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Can You Sue a Doctor for Misdiagnosis?

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Patients put their trust in doctors, who have a duty of care towards their patients.

Therefore, if a doctor misdiagnoses your illness or medical condition, and this leads to unnecessary suffering or pain, you can sue them for medical negligence.

In 2018-19, there were nearly 10.7 million medical negligence cases brought against NHS England.

What is Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence occurs if the care or treatment you experience falls below reasonable professional standards and, as a result, damages your health.

It can happen during general surgery, or it can be the cause of complications after surgery, but it can also apply to a delayed or incorrect diagnosis.

Misdiagnosis occurs when a medical professional fails to examine or investigate symptoms correctly. When an incorrect diagnosis follows, this may then lead to the wrong kind of treatment or treatment that comes too late.

If your doctor gets the diagnosis of your condition wrong or does not fully diagnose it, then this can have an impact on your health.

What Medical Conditions Can Involve Misdiagnosis?

Medical misdiagnosis can apply to a broad range of medical conditions, including:

  • Cancer
  • Appendicitis
  • Meningitis
  • Ectopic pregnancy.

But there can be many more conditions where misdiagnosis occurs.

It is often the case that medical conditions require doctors to act quickly if they are to prevent a serious threat to the patient’s health.

If you do not identify appendicitis in time, for example, then the appendix may rupture or burst, causing blood poisoning, abscesses or life-threatening infections.

With cancer, a misdiagnosis can come from misinterpreted results or misdiagnosed symptoms. As a result of misdiagnosis, you may end up undergoing unnecessary procedures. Or you may suffer a delay in diagnosis, which means you fail to receive suitable treatment when you should.

What are the Reasons for Making a Misdiagnosis Claim?

There are various reasons you can make a medical negligence claim for misdiagnosis, and these include:

  • Incorrect analysis of test results – a misinterpretation of an x-ray, biopsy or other tests can cause an incorrect diagnosis, and may then lead to you receiving the wrong treatment
  • Incorrect treatment – the wrong diagnosis can mean you receive the wrong treatment, which could then have an impact on your health and your future recovery
  • Delay in treatment – your health can get worse if there is a delay in treating your condition
  • Delayed diagnosis – if it takes too long for the doctor to make the correct diagnosis in the first place this can have serious health implications and is particularly applicable to cancer treatments
  • Errors in medication – if you receive the wrong medication or the wrong advice on the amount to take, this can damage your health.

How do You Prove Medical Negligence?

Any medical negligence claim for misdiagnosis will depend on you providing the necessary proof.

There are two important aspects to this:

  • You must prove the doctor has broken their duty of care to you, and
  • You must prove that the injuries you have received from this would not have occurred otherwise.

These injuries can be physical or mental.

Without proof of negligence, you cannot make your claim. A key element in proving negligence is causation.

Essentially, you must show that the balance of probabilities indicates a breach in duty of care is the reason for your injury.

Medical negligence claims can be complex, especially if they involve multiple factors, such as various potential causes of an injury. This is a major reason why reliable, professional legal advice is essential in making a misdiagnosis claim.

How Much Can You Claim and How Long Does it Take?

Just as medical conditions vary in their nature and severity, so outcomes for misdiagnosis claims can vary considerably.

The amount of compensation you can expect to receive for a successful claim will depend on the extent of your injury and losses and any costs towards your recovery or further treatment.

Your compensation can include costs to cover long-term adaptations you need to make to your living arrangements, for example.

Your solicitor will be able to advise you on the potential compensation you can claim for.

Because these cases can be complex, they can also take time to resolve, but cases that are not settled out of court can typically take three to four years.

But what matters is that you get the compensation you should receive for the misdiagnosis that has caused you injury or suffering.

For more information about our medical and clinical negligence services, please call the team at Wilson Browne on 0808 278 0018, or complete our online contact form, and we will be in touch as soon as possible.

Louise Tyler


Louise Tyler


Louise is the Head of the Medical Negligence Team working in this area of law for 25 years. She is a member of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel, the AvMA (Action for Victims of Medical Accidents) Panel and been appointed to the Executive Committee…