delayed treatment medical malpractice

Decisions regarding medical treatment are a complex area of both medicine and law.

Healthcare professionals and patients must weigh the risks and benefits of delaying treatment.

However, although both parties have decision-making authority, the inherent disparity in medical knowledge requires medical professionals to evaluate the risks comprehensively.

In some instances, a physician or other healthcare provider may be liable under New Jersey’s medical malpractice statute for a delay in treatment.

Treatment Delay vs. Delayed Treatment

From a patient standpoint, treatment delay refers to the time that elapses between the time a person first recognizes a potential health concern or symptom to when they receive treatment for the condition by a health care provider.

Treatment delay can increase the risk of morbidity and mortality. From a medical malpractice standpoint, delayed treatment refers to instances when a healthcare professional fails to provide timely care to a patient.

The nuance in these definitions may give rise to a viable New Jersey medical malpractice lawsuit. A patient must establish that the injuries they experienced stemmed from the provider’s delayed treatment and not the patient’s purposeful delay.

Reasons for Delayed Treatment

According to a National Academy of Medicine report, most Americans will receive an incorrect or delayed diagnosis during their lifetime. Across all disciplines, at all levels, and throughout the world, medicine has become more complex.

The escalating challenges on practical and personal levels can lead to frustration, disillusionment, and devastating consequences. These challenges can manifest in patients receiving delayed treatment for serious conditions.

Delayed treatment often stems from a doctor’s inability to diagnose a patient’s condition. Understandably, a significant part of medicine involves trial and error.

However, in some instances, this trial and error amounts to medical malpractice. In addition to diagnosis delay, delayed treatment may result from:

  • Inexperienced healthcare providers,
  • Inaccurate coding and transcribing of medical records, and
  • Misreading of lab reports.

In addition, some more nefarious reasons may cause the treatment delay. For instance, delayed treatment may occur if a medical provider continues to order tests under the guise of diagnosis to bring in additional profit.

On the other hand, various psycho-social behaviors on the patient’s part might lead to delayed treatment. For example, a patient who fails to attend follow-ups, take medication, or engage in other preventative treatment may contribute to delayed treatment.

Consequences of Delayed Treatment

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have warned the public of the risks of delaying care and preventative treatment. However, the consequences of these risks also apply to those who receive delayed treatment because of a negligent healthcare provider.

Receiving delayed treatment can increase emotional distress, worsen conditions, hinder continuous treatment, and give rise to emergency surgeries. A medical provider’s failure to provide appropriate and timely treatment can create urgent and life-threatening situations.

Establishing Negligence in Delayed Medical Treatment Lawsuit

New Jersey medical malpractice victims must establish certain elements to have a viable claim for damages.

Like other personal injury lawsuits, medical malpractice victims must establish that the healthcare provider owed them a duty, they breached that duty, the breach directly caused harm, and the harm resulted in damages. While these steps seem straightforward, in reality, they impose a hefty burden on medical malpractice claimants.

The patient must prove that the healthcare provider’s delayed treatment fell short of the medical standard of care. This determination involves establishing that the provider’s conduct fell short of the appropriate standard of care under similar treatment circumstances. In most cases, victims must support their claims with expert testimony.

Establishing a Delayed Treatment Case

After establishing that the provider’s conduct fell below the generally accepted and reasonable standard of care, the patient must prove that the conduct resulted in the patient’s harm.

Showing that the doctor failed to provide timely treatment is insufficient on its own. The patient must show that the delayed treatment caused damages.

This showing might involve presenting evidence to demonstrate that the delay:

  • Worsened the patient’s condition,
  • Eliminated the possibility or reduced the effectiveness of specific treatments, or
  • Caused the patient's death.

Additionally, claimants might show that the delayed treatment caused unnecessary or prolonged harm.

Damages for Delayed Treatment Claim

Delay in providing care significantly increases the risk of mortality and other serious health concerns. Health care professionals must provide effective care so that they can intervene appropriately and effectively.

Although many healthcare providers undertake a cost-benefit analysis in deciding whether early treatment is necessary, being incorrect on occasion is often less important than avoiding causing potential disability to a patient.

Treatment providers who negligently delay treatment may be liable for the ensuing damages. New Jersey provides damages caps on certain types of claims. However, medical malpractice victims can generally recover compensation for economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages include payments for the tangible financial losses a patient suffered because of negligent care.

This includes compensation for:

  • Past and future medical treatment,
  • Lost wages and benefits,
  • Loss of earning potential, and
  • Corrective procedures and surgeries.

New Jersey does not have a cap limiting the upper limit of economic damages.

On the other hand, non-economic damages cover the intangible losses that patients suffered.

This includes compensation for:

  • Mental distress,
  • Pain and suffering,
  • Loss of companionship, and
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.

Similar to economic damages, New Jersey does not currently maintain a cap on non-economic damages. However, the state does maintain a $350,000 cap on punitive damages (another category of damages that aims to punish especially blameworthy bad behavior) in medical malpractice cases.

Did You Experience a Delay in Treatment? O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble Can Help

If you recently suffered injuries due to delayed treatment or a delayed diagnosis, reach out to the New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble. Our experienced medical negligence lawyers have more than a century of combined experience.

We work with a nationwide network of respected expert witnesses to help present our clients’ cases in the most compelling way possible.

To learn more about O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, and to schedule a free consultation with one of our New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

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