Military Medical Misdiagnosis Lawyer DC | VA | MD
With all of the sacrifices our country asks of our armed forces, they deserve the best possible medical care and to be treated for illnesses or injuries as quickly as possible. Sadly, our country is falling significantly short of this goal. If you or someone in your family serves or has served in the military and has suffered a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis at a military hospital, you should seek legal representation as soon as possible.
When you or a family member use the military hospital and VA hospitals as your primary care, a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis can prevent you from getting the medical care you need in a timely fashion. This is an example of military medical malpractice, and you may be eligible for compensation. To learn more, call the medical malpractice attorneys at Bertram Law Group today or visit our contact page for a free consultation.
Most Common Types of Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis in the Military
Misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses have been an issue at military medical facilities for quite some time now. In 2014, the New York Times published the results of an investigation into military hospitals and found a consistent pattern of delayed or incorrect diagnoses among providers.
Among other shocking findings, the Times discovered that military medical providers reported 239 unexpected deaths, but only 100 cases were reported to the Defense Department’s patient safety center for further analysis and investigation.
The investigation backs up other reports from sources and internal watchdogs, including a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Military officials want to change the services they provide at 43 military treatment facilities and close an additional five facilities. However, the GAO report said that military officials had not gathered enough data to show that the civilian healthcare system can absorb the patients who were previously being seen at the military facilities. This is yet another example of the military failing to look after its own.
Data from the New York Times, the GAO report, and other sources provide some insight into the scope of the issues facing the military healthcare system.
Some of the most common types of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis among military healthcare providers include:
- Misdiagnosis due to not reviewing a patient’s chart fully before sending them home – Rushed doctors, nurses, and other staff members who don’t take the time to read a patient’s chart all the way through may miss crucial information that could lead to a more thorough and more accurate diagnosis.
- Missed pregnancy complications – Pregnant women need regular, careful monitoring to make sure their pregnancy is progressing as it should. Failure to do can lead to premature births, low birth weight, increased birth injuries, emergency C-sections, and other issues.
- Heart attacks and strokes misdiagnosed as other illnesses – If medical providers don’t take the time to run the right diagnostic tests in the right way, diagnostic errors can easily occur. A heart attack can be mistaken for heartburn, while a stroke might be misdiagnosed as migraine, for example. These types of misdiagnoses are particularly dangerous because it means delays in getting patients the life-saving drugs they need to break up blood clots.
- Delayed cancer diagnosis – Patients suffering from cancer may be misdiagnosed with another illness, leading to costly treatment delays that can prove fatal by giving the disease time to progress. In some cases, a patient may be misdiagnosed with cancer when they don’t actually have it, forcing them to undergo unnecessary treatments that are painful and costly.
- Infections – There are many types of infections that are misdiagnosed as other conditions. Failure to properly diagnose these infections often leads to more severe symptoms for patients.
What Is the Law on Medical Malpractice Suits Against the Military?
One piece of good news when it comes to military medical malpractice is that it’s getting easier to claim compensation for your injuries.
For many years, the only way to pursue a medical malpractice claim against the federal government was under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Even for individuals who are eligible for an FTCA claim, navigating the claims process can be a taxing and time-consuming process. However, active-duty military members have generally not been able to claim damages under the FTCA, due to judicial precedent.
When Congress passed the FTCA in 1946, they waived sovereign immunity for most negligence-based claims against the United States government. But in the 1950 case of Feres v. the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that active-duty military personnel could not sue the federal government for any injuries arising from “activity incident to service.” The Feres doctrine, as this decision came to be known, effectively prevented active-duty military personnel from filing any negligence claims against the federal government.
This was the state of things until very recently. In December 2019, Congress added a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act that allows active-duty military members to sue the government for medical malpractice. Furthermore, Congress has allocated $400 million over 10 years to pay malpractice claims.
There is currently no cap on the amount of damages someone can receive. If a member of the military died from malpractice, their families are also able to file for wrongful death compensation, if they wish.
What to Do If You Believe You Were Misdiagnosed
Being misdiagnosed is a serious error that can lead to worsening symptoms for your existing illness and other complications. If you think you’ve been misdiagnosed by a military medical provider, it’s important to act quickly to get proper medical care and preserve your right to pursue compensation.
Here’s what you do:
- Follow your doctor’s orders unless doing so makes you feel worse or you don’t notice any improvement. Once you’ve seen that the treatment is making you worse or you don’t feel like it’s working, you do not have to keep going.
- Get a second opinion. If you believe you’ve been misdiagnosed, it’s essential to get another opinion so you can get the correct treatment.
- Gather as much evidence as you can. Get any medical records you can from any doctor or facility that treated your illness. You’ll need to show how the initial doctor’s diagnosis process was flawed if you want to obtain any compensation.
- Hire an attorney. Medical malpractice cases are not easy to win, and misdiagnosis claims are especially tricky. If you want your best chance of collecting compensation for your injuries, you’ll want help from an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
What to Do If Your Military Doctor Delayed Treatment
It’s important to act quickly if you’ve had treatment delayed for a serious illness. Treatment delays can have a significant impact on your overall health outcome, and they can be fatal.
Here’s what you should do if you’ve had your treatment delayed:
- Start treatment immediately. Your health may have already been compromised by the delays you’ve experienced. Don’t delay any further. Find another doctor and begin appropriate treatment as soon as possible.
- Collect evidence. In addition to any medical records you can obtain, any information you have saved about when your symptoms started will be a big help. This could include notes to yourself in your journal or day planner, written correspondence with friends, earlier visits to healthcare providers, and so on.
- Hire an attorney. As with misdiagnosis claims, delayed diagnosis malpractice claims are an uphill legal battle. A lawyer experienced with these types of cases can help you secure the evidence you need to substantiate your claim and fight for the compensation that accounts for the full value of your losses.
What Do You Have to Prove in a Military Medical Malpractice Case?
There are four elements to proving a medical malpractice case, including military medical malpractice claims.
Those elements are:
- The doctor owed you a duty of care. If there is an established doctor-patient relationship, doctors are required to act in a competent fashion to exercise due care in treating patients.
- The doctor breached that duty. In medical malpractice claims, it’s not enough to show that the doctor misdiagnosed you or that the diagnosis was delayed. You must also show that another doctor with similar training and experience would have correctly diagnosed you. This is called the “medical standard of care.”
- The doctor’s actions caused your injuries. If the doctor’s actions did not cause your injuries, you cannot claim compensation for malpractice.
- You were harmed by the doctor’s actions. There has to have been harm done to you for you to claim any compensation for malpractice.
While doctors are commonly responsible for diagnostic errors, they’re not the only ones who make mistakes. Nurses, lab technicians, and others also make negligent medical mistakes, and you may be able to pursue claims against them, as well.
Contact an Experienced Military Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today
Our Washington, DC medical malpractice law firm, Bertram Law Group, PLLC, has extensive experience handling medical malpractice claims, including claims brought by military families. We’ve spent 25 years helping families with medical malpractice claims, and we have a proven record of success.
We know how a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can impact your health, and we want to help you seek the compensation you deserve. Call us today or visit our contact page for a free claim review and discussion about your rights and options.