What Is Failure to Diagnose?

Failure to diagnose occurs when a doctor is negligent or fails to take the steps necessary to determine the nature of your illness, which then causes you harm. This is because failure to diagnose can lead to incorrect or delayed treatment being administered, or even no treatment being administered at all.


There are various types of medical diagnostic errors, of which failure to diagnose is one. Other types of diagnostic errors include:

  • Wrong diagnosis
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Failure to recognize complications
  • Failure to diagnose an unrelated disease
  • Failure to monitor and detect infection
  • Failure to conduct a proper physical exam and review medical history
  • Failure to order proper screenings and tests

Any of these medical diagnostic errors have the potential to injure, disable, or even cause death.

Causes of Failure to Diagnose

Common reasons for failure to diagnose include:

  • Limited access to high-quality primary care
  • Poor availability of healthcare professionals and specialists
  • Poor teamwork
  • Limited availability of diagnostic tests
  • Poor communication
  • Poor care coordination
  • Limited follow-up appointments
  • Unaffordable care
  • Poor/limited training of healthcare providers
  • Limited availability of health informatics resources
  • Human factors and cognitive issues

Statistically, the incidence of failure to diagnose is higher in emergency settings. This is due to the increased time pressure that doctors are under, which results in them having less time to investigate each patient adequately and draw up an accurate differential diagnosis.

Legal Matters

Because of the nature of human error, the law doesn’t hold doctors as legally responsible for all diagnostic errors. So, for you to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit, you need to prove that a failure to diagnose occurred. This is done by you proving that:

  1. A doctor-patient relationship existed between you and your doctor
  2. Had your doctor diagnosed you properly, then you would not have suffered your current injury
  3. Your doctor acted negligently by you proving that a different, more reasonable doctor, would have correctly diagnosed your medical problem based on your symptoms and treated you accordingly

It is important that you consult a medical malpractice lawyer when pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit such as this, as there are many difficulties associated with failure to diagnose cases.

This is because proving a doctor’s failure to diagnose can be very difficult for a multitude of reasons. Some of these reasons include the fact that:

  • The medical problem you had when you consulted with the doctor was likely to cause you harm even if it had been promptly diagnosed and treated
  • You may have approached the wrong specialist
  • You may have withheld important information or given misleading information to your doctor which may have aided or hindered their ability to correctly diagnose the problem
  • If your doctor’s mistake was one that any reasonable doctor would have made, then they are not considered to have acted negligently


If you believe that you or a family member may have experienced failure to diagnose, please contact the medical malpractice lawyers of Rosenburg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff LLP in NYC today and speak to one of our medical malpractice attorneys.

When you are ready to talk, we are ready to listen. Call 212-344-1000 for a free, confidential consultation.


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