northern NJ, including Passaic, Hudson, Essex, Morris, Middlesex, and Bergen County.

What happens when a trusted medical professional makes a misdiagnosis of cancer or fails to diagnose a serious medical condition? Two in five adults in America have suffered from a medical mistake – or know someone who has. Misdiagnoses accounts for roughly 40 percent of all mistakes doctors make, according to the National Patient Safety Foundation.

These patients often experience emotional distress, senseless depression, side effects from medication errors, and unnecessary surgeries. One in three adults suffered permanent injuries as a result of misdiagnosis or another medical mistake. Worse yet, the Wall Street Journal reports that as many as 160,000 patients die from these misdiagnosis errors each year.

The National Patient Safety Foundation also found that carelessness or negligence on the part of health care professionals was the most common reason for medical mistakes. In more than a third of all situations where a medical mistake was made, nothing was done about the situation. Most people took their concerns to hospital administrators or doctors directly – only to be ignored. The only way for us to prevent similar mistakes from occurring again is to hold the negligent parties accountable for their actions. Only through the consequence of legal action will the health care system be forced to become more competent.

Did you know that more than a third of medical malpractice lawsuits involve a misdiagnosis? The U.S. court system has awarded nearly $39 billion in compensation to misdiagnosed patients from 1986 to 2010.

The New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Eisbrouch Marsh can help answer all your questions, investigate your case, and get the ball rolling with a winning team of experienced professional litigators. We have the necessary resources to fight defendants with deep pockets. There is no cost to have your case reviewed by our medical experts, so it’s worth looking into filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Bergen County or elsewhere in northern NJ.

New Jersey misdiagnosis statistics

The following NJ medical misdiagnosis statistics come from the Public Citizen’s Congress Watch:

  • Medical negligence costs New Jersey taxpayers $508 million to $867 million annually
  • Medical errors cause 1,316 to 2,930 preventable deaths in NJ each year
  • Repeat offenders (5.5% of NJ doctors) are responsible for 61.1% of all malpractice payments
  • 636 New Jersey doctors have paid three or more malpractice claims, responsible for 36.9% of all payments
  • Only 10.8% of New Jersey doctors who have made four or more malpractice payments have been disciplined
  • Only 1 claim is filed for every medical malpractice mistake made

The cost of preparing a medical malpractice lawsuit in New Jersey ranges from $15,000 to $25,000 – which can easily double if the case goes to trial. That is why hiring a competent attorney to handle your misdiagnosis case is so important. We’ll cover all the cost of litigation and you only agree to pay a set rate if we win an award for you.

Types of misdiagnosis

A Harvard study found that 1 in 71 misdiagnoses made involved some type of cancer. According to ABC News, 48-year-old Frank Barerra who was on the operating table, hooked up to an IV, awaiting the removal of his prostate when the pathology department called to say that he didn’t, in fact, have cancer at all. It is haunting stories like these that motivate the attorneys at Eisbrouch Marsh to pursue justice.

The most common types of misdiagnosis errors made in New Jersey include:

  • Misdiagnosis of cancer
  • Heart attack misdiagnosis
  • Stroke misdiagnosis
  • Failure to detect the signs of heart attack or stroke
  • Rheumatoid arthritis misdiagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis misdiagnosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Failure to recognize internal bleeding
  • Failure to diagnose diabetes
  • Failure to diagnose meningitis or appendicitis in children
  • Failure to diagnose ectopic pregnancy

Unfortunately, death is the most common consequence of a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a stroke or heart attack, and benefits are often collected by family members.

How does misdiagnosis of cancer and other ailments happen?

  • Health care culture: Doctors feel pressure to keep health care costs down, so they may not order all the necessary tests in order to make a proper diagnosis. In other cases, doctors rely on expensive high-tech tests that require skilled technicians to interpret the results, rather than relying on their own personal hands-on skills. Also, increased time constraints placed on doctors means less time spent with patients – and more room for errors.
  • Overconfidence: A May 2008 article published in the American Journal of Medicine found that doctor overconfidence is rampant, due to “the fact that most of their diagnoses are correct, and that effective feedback regarding their errors is lacking.” Often, patients move between doctors and health care facilities during the course of their treatment, so feedback about a possible misdiagnosis does not always get reported back to doctors and health care centers.
  • Premature Closure: A 2005 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine discovered that clinicians often arrive at an initial diagnosis that seems to fit the facts quickly and then fail to consider other reasonable possibilities. Faulty perception was the single most common cause of diagnosis errors, researchers concluded.
  • System Failure: The same 2005 study also found that system-related factors were also to blame, including: problems with policies and procedures, inefficient processes, failure to work as a team, and poor communication.

Determining liability

Eisbrouch Marsh attorneys have set processes in place for determining liability. First, we will determine whether your case has merit by combing through your medical records with a competent medical expert. We’ll need to prove: A) That a doctor-patient relationship existed, B) That the doctor was negligent in caring for the patient, and C) That the doctor’s negligence caused injury.

Next, we will consult out-of-state experts and other state physicians to determine what an appropriate “standard of care” would have been, given the situation. Skillful doctors do make mistakes, even when exercising reasonable care. The key is in looking at how a diagnosis was arrived at and looking for negligence in the ways the medical professional ruled out other possibilities, given the symptoms. We will also look at all diagnostic tests conducted to see if human error or faulty test equipment were involved.

To bolster the case, we’ll submit records to medical specialists who are willing to testify in court. We file all depositions and necessary paperwork for you, and cover all upfront fees.

Compensation for NJ misdiagnosis & failure to diagnose

You may be eligible for compensation, including:

  • Past, present and future medical expenses
  • Emotional hardship, pain and suffering
  • Loss of wages and diminished capacity to earn income
  • Loss of companionship or consortium
  • Wrongful death

In one famous case, a man from Trenton, New Jersey received a $25 million jury award when Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital specialists failed to detect a cyst, which caused an aneurysm and irreversible brain damage.

NJ medical malpractice laws

The following New Jersey medical malpractice laws may pertain to your misdiagnosis / failure to diagnose case:

  • Limits on malpractice damages: Punitive damages are capped at 5 times the actual damages or at least $350,000.
  • Collateral source rule: Defendants cannot try to reduce liability if plaintiffs have collected from insurance.
  • Expert witnesses: Expert witnesses must be licensed and practicing in the same specialty as the defendant.
  • Joint liability: Each defendant is found individually liable for the entire amount of the judgment, so if one defendant is unable to pay, the other defendants are on the hook to pay the damages.
  • Attorney fees: Lawyers cannot charge more than a third of the first $500,000 recovered, 30% of the next $500,000, 25% of the next $500,000, and 20% of the next $500,000. Fees cannot exceed 25% when the plaintiff is a minor or deemed otherwise incompetent.
  • Statute of limitations: Under NJ law, you must initiate a failure to diagnose / misdiagnosis claim within two years from the date when the injury should have been reasonably discovered. There are a few exceptions, so be sure to ask a lawyer if you have any questions.

New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers can help

With over 25 years of experience, the lawyers at Eisbrouch Marsh have the necessary credentials to win your case. We have a team of medical experts, investigators and attorneys on staff who are dedicated to uncovering proof of medical negligence when it has occurred.

Our team of NJ personal injury attorneys represents residents in Hackensack, Paramus, Bergen County, all five boroughs of New York City, and beyond. Call 201-342-5545 to speak with a qualified lawyer.

  1. ABC News – Misdiagnosed Cancer Not Uncommon http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=131047
  2. Science Daily – Coronary Artery Disease Can Go Undiagnosed http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110714101023.htm
  3. WSJ – The Biggest Mistakes Doctors Make http://online.wsj.com/public/search?article-doc-type=%7BJournal+Reports:+Health+Care%7D&HEADER_TEXT=journal+reports:+health+care 
  4. NPSF – Experience With Medical Mistakes http://www.npsf.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Public_Opinion_of_Patient_Safety_Issues.pdf 
  5. Public Citizen’s Congress Watch - Medical Misdiagnosis in New Jersey http://www.citizen.org/documents/NJ_Final_Report.pdf