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Can i sue a doctor for diagnosing my father wrong and a week later he died?

Marysville, WA |

my dad had a lung disease and was told he was fine, a week later he died and i believe it was from something totally different and could have been prevented had the doctor taken the time to listen to my mom and believe my dad when he knew something wasnt right

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Attorney answers 4


There is no way to answer your question without much more information about both your family circumstances and your father's health issues. If somebody has a lung disease, by definition they are not fine. You will need to consult with a medical malpractice lawyer in the state where your father died, and be prepared to answer detailed questions about who the survivors were, what his health problems were, and why he died. Medical records, and particularly an autopsy report if there is one, will be helpful, but it is not usually necessary to have records before you call up a lawyer. Experienced medical malpractice lawyers can generally size up a case in a 20 minute phone call well enough to form an opinion whether there is a reason to get medical records and conduct an investigation. Such consultations are almost always free. A lawyer should never decide whether to sue before getting all the facts. But often we can determine just with a phone call that a situation is unlikely to justify a lawsuit. Such cases are so difficult to win that we turn down many more cases than we accept. But that should not discourage you from making some phone calls.

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I'm not admitted in WA (only in CA), but can offer the following more general observations. First of all, you don't say when this happened, but as I understand it, in WA the statute of limitations for medical malpractice provides that such an action must be brought within three years of the act or omission alleged to have caused the injury or one year after the discovery of the alleged negligent act or omission, whichever period expires later. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 4.16.350 There are other issues, however.

Many states, CA included, have certain "notice" requirements that mandate that you must notify the doctor of your intent to pursue such a claim before filing (in CA, we call it a "364 Notice").

Also, medical malpractice claims can be tough. In a malpractice case, you first must establish that the medical professional(s) acted below the standard of care. That can usually only be established through expert testimony from a doctor willing to say that the treating doctor was negligent by falling below the standard of care.

Secondly, you must establish that the negligence was the cause of harm. In other words, if the condition is something that he would have had to deal with anyway, or if the condition is something that could have reasonably expected, the defense will say that the negligence of the doctor did nothing to make the condition worse, or at least no worse than what could have been expected as a possible outcome. That is typically where these kinds of cases falter; the plaintiff may be able to show that the professional made a mistake, but cannot overcome the argument that the mistake didn't do any additional harm.

The third point is the issue of damages. If the negligence caused your dad to incur additional injuries, and pay for those additional medical services, those would be "special damages" that may be recovered by your dad's estate. Also, in wrongful death claims, you can recover for the loss of "care, comfort and society" of the deceased person.

I would consult with a local attorney specializing in professional (medical) malpractice cases. It's virtually impossible to correctly assess your case in a limited forum like this, and an assessment of the case requires a detailed review of all medical records, both by a competent med mal attorney AND by an expert doctor. Most reputable PI/malpractice lawyers will consult with you for little or no cost. Avvo is a good resource for locating such an attorney.

Good luck to you!

Disclaimer- The information you obtain at our web-site or through postings on such sites as this is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for specific advice regarding your individual situation. Any response given here is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change.


It is difficult to evaluate your case based on the information provided. You should find an EXPERIENCED medical malpractice attorney and call for a free consultation right away.

Daniel Buttafuoco

If this information has been helpful, please indicate below. Daniel Buttafuoco has been voted BEST LAWYER five years in a row and has represented clients all over the United States. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Daniel Buttafuoco strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in order to ensure proper advice is received.


You are asking whether there was a failure to diagnose medical malpractice case. Bottom line is that the medical records need to be ordered and sent by a med mal lawyer to an expert to review to ascertain whether or not there was a breach of the standard of care. Search Avvo's "find a lawyer" for a med mal lawyer in your state and call for representation.

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