Who is Liable for an Incorrect Laboratory Report?

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Laboratory Report

Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals rely on laboratory tests to make accurate diagnoses and determine the best, most effective treatment protocol for patients. They help determine which medication to prescribe and the appropriate dosage amount, confirm a serious health condition such as cancer or heart conditions, and confirm the status of a disease to find out if the current treatments are working or if the disease is progressing. Unfortunately, there are instances when mistakes are made, either by the medical professional responsible for ordering the test or the laboratory technician who performs the test and analyzes the results. When a laboratory mistake is made, it can have very serious health consequences for the patient. If your health was compromised because of an incorrect laboratory test, it is in your best interest to contact a lawyer experienced in medical malpractice at your earliest convenience.

Although most people assume that laboratory results are always accurate, and that the person responsible for ordering, reading, and interpreting the results never makes mistakes, this is not always true. In fact, it is estimated that up to 10 million patients receive inaccurate blood test results each year. According to an article published in the journal Sentinel, laboratory mistakes range from mislabeling samples and using expired products to screen for conditions such as cancer and lead poisoning to mixing up patient samples and failing to perform even the most basic quality control measures. Even minor laboratory mistakes can have devastating consequences to a patient’s health. In extreme cases, the health complications can be fatal. However, it is important to understand that not all laboratory errors are considered negligent. If you believe that you are the victim of a negligent laboratory error, the burden of proof is on you and your legal team to provide convincing evidence that negligence was a key factor.

What is Laboratory Malpractice?

Laboratory medical malpractice occurs when a laboratory error causes harm to the patient. To reach a successful outcome in a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must be able to prove that negligence was involved, which means proving the following four factors:

  • A relationship existed between you and the health care provider, and he or she had a responsibility to provide the medical standard of care that another reasonably experienced health care professional would have provided in a similar situation.
  • The medical professional breached the standard of care.
  • The breach in care caused you to suffer injuries or other health complications.
  • The harm resulted in damages including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

What are Examples of Laboratory Errors?

There are a wide range of errors that can occur in a laboratory. However, whether the error warrants a medical malpractice lawsuit will depend on a range of factors, including how likely it is that you can prove negligence. The following are examples of laboratory mistakes that are often considered negligent:

  • Mixing up patients’ samples
  • Contaminating a sample
  • Losing samples
  • Failing to perform the correct test
  • Misinterpreting the test results
  • Making an incorrect report
  • Delaying the processing of a sample
  • Getting patient information wrong
  • Sending a patient sample to the wrong doctor
  • Handling or labeling patient samples incorrectly
  • Failing to conduct an MRI, CT scan, or other test correctly

Certain mistakes are easier to prove negligence. For example, switching samples, sending samples to the wrong doctor, or getting patient information wrong are all fairly easy to prove. However, if a patient believes that additional tests should have been ordered, or that a different test should have been performed, these mistakes are more difficult to prove.

What Impact can a Laboratory Error Have on My Health?

Accurate test results are one of the most important tools that doctors use to make critical decisions about a patient’s treatment protocol. For example, if a patient had a stroke, their blood will be tested to determine whether they require blood thinning medication, as well as the appropriate dosage amount. If the doctor administers too much blood thinner, the patient could bleed to death. Not enough medication can cause the patient to suffer another stroke or a heart attack. Another example of how a laboratory error can have devastating consequences is when a patient tests negative for a certain disease, but errors were made in the laboratory and the patient actually has a serious disease, such as cancer. When this happens, treatment is delayed, the disease has more time to progress, and it becomes much more difficult to treat. In some cases, if the disease has spread to other parts of the body, the chance of survival becomes very slim.

Who is Liable for a Laboratory Error?

There are numerous ways that laboratory errors can occur. Liability for a laboratory error will depend on the nature of the mistake and who was responsible for ordering, administering, or analyzing the test. The following are example of parties who may be liable for a laboratory error:

  • Doctor: Your doctor will typically order tests based on an examination and the various symptoms you may be experiencing. The following are examples of situations in which a doctor may be liable for a laboratory error:
    – Wrong test was ordered
    – Making an incorrect diagnosis based on the test results
    – Failed to order the test in a timely fashion
    – Failed to take the appropriate action based on the laboratory results
    – Provided the wrong instruction for the patient to prepare for the test
  • Laboratory technician: If a laboratory technician makes a mistake that compromises your health, he or she may be held liable if negligence was involved. Laboratory technicians may be held liable for the following mistakes:
    – Contamination of laboratory samples
    – Mistakes in interpreting laboratory results
    – Errors made during the laboratory testing process
    – Switching the test results between patients
  • Hospital: A hospital may also be held liable for the negligence of its employees through a vicarious liability, which is a legal concept that holds doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and other medical professionals liable if their behavior was negligent in any way.

How Do I Reduce the Risk of Inaccurate Laboratory Results?

Although you may not be a trained medical professional, you have every right to take a proactive approach to your health. By taking the following steps, you may be able to avoid potential mistakes and ensure that your laboratory results are accurate:

  • Talk to your health care provider. If you received laboratory results that were unexpected or that differed significantly from previous laboratory results, discuss your concerns with your doctor. Ask questions about what the most recent laboratory results mean, and if it is possible that a mistake was made. If you see that a test result is on the high end of what is considered normal limits, ask if that could point to a developing condition. After discussing the results and reviewing your patient history, your doctor may agree to repeating the test or having the sample sent to a different laboratory.
  • Do your own research. There are a wide range of resources that you can use that will help you understand what your test results mean, if the symptoms you are experiencing are not consistent with your diagnosis, and whether your diagnosis is accurate. Lab Tests Online is a good resource for learning more about test results and gaining a better understanding of what certain test results mean. There are even resources that can help you ask the right questions when speaking to your doctor and know when it is in your best interest to get a second opinion.
  • Get a second opinion. If you have been diagnosed with a disease or a serious health condition, and you do not believer that your doctor is taking your symptoms or concerns about the laboratory results seriously, you have every right to get a second opinion.

What Damages May I Receive for a Laboratory Error?

Laboratory errors can cause you to suffer a range of health complications, some of which can be serious and even life-threatening. Depending on the nature of the mistake and the impact it has on your health, the consequences can be physically, emotionally, and finally devastating. A successful medical malpractice lawsuit will ensure that you are able to recover compensation for the following:

  • All medical expenses related to the health complication
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Wrongful death benefits if the laboratory error caused a fatality

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Laboratory Errors

If you or a loved one was injured, or you suffered a serious health complication because of a laboratory mistake, it is in your best interest to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. Our dedicated legal team will thoroughly examine the details of your case and determine who is responsible for the laboratory mistake. If negligence was involved, we will assist you with every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.