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Diagnostic errors and medical malpractice

Health care diagnostic errors cause injuries and death every year in New Jersey. According to one study, diagnostic errors were the largest cause for medical malpractice claims between 2013 to 2017.

The study, which was published by malpractice services provider Coverys, found that over 33 percent of malpractice claims examined were related to misdiagnosis. Surgical or procedural errors ranked second at 24 percent and medical management errors were third at 14 percent.

Unlike other types of medical malpractice cases, diagnostic error claims have not declined over the years. Of the over 10,000 cases analyzed by researchers, over one-third resulted in the death of the patient.

The study also examined when doctors are most likely to make diagnostic errors. About one-third of cases involved errors in how doctors evaluated a patient, including obtaining family history. Just over half of the errors were related to lab testing, which included instances where the wrong test was administered or the doctor misinterpreted the test results.

About 14 percent of the cases studied were filed against radiologists. Radiologists examine X-rays and other images and create reports for physicians.

Researchers suggest that some diagnostic errors could be avoided with more collaborative approach. Doctors who are encouraged to admit they are unsure about a diagnosis may be more likely to seek additional information and feedback.

Someone who has suffered harm as a result of medical malpractice may benefit from consulting an attorney. It is not always immediately clear what caused an adverse medical event. However, an attorney could help families understand what happened by examining medical records and consulting expert witnesses. In a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must prove that the doctor's actions or inactions fell below the standard care expected of a physician.

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