You put your life in the hands of your doctors, but sometimes these medical professionals betray your trust by failing to diagnose a disease. In the case of a life-threatening condition, like cancer, meningitis, or respiratory disease, this can lead to complications, injury, or even death.

Types of Failed Diagnosis

Lack of diagnosis

The doctor dismisses the symptoms as minor, causing the patient to receive no treatment.


The doctor believes the symptoms indicate a similar condition, therefore prescribing the wrong treatment.

Delayed diagnosis

A delay leads the disease to progress, which would have been prevented with a timely diagnosis.

In all these cases, it is a failed diagnosis if a shrewder doctor would have diagnosed the condition. For instance, a different doctor may have ordered additional tests, noticed a warning sign in your medical history, or taken a symptom more seriously.

When Is It Malpractice?

For a case to be malpractice, it needs to fulfill certain criteria. First, you need to be able to prove that your doctor breached the legal duty of care. This means demonstrating a doctor–patient relationship and showing that the physician was competent in a relevant field of medicine but nonetheless made a mistake in your diagnosis.

Next, you need to prove that the failed diagnosis led to significant problems. These could be high medical expenses, inability to work, extreme pain, or progression to a more serious medical condition.

Finally, you need to show you made the best effort to explain to your doctor what you were suffering. This includes telling your doctor about all your symptoms, medical history, and personal habits. Potential risk factors are key here — for instance, a family history of related diseases.

What Can You Do?

If you or a loved one have suffered from a failed diagnosis due to medical malpractice, you have the right to hold the doctor accountable. However, these cases are difficult to win without the right attorney. Choose a lawyer with experience in medical malpractice to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.