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The results of two recent studies suggest that between a third and a half of all medical malpractice claims in West Virginia and around the country are filed because of a misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose. The research also reveals that inadequate medical assessments are often the reason doctors fail to identify potentially life-threatening medical conditions.

After reviewing 1,800 claims filed against physicians, the medical malpractice insurer Coverys found that 46 percent were connected to the initial diagnosis. The study also revealed that almost half of the patients who were misdiagnosed died. The Doctors Company, which is another malpractice insurer, also looked into this issue. The company studied 1,215 claims resolved between 2008 and 2017 involving pediatric patients, and they found that a misdiagnosis was involved in 38 percent of them. A 2017 University of Michigan study also revealed widespread diagnostic errors and revealed that misdiagnosed patients are far more likely to die or become disabled.

In 2015, the National Academy of Medicine concluded that this kind of mistake could be the third most common cause of death for hospital patients. The researchers behind the recent studies say that diagnostic errors are most often made by doctors who do not perform thorough examinations, fail to ask questions about family histories or are reluctant to order necessary tests.

To prevail in a medical malpractice lawsuit, plaintiffs must establish that the care they received failed to meet acceptable medical standards. However, this can be difficult to do because medical professionals are rarely eager to point out the failings of their peers. Personal injury attorneys with experience in this area may address this problem by approaching former doctors, surgeons, specialists and hospital administrators who may be more willing to speak candidly on the record. Attorneys might also cite research like these studies to reveal to juries how often these mistakes are made.

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