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Communication Issues with Diagnostic Testing Leading to New Lawsuits

Contrary to the public perception of the law as an unchanging, unmoving list of rules and regulations, the law is very much alive and changing. Blog readers know that “the law” actually includes a variety of things, including statutes passed by legislatures, rules crafted by administrative agency, and the “common law” developed over the centuries by the judiciary. None of those components is forever static. Law and regulations can be changed yearly, and the common law, though usually altered less dramatically, is just as capable of developing and adapting to changing times.

These legal changes are present in all legal arenas, including in the context of Illinois medical malpractice law. Legal experts and analysis builds and spreads throughout the country, and leads to trends that develop over the short term. Changes in medical procedure and unique legal analysis often opens up new arguments for liability (or fewer options) when one is hurt potentially by the negligence of another.

One of the latest trends that have recently been recognized by medical malpractice lawyers (and their clients) involves communication problems with diagnostic tests. In the past lawsuits filed over communication problems involving these diagnostic tests was rare, by there has recently been a sharp rise in these legal actions. Changes in medical conduct as well as mere increase in awareness of the problem have both led to the rise in suits. The American Medical Association News reported on the trend last week. The story noted that payouts for test breakdowns rose by $70 million over the last twenty years. That data, as we have already reported, was first noted in a study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

The problem is essentially rooted in communication breakdowns where there is a failure to timely communicate diagnostic test results to patients and fellow physicians. The research utilized data from the National Practitioner’s Data Bank and the Controlled Risk Insurance Co./Risk Management Foundation. In the last few years, these diagnostic communication failures have accounted for 4% of all medical malpractice lawsuits and 7% of payouts. As one of the study’s author summarized, “Any combination of things can go wrong, especially since doctors are so mobile these days. They’re running all over. They’re forced to see more patients. It’s hard to access the information wherever they are, when they need it.”

The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at our firm understand the harm that can come to patients when these mistakes are made. As with virtually all other instances of medical malpractice, the medical professionals involved never intentionally attempt to act in way that places a patient in harm’s way. However, either inadequate hospital procedures or one-time lapses in judgment are involved that can have significant consequences for those involved. When that occurs, the law provides an avenue by which the victim can seek redress from those whose negligence caused them harm. If you or a loved one finds themselves in that situation, please give our office a call, share your story, and see how we can help.

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