Have you ever thought that your doctor may be wrong? It never crosses most people’s minds. Doctors are seen as perfectly skilled and widely educated professionals that make no mistakes. But they do – more often than you think. Luckily, if you were misdiagnosed, you can get compensation. The NHS paid out £194 million to 1,302 patients in 2014 and a tenth of all payouts was given after doctors misdiagnosed cancer.
There are three basic categories of claims:
⦁ Claims for total misdiagnosis – A total misdiagnosis is also known as a missed diagnosis and it occurs when a doctor doesn’t recognise the signs of a particular condition or illness. The patient isn’t diagnosed and cannot receive the treatment they should, what leads to the condition getting worse over time. When illness is finally diagnosed, the treatment will take longer and be more difficult and full recovery may not be possible.
⦁ Claims for wrongful diagnosis – There are two scenarios possible with a wrongful diagnosis. Sometimes, the doctor’s diagnosis is not correct and the patient receives treatment or surgery that was unnecessary. Common examples of this are people who get an organ removed as an effect of a wrongful diagnosis or patients who undergo chemotherapy they don’t need at all. In other cases, the patient is receiving treatment for a condition that does not exist, and their actual condition gets worse as a result. Then the patient requires more extensive treatment. Any medication or treatment provided to them unnecessarily may have consequences on their health. There is also a mental health risk to be considered as people are being told that they are seriously ill. That may affect their personal life and work performance.
⦁ Claims for delayed diagnosis – symptoms are overlooked and are diagnosed later when the patient’s condition is in an advanced stage and requires serious treatment. A delayed or late diagnosis results in a person suffering needlessly and it also lengthens the recovery time. If the condition is serious, late diagnosis may decrease the patient’s life expectancy.
How much can you claim and what is the average claim amount?
There is no fixed amount that is given to claimants in a particular wrongful diagnosis case. No two people are the same and they experience the same illness in a different way. Payouts usually start from £1,000 and go up to amounts like £200,000 but can be much bigger. How much money you can receive depends on a couple of factors:
⦁ The type of your condition
⦁ How severe your injury is
⦁ How much unnecessary pain and suffering you had been subjected to because of medical treatment that you didn’t need
⦁ If your recovery will take longer than it would if a diagnosis was right
⦁ How the outcome affected your quality of life
⦁ If your life expectancy has decreased as a result of misdiagnosis
An example of an estimate of damages that can be awarded in case of delay in diagnosis of bone cancer – £500,000, head injury along with severe brain damage – from £180,000 to £300,000, loss of one arm – £60,000 to £90,000.
Types of damages you can claim for
If you’re a victim of medical negligence, you are permitted to claim for general and special damages.
General damages compensate the victim for pain, disability and suffering that has occurred because of the misdiagnosis. Medical records and unbiased medical practitioner’s reports will be needed to prove that these have taken place.
Under special damages, you can be handed out compensation for all out of pocket expenses that you had to cover as a direct result of the misdiagnosis. This includes losses that occurred since negligence first affected you as well as future expenses that have to be estimated and calculated.
Special damages constitute of: doctor’s fees, the cost of any tests, treatment and medications, loss of earnings, both past and future, the cost of care you needed and expenses related to travel to and from the hospital or practice. You may also be able to claim for home care if you needed assistance in everyday life as well as any costly modifications to your house or vehicle.
Who should be the negligence claim filed against?
A medical misdiagnosis claim is usually filed against the hospital or GP practice that you first turned to with your problem.
If you have consulted and were medicated in a public hospital, you should file the claim against the NHS Trust.
If your examination and treatment took place in a private clinic or surgery, you have to file the claim against the particular GP in question or against their insurer.