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Improper Differential Diagnosis

Syracuse Lawyers for Medical Malpractice Victims

When you go to see a doctor with a set of symptoms, you trust that the doctor will use appropriate procedures to diagnose you. Your treatment depends upon the doctor’s diligence and care. Unfortunately, doctors do fail to make correct diagnoses. In some cases, the error may be unavoidable. In other cases, it’s because the doctor failed to abide by the proper standard of care with regard to differential diagnoses. If you are concerned that you were injured or a loved one died because of an improper differential diagnosis, you should talk to an experienced Syracuse medical malpractice attorney at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano.

What is a Differential Diagnosis?

Doctors must follow professional standards of care when diagnosing patients. Where a doctor deviates from the professional standard of care, she may be held responsible. When evaluating your symptoms, your doctor will need to review your symptoms, the outcome of a physical exam and your medical history. You may be asked questions about what your symptoms are, whether you have a family history of symptoms, tobacco or alcohol use, major stressors or events, and how long you’ve been experiencing symptoms.

Often doctors use a differential diagnosis process to arrive at a diagnosis. A differential diagnosis is a list of the most likely medical conditions that could cause your symptoms based on the information the doctor received about you. In order to winnow down the diagnoses, your doctor may need to conduct further tests.

Improper Differential Diagnosis

In order to establish medical malpractice, you’ll need to show it’s more likely than not: (1) your healthcare provider owed you a professional standard of care, (2) the provider breached the professional standard of care, (3) the breach caused harm and (4) damages. All healthcare providers should abide by the professional standard of care when diagnosing and treating a patient. Deviations from the professional standard of care can occur at various points in the differential diagnosis process. An improper differential diagnosis may occur because a doctor didn’t list a potential diagnosis at all. It can also occur because a doctor listed a potential diagnosis but didn’t perform certain necessary tests or misinterpreted test results. Importantly, the professional standard of care in New York depends on both the geographic region and specialty of the defendant. Generally, your lawyer will need to retain an expert to provide an opinion about what the professional standard of care was, how it was breached, and causation.

Misdiagnosis or a delay or failure to diagnose as a result of an improper differential diagnosis can cause serious harm. Often, a timely, proper diagnosis is needed to mitigate or stave off an exacerbation of symptoms or disease progression. An improper differential diagnosis can even be life-threatening or fatal.


If you can establish liability, you may be able to recover damages. Damages can include both economic and noneconomic losses. Economic losses can include medical bills, lost income, and replacement services. For example, if you were subject to an improper differential diagnosis and your Stage 1 breast cancer was not caught and therefore progressed to stage 4, you will likely require more invasive and serious treatment as a result. It may be possible to recover the costs of that treatment through a successful lawsuit. Noneconomic losses can include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, loss of consortium, and emotional distress. If a loved one died as a result of an improper differential diagnosis, it may be possible to recover wrongful death damages; in New York, these are limited to pecuniary losses.

Consult a Seasoned Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Syracuse

If you are concerned about an improper differential diagnosis that caused you harm, you should talk to an experienced trial attorney as soon as possible. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, we represent patients and their families in Syracuse, Rochester, and other places in Upstate New York, including in Auburn, Canandaigua, Lyons, Oswego, Watertown, Elmira, Herkimer, Ithaca, Lowville, Utica, Wampsville, Binghamton, Oneida, and Cooperstown. Please contact DeFrancisco & Falgiatano at 833-200-2000 or by completing our online form.

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