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Two reports show how misdiagnosis factors in malpractice claims

Two reports, one which appeared in the journal Diagnosis and the other released from the malpractice insurer Coverys, show how prominent diagnostic errors are among malpractice claims. The first study looked at nearly 11,600 diagnosis-related malpractice claims filed between 2006 and 2015. These led to nearly 21% of the malpractice claims that were filed in Pennsylvania and elsewhere around the country during that period.

The study found that three particular conditions are most often the object of a diagnostic error. They are vascular events, infection and cancer, especially lung cancer, stroke and sepsis. Together, the "Big Three," as researchers labeled them, were behind 74.1% of all diagnosis-related claims. In 65% of all diagnosis-related claims, the patient either died or suffered permanent disability.

Some conditions are missed in one department more than in another. For instance, vascular events are more frequently misdiagnosed in inpatient hospital settings and emergency departments. The Coverys study, which focused on diagnostic errors in EDs, revealed that more than 50% of all inpatient hospital admissions originate in the ED.

Since doctors in EDs must work at a fast pace while under tremendous pressure, it is natural that errors will be made. They can be prevented, though, if doctors focus on getting an accurate patient history and performing a thorough physical examination.

When a diagnostic error provides the basis for a case under medical malpractice law, the first thing victims might want to do is have a lawyer evaluate the case. Malpractice claims end in some of the highest settlements in the personal injury field, so victims will likely face a lot of opposition. With an attorney's assistance, they may receive a reasonable settlement that covers their medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other economic and noneconomic damages. If negotiations fail, a lawyer may litigate.

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