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Can a wrongful death claim be filed due to a delayed diagnosis?

There are numerous medical conditions that require a swift diagnosis in order to increase a patient's chances of survival. When New Jersey doctors fail to take the necessary steps to correctly diagnose an individual as soon as possible, the appropriate treatment can be delayed. At the same time, an incorrect diagnosis can lead to the wrong treatment. These circumstances can lead to the patient's death in some cases, and surviving family members may exercise their right to file a wrongful death claim against the medical professionals believed to be responsible.

In order to prevail in such a claim, it will first be necessary to show a New Jersey civil court that a health care provider owed a duty of care to the deceased patient. Once that is established, evidence will need to be presented establishing that the doctor failed to provide the patient with the appropriate standard of care, which caused or contributed to the patient's death. If these elements are demonstrated to the court, it could rule that medical malpractice occurred.

There is often a fine line between a medical professional who is diligently attempting to diagnose a patient and one who is not. Another medical professional will often be brought in to examine medical records and other documentation to determine whether the proper path was followed to reach a diagnosis. If it is discovered that the physician ignored or failed to recognize symptoms, family history or other reasonable clues that would have led to the correct diagnosis in time to get the patient on the proper course of treatment, the doctor could be found negligent in the patient's care.

Not every delayed diagnosis is medical malpractice, but it would be beneficial to be sure if a family believes that a doctor failed to live up to his or her duty to their loved one. If after reviewing the circumstances it appears that medical malpractice occurred, a wrongful death claim could be filed. A successfully litigated claim could result in an award of damages for the family, and perhaps, a change in procedures that will prevent another family from experiencing the same tragedy.

Source:, "Does a Delayed Diagnosis Constitute a Wrongful Death?", Accessed on Dec. 12, 2016

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