A delayed diagnosis in any illness can lead to very serious consequences. The deterioration of your health when you know something is wrong, but no treatment is being administered can be psychologically damaging as well physically traumatic. When it can be proven that the degeneration of your physical condition is due to a lack of care by a medical practitioner, you are entitled to claim compensation for their medical negligence.
However, the delayed diagnosis may not be attributable to your family doctor or one you have visited at a local hospital. If your doctor is relying on other medical practitioners for their contribution to your diagnosis, it could well be their fault that there is a delayed diagnosis. Examples of this would be where a sample has been sent away for testing and either mislaid or the results returned late or where you have been referred to a specialist and they delaycompleting their report and returning it to your doctor.
Even though your doctor is the one making the delayed diagnosis, it is not necessarily his fault for the delay: any claim for delayed diagnosis compensation would have to investigate all the possible reasons for the delay before liability could be apportioned.
Typical Delayed Diagnosis Illnesses
The most numerous examples of delayed diagnosis concern cancer patients, particularly when the cancer has been initially misdiagnosed as an illness which has similar symptoms. These include:
- Breast cancer which is disregarded as a benign cyst
- Lung cancer which is masked by bronchitis
- Colon cancer – in which symptoms in the early stages resemble those of haemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome
Many forms of cancer can be overlooked because of similarities with other illnesses and the delayed diagnosis can be fatal. Other delayed diagnoses can also prove fatal. Bacterial infections which are not identified when the first symptoms manifest can develop into much more serious illnesses. Bacteria which lead to meningitis, pneumonia and MRSA or other hospital acquired infections need to be identified quickly to ensure that adequate treatment is administered. In significant enough doses, even helicobacter pylori (which cause gastric ulcers), E.coli and salmonella can be fatal, and it is essential that these infections are not delayed in their diagnosis.
One other area where a significant number of conditions worsen due to delayed diagnosis is work-related illnesses. Both physical and psychological illnesses can develop in the workplace over a period of time. When you go to see your doctor with symptoms of work-related illnesses, you need to explain to him exactly what it is you do for a living and how your occupation has affected your health. Without full disclosure, you cannot blame your doctor if your health deteriorates, but if your doctor – or other medical practitioner – is responsible for worsening an ailment because of a delayed diagnosis, you are entitled to claim compensation.
Claiming Compensation for Delayed Diagnosis
To successfully claim compensation for delayed diagnosis three criteria have to be fulfilled.
First, you must have sustained an injury or deterioration in your condition due to a delayed diagnosis. In most cases we know that this will be the case, but your claim will still have to be supported by a medical expert who will help a solicitor prepare your claim for court and act as an advocate in court as required.
Secondly, it has to be proven that there was a lack of care by a medical practitioner involved in the diagnosis process. This may not be your family doctor or one at a local hospital, but a specialist, technician or other member of the support team. Your solicitor will have to identify who the negligent party is before a claim for delayed diagnosis compensation can be brought to court.
Finally, once who was responsible for the delayed diagnosis has been determined, it has to be established that the delayed diagnosis was avoidable, and that alternative courses of action could have been taken by the negligent party. Again, the experience of the medical expert will be called upon to determine what should be classed as a reasonable standard of professional performance, and whether or not the negligent party lived up to this standard.
Compensation Settlements for Delayed Diagnosis
Compensation settlements for delayed diagnosis would normally be determined by the court. Where your solicitor has compiled a strong case, you may find that either the Health and Safety Authority or a medical insurance company representing the negligent medical practitioner makes an approach with an offer of early settlement to avoid the necessity of court action. The amount of the settlement will be dependent on the length of time the diagnosis was delayed and the subsequent impact it had on your health.
Further Information about Delayed Diagnosis
If you have any questions about claiming compensation for delayed diagnosis, and would like to discuss your case with a solicitor, you can call our free advice telephone service on 1800 989 995. A solicitor is available from 8.00am to 10.00pm – seven days a week – to provide helpful, practical advice about claiming compensation for delayed diagnosis. We guarantee you total confidentiality, and there is no obligation on you to proceed with a claim once you have spoken with us.
We also have a call-back service if now is not a convenient time to speak with us. Simply leave your contact details in the call-back form, and one of our team will get back in touch with you.