Failure to Diagnose

Failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, and misdiagnosis are 3 common forms of medical malpractice. Failure to diagnose occurs when a physician fails to diagnose a patient’s condition. Misdiagnosis results from a doctor making an incorrect diagnosis. Lastly, a delayed diagnosis takes place when a medical professional significantly delays a correct diagnosis.

Common Conditions Doctors Fail to Diagnose

Medical conditions are often manageable if a doctor appropriately diagnoses the condition and treats the symptoms. However, sometimes a physician can fail to make a diagnosis or delay a diagnosis, which may be considered a form of medical malpractice called failure to diagnose.

An estimated 126,000 Americans die every year as a result of doctors incorrectly diagnosing common medical conditions.

Below are some of the more common medical conditions that are often misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed.


Early diagnosis is essential to a higher rate of recovery in most forms of cancer. A failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of cancer in patients usually means more invasive and painful treatments and lower chances of recovery. Delaying a cancer diagnosis can also cause severe injury, unnecessary pain and suffering, and death.

Breast cancer in particular is a problem area in failure to diagnose medical malpractice. Breast cancer can be successfully treated if diagnosed in its early stages. However, a failure to diagnose, a delay in diagnosis, or a misdiagnosis allows the cancer to progress to late stages. Breast cancers in advanced stages can lead to painful treatment, the loss of one or both breasts, and death.

The top reasons why medical professionals fail to diagnose breast cancer include:

  • Doctors rely too heavily on negative mammogram results, even if the patient felt a lump.
  • Doctors place too much emphasis on age as a predicting factor for breast cancer.
  • Doctors may not take women seriously when they complain of symptoms.

Many types of cancer are detectable in early stages by routine screening tests.

If you or a loved one have cancer that was undiagnosed or the diagnosis was delayed, note if your physician failed to:

  • Discuss and order routine cancer screening tests
  • Correctly interpret the diagnostic test results
  • Order the appropriate diagnostic test, such as a biopsy

If a physician ignored your claims and/or failed to diagnose your cancer, it may be considered medical malpractice. Get a free legal review to see if you may have a case.


An aneurysm is the formation of a bulge in the weakest portion of a blood vessel. An aneurysm can form in any blood vessel, but they are the most dangerous in arteries in the chest and the brain.

A doctor’s failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, or delay in diagnosing an aneurysm can cause the vessel to burst, which can lead to internal bleeding, blood clots, or stroke.

An aneurysm in the aorta — the largest artery in the body — is called an “aortic aneurysm.” During an aortic aneurysm, a tear forms in the inner lining of the aorta, causing blood to flow to the middle lining of the aorta. A tear that allows blood to penetrate the outer wall of the aorta typically leads to death.

Aortic aneurysms can be extremely dangerous if there is a delayed diagnosis, a misdiagnosed, or if they go undiagnosed.

Symptoms of an aortic aneurysm include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Pain or tearing sensation in the upper back
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe chest pain

A brain aneurysm may also be treatable if diagnosed correctly and in a timely manner. The failure to diagnose or the misdiagnosis of a brain aneurysm can lead to paralysis, brain damage, coma, or death.

Symptoms of an unruptured brain aneurysm include:

  • Severe headache
  • Cranial nerve palsy
  • Pain above and or behind the eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Double vision

Symptoms of a ruptured brain aneurysm include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Stiff neck
  • Headache
  • Loss of sensation
  • Light sensitivity

Heart Attack

A heart attack is the result of a blockage in one or more arteries. The blockage can be either partial or complete, slowing or stopping blood flow to the heart and depriving the body of oxygen.

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Pressure, discomfort, or tightness in the chest, abdomen, neck, back, jaw, or arms
  • Pain and discomfort that originates in one area and spreads to a different area
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or abdominal pain
  • Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
  • Fatigue

During a heart attack, blood flow must be restored quickly to avoid damage. Not all patients experience chest pain when having a heart attack, which can sometimes lead to a misdiagnosis. Heart attacks, especially those where the pain is located in the abdomen, can be misdiagnosed as heartburn or indigestion.

A failure to diagnose, a misdiagnosis, or a delayed diagnosis of a heart attack can lead to death.

If you or a loved one experienced a heart attack, ask yourself the following questions about your medical professionals:

  • Did they perform an EKG to evaluate heart rhythm?
  • Did they conduct blood tests to measure the cardiac enzyme levels in the blood?
  • Did they give clot-dissolving drugs?

When a medical professional fails to do any of the above, it may be considered medical malpractice.

Sokolove Law has over 40 years of experience handling medical malpractice cases. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.


Strokes kill 137,000 Americans each year, making them a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. A stroke occurs when the supply of blood to the brain is interrupted due to a blocked or burst blood vessel. Deprived of oxygen and nutrients, brain cells begin to die rapidly.

There are different types of strokes, but the most common are ischemic, hemorrhagic, and transient ischemic attack (TIA). Ischemic strokes occur when a clot blocks blood flow to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes result from a ruptured blood vessel in the brain and causes blood to spill in the brain. TIA, also known as a “mini stroke,” can resolve by itself, but it can also be a precursor to more serious strokes.

Symptoms of a stroke include:

  • Confusion
  • Slurring words, difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Blindness, haziness, or double-vision in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness or loss of coordination
  • Loss of balance or difficulty walking
  • Paralysis of the face, arm, or leg
  • Sudden headache

Both a timely diagnosis and prompt treatment are crucial, and can limit the damage caused by a stroke, ultimately increasing the likelihood of recovery.

However, a failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, or delay in diagnosing can lead to avoidable life-long injuries like paralysis, loss of motor functions, seizures, or even death.

Note the following about your medical provider:

  • Did they perform a thorough neurologic exam?
  • Did they perform a CT scan of the brain?
  • Did they perform an ultrasound of the arteries?

When a patient experiences a stroke, it’s important that their medical team uses imaging tests to better visualize the brain and arteries. If a doctor or medical professional fails to take imaging tests, it could be a sign of medical malpractice.

Blood Clot

A blood clot, also known as “thrombosis,” is a clump that forms and lodges in the blood vessels. One of the more serious types of blood clots is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), when a clot forms in the deep veins, typically in the legs.

Symptoms of DVT include:

  • Swelling of the affected leg
  • Pain, cramping, or soreness in the affected leg
  • Red or discolored skin on the leg
  • Warmness in the affected leg

In some cases, blood clots can occur with no symptoms or present symptoms similar to other
conditions such as a stroke, heart attack, or pneumonia, especially when a blood clot leads to pulmonary embolism or blockage of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs.

A failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis of a blood clot can make the condition worse. Any delay in diagnosing blood clots can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or death.

Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism is a result of a clump, usually a blood clot, traveling from another vessel in the body and lodging in the pulmonary arteries in the lungs. Other materials like fat or air bubbles can also cause a pulmonary embolism.

During a pulmonary embolism, blood flow to the lungs is disrupted and lung tissues begin to die, preventing the lungs from oxygenating the body.

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:

  • Fainting
  • Sharp stabbing chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Leg pain or swelling of the calf
  • Fever
  • Discolored skin
  • Dry cough that generates bloody sputum
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Irregular and rapid heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating

Approximately 33% of undiagnosed or untreated patients die from pulmonary embolism. A physician’s failure to diagnose, misdiagnose, or delay the diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening.

If you believe doctors or hospitals misdiagnosed, failed to, or delayed your or a loved one’s diagnosis, please contact us.


Hospitals are required to follow protocols in order to avoid the spread of infections. However, the smallest error by a medical professional can lead to hospital-acquired infections (HAI). Patients recovering from surgery or awaiting treatment have compromised immune systems and are especially prone to infections.

In fact, 1 out of 10 people admitted to a hospital will get HAIs, which are linked to high patient morbidity and death.

HAIs originate inside the hospital and are caused by bacteria, fungus, and viruses. Failing to properly perform hand hygiene to remove contaminants from unsterile surfaces or from contact with other patients is the leading cause of HAIs and the spread of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs).

Some common types of HAIs include:

  • Gastrointestinal conditions
  • Surgical site infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Clostridium difficile or C. diff infections
  • Sepsis or bloodstream infections
  • Urinary tract infections from the use of catheters

Not all infections inside a hospital are spread by unsterile conditions. Some infections may be the result of irresponsible medical treatment.

Medication errors such as the misuse or overuse of medicine can lead to drug-resistant superbugs or ESKAPE, which consist of pathogens that can cause a variety of infections. The longer the infection goes untreated, the greater the risk to the patient.

Left undiagnosed, an infection can lead to sepsis, which can damage the organs or cause them to fail. If ignored or untreated, the body can go into septic shock, and a patient can die from a dramatic drop in blood pressure.

What to Do If You Have Been Misdiagnosed

Unfortunately, failure to diagnose medical malpractice occurs far too often in the United States. As a result, conditions can be made worse, symptoms can go untreated, and avoidable deaths can happen.

If you think a doctor failed to diagnose, misdiagnosed, or delayed a diagnosis of your condition, it’s important to determine if you have a viable case.

Take the first step to advocate for yourself or your loved one’s legal rights by beginning the legal process with Sokolove Law today. Start your free consultation now.

How Do You Prove Failure to Diagnose or Misdiagnosis?

In order to prove the wrong diagnosis or misdiagnosis, the legal team must prove:

  • There was a doctor-patient relationship
  • There was negligence, and the doctor failed to provide appropriate and/or adequate treatment
  • The patient was injured because of the doctor’s negligence

A failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis alone may not prove malpractice. In order to prove malpractice, the patient’s lawyer has to show that another doctor in a similar medical field and under similar conditions would have correctly diagnosed the illness.

They must also prove that a doctor’s failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, or delayed diagnosis caused injury or worsened the patient’s condition to the point that it had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.

Sokolove Law has decades of experience handling medical malpractice lawsuits and has helped thousands of clients prove their stories and receive financial compensation.

Start your free legal review now to determine if you may have a medical malpractice case.

How Does a Failure to Diagnose Malpractice Lawsuit Work?

A patient whose illness or condition was undiagnosed or misdiagnosed can file a failure to diagnose medical malpractice lawsuit with the assistance of a medical malpractice law firm.

After the suit is filed, lawsuits undergo the following steps:

  • Discovery: In this phase, both the injured party (plaintiff) and the defendant(s) request and gather information and evidence related to the case.
  • Expert Witnesses: In this phase, impartial expert medical witnesses may be called to testify. These experts can testify for both sides and help both parties determine the standard of medical care and whether that standard of care was breached.
  • Settlement: Not all failure to diagnose malpractice lawsuits end in a verdict or settlement, but many do. If the evidence — including expert testimony — proves a breach of medical care, then defendants usually try to settle the lawsuit out-of-court, where the defendant and plaintiff attorneys negotiate a sum to be paid to the victim.

Although most failure to diagnose lawsuits are settled before going to court, some cases do proceed to trial. When this occurs, a judge and jury will listen to the case and decide liability based on the information presented to them.

Failure to Diagnose Settlements

Failure to diagnose malpractice lawsuits demand a great deal of time, money, and resources. For this reason, about 93% of all medical malpractice cases are settled outside of the court. During a settlement, the victim and their legal team receive compensation from the medical professional, physician, and/or hospital.

Settlement amounts vary in every case because of their own, unique circumstances, such as:

  • Extent of the injury
  • Cost of ongoing or future medical treatment
  • Severity of negligence
  • Victim’s ability to work
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • State medical malpractice damage caps

According to Medscape, victims of failure to diagnose malpractice lawsuits receive an average settlement of approximately $425,000. The amount is a national average, and settlement amounts vary based on individual circumstances, such as the state where the malpractice took place.

It’s also important to note that many states limit the amount a victim of failure to diagnose malpractice lawsuit can receive from damages, which can include calculable losses, such as medical expenses or lost wages, and/or non-economic damages for losses you cannot measure, such as pain and suffering.

Finding a Failure to Diagnose Lawyer

No one expects their doctors to take liberties with their health. When patients see doctors for new or worrying symptoms, it’s assumed that the doctor will take them seriously and take all precautions necessary to correctly diagnose and treat whatever condition arises.

Unfortunately, failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, and delayed diagnosis happen all too often in the American health care system. Afterward, it’s only natural for victims to feel worried, upset, and overwhelmed. Sokolove Law has been helping victims of failure to diagnose malpractice for more than 40 years.

While our law firm has deep roots in the New England area — starting in Massachusetts in 1979 and later expanding into New Hampshire and Rhode Island — today, we’re a national law firm proudly serving clients in all 50 states.

Our knowledgeable and experienced team of medical malpractice attorneys may be able to help you determine if you were a victim of failure to diagnose malpractice, and whether you may be eligible for significant compensation.

To learn more, reach out today.

Failure to Diagnose Medical Malpractice FAQ 

Is failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis malpractice?

Yes, failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis is a form of malpractice. This common form of medical malpractice occurs when a doctor fails to take the proper steps to promptly and correctly diagnose a medical condition.

Can you sue a doctor for failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis?

Yes, you may be able to sue a doctor if a medical condition, injury, or illness worsened after their failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis. In the lawsuit, the victim’s legal team must demonstrate that another similarly trained doctor would have correctly diagnosed the health issue.

Is there a statute of limitations for failure to diagnose malpractice lawsuits?

Yes, just as with any personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, there is a statute of limitations for failure to diagnose malpractice. After a failed diagnosis takes place, the time to file a lawsuit varies from one state to another, but very rarely does the time limit exceed a period of 3 years.

Start your free legal review now to see what your legal options may be.

Do you have to pay for a misdiagnosis lawsuit?

Misdiagnosis malpractice attorneys commonly take on new lawsuits on what’s known as a “contingency-fee” basis. Simply put, this means a victim pays nothing upfront and does not pay for anything out-of-pocket.

A victim’s legal team will be apportioned a certain percentage of the total settlement amount, only if a lawsuit is successful in securing compensation. If a misdiagnosis lawsuit does not succeed in securing compensation for the victim’s injuries, the victim’s lawyer(s) will not be paid an attorney’s fee.

Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: September 20, 2021

View 17 Sources
  1. Expert Institute. “Medical Malpractice Payout Reports for 2018.” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.
  2. LeverageRx. “2019 Medical Malpractice Payout Report.” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.
  3. Mayo Clinic. “Blood Clots.” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.
  4. Mayo Clinic. “Deep Vein Thrombosis.” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.
  5. Mayo Clinic. “Heart Attack.” Retrieved from on Feb. 22, 2021.
  6. Mayo Clinic. “Pulmonary Embolism.” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.
  7. Mayo Clinic. “Stroke.” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.
  8. Medicine LibreTexts. "1.3: Hand Hygiene and Non-Sterile Gloves." Retrieved from Accessed on March 2, 2021.
  9. Medscape. “Should You Settle or Go to Trial?” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 20, 2021.
  10. Mulani S.M., Kamble E.E., Kumkar N.S., Tawre S.M., & Karishma R.P., “Emerging Strategies to Combat ESKAPE Pathogens in the Era of Antimicrobial Resistance: A Review.” Retreived from,Pseudomonas%20aeruginosa%2C%20and%20Enterobacter%20spp.&text=Carbapenem%20resistant%20A.,baumannii%20and%20P. Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.
  11. National Cancer Institute. “Breast Cancer Treatment.” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.
  12. National Institute of Health. “How Many People Are Affected By/At Risk For Stroke.” Retrieved from,about%2087%25%20of%20all%20strokes. Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.
  13. Stubblefield, Heaven. “What Are Nonsocomial Infections.” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.
  14. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Heart Disease In The United States.” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.
  15. U.S. Department of Justice. “Medical Malpractice Insurance Claims in Seven States.” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 20, 2021.
  16. WebMD. “What Is An Aneurysm?” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.
  17. World Thrombosis Day. “Open Your Eyes To Pulmonary Embolism.” Retrieved from Accessed on Feb. 22, 2021.