When you visit a dermatologist, you expect them to treat your condition with their expertise as a specialist. A dermatologist diagnoses and treats diseases and health conditions involving the skin. Among their other duties, they may conduct examinations on the skin, order diagnostic testing for patients, and interpret test results. They may also be responsible for prescribing medication to patients and following up on their results. Some dermatologists may perform invasive procedures, such as the surgical removal of abnormal cells.
Dermatologists can make mistakes during any of these processes. When their mistake leads to you being hurt, you may have the right to make a medical malpractice claim against them. The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. can review your case and determine if you have a viable claim against the dermatologist, clinic, or support staff. We can review your case during a free, no-obligation consultation. Call us today to get started.
Examples of Dermatology Malpractice?
Patients reasonably expect a doctor to perform their work according to the acceptable standard of care. When a doctor deviates from this standard of care and causes harm to a patient, this is called medical malpractice.
Dermatologists are also subject to the standard of care. This standard is based on what another dermatologist with a similar background and qualifications would do under the circumstances. When a dermatologist’s care falls outside this applicable standard of care and injures a patient as a result, medical malpractice may have occurred.
Common examples of dermatologist malpractice include:
- Delayed diagnosis of skin cancer or melanoma
- Misdiagnosis of serious skin conditions
- Using lasers inappropriately
- Applying chemical peels to patients that cause allergic reactions or other skin problems
- Making surgical errors when removing growths from patients
Proving Dermatology Malpractice
Dermatology malpractice cases are complex. As the plaintiff in this type of case, you must prove certain legal elements, including:
The Dermatologist Has a Duty to Follow the Standard of Care
Dermatologists and their staff have a duty of care to their patients. They must act as a reasonable professional in their field under the circumstances. Dermatologists and other healthcare professionals must use the knowledge, skill, and care that a reasonable medical professional would use to protect the patient from harm.
The Dermatologist Deviated from the Standard of Care
The next element you must prove is that the dermatologist did or failed to do something required by the standard of care. The dermatologist’s actions must have fallen below the standard of care. Examples of deviation from the standard of care may include:
- Failing to promptly diagnose skin cancer
- Failing to appropriately treat skin cancer
- Injuring a patient during surgery
- Failing to monitor a patient’s condition
- Failing to follow up with the patient
- Misdiagnosing a patient’s condition
The Deviation from the Standard of Care Caused Injury to the Patient
Next, you must link the patient’s injury and the deviation from the standard of care. You must show how the dermatologist’s actions directly caused the patient’s injuries and the injuries would not have occurred but for the dermatologist’s actions (or inactions).
In Illinois, an affidavit of merit must be filed with the complaint initially or within a short period of time. This affidavit states that a qualified healthcare provider in a similar position and background has determined that the doctor in question violated the standard of care and caused the patient’s injuries. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help find a qualified medical expert to prepare the affidavit of merit.
You Suffered Damages
Finally, you must show that you suffered damages as a result of the dermatologist’s deviation from the standard of care. Patients can be harmed badly because of the negligence of their dermatologists. For example, dermatologists may not properly remove a cancerous mole or may fail to diagnose a patient, which can lead to the cancer metastasizing in other areas of the body. This could result in the patient’s death, developing a later stage of cancer, or suffering that could have been avoided had the doctor not violated their duty of care.
Difficulty of Proving Medical Malpractice in Illinois
Medical malpractice cases are extremely difficult to prove. They usually require an in-depth investigation and substantial documentation of the patient’s condition before and after the medical mistake. Expert witness testimony will likely be necessary to establish the threshold to bring forth and prove a case of this nature.
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can:
- Request your medical records
- Investigate and consult with appropriate medical experts on your behalf
- Conduct depositions on defendants, witnesses, and experts
- File a legal complaint
- Retain well qualified medical experts to prove the elements of your case
- Obtain additional evidence through the litigation process, such as surgical videos
- Handle the legal process from start to finish
Illinois Diagnostic Error Cases
Receiving an accurate diagnosis of any skin condition is important because it affects how the dermatologist treats and monitors the condition. If a doctor misdiagnoses a patient, the patient will not receive the treatment they need. They may also receive treatment that is unnecessary or even harmful.
Particularly dangerous types of diagnostic errors include:
Skin Cancer Diagnostic Errors
Skin cancer is one of the most dangerous types of misdiagnosis that a patient can experience. If a dermatologist does not properly diagnose skin cancer, the patient will not receive the treatment they need. This can lead to the spreading of the cancer and the patient having a lower survival rate. In contrast, early detection of skin cancer can provide more treatment options for patients and a better prognosis. Causes of diagnostic errors of skin cancer include:
- Delayed diagnosis
- Lack of informed consent
- Treatment errors
- Failure to perform a biopsy
Melanoma Diagnostic Errors
Melanoma is a serious type of skin cancer that is known for quickly spreading to other areas of the body. It may appear as a new dark spot on the body or develop in an existing mole. Dermatologists conduct a skin exam to look for signs of this skin cancer and take a tissue sample to complete a biopsy on it. They may also use other types of diagnostic or imaging tests.
If a dermatologist fails to recognize signs of melanoma, they may not perform a biopsy or follow up with the patient. The patient can lose time from treatment, which can lead to the cancer spreading.
Even when a dermatologist does perform a biopsy, they could make mistakes during the analysis of the sample. They may not read the results correctly. They could fail to communicate the results to the rest of the healthcare team.
Who Can Be Held Responsible in a Dermatology Malpractice Case?
In addition to dermatologists, other healthcare professionals may potentially be responsible for the harm dermatology patients suffer and could be held responsible for the harm they cause. Some examples of other healthcare providers that may be held responsible for dermatology malpractice:
- Surgical, radiation, or medical oncologists
- Internal medicine doctors
You will have to prove the same elements against these healthcare providers to establish your case: they had a duty of care, they breached the duty of care, they caused your injuries, and you suffered damages.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Dermatology Malpractice Case?
If your dermatologist fails to diagnose and treat skin cancer or other serious skin conditions, you could suffer significant damage. You might have to deal with more invasive medical treatment or may be unable to recover from the cancer. You can potentially recover compensation for the damages you suffer, which might include:
- Medical expenses, including hospital stays, doctor visits, MRI tests, radiological costs, and medications
- Medical expenses you are reasonably expected to incur in the future
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of normal life
- Emotional distress
- Anxiety, depression, and other psychological conditions caused by the error
How Can I Find the Right Attorney for My Dermatology Malpractice Case?
It is important that you work with a lawyer who has experience and knowledge in dermatology medical malpractice cases. Not only have the lawyers with Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. handled cases of this nature, but we have secured significant results with dozens of multi-million dollar recoveries for our clients in medical malpractice cases, including for instance a $3.65 million recovery in a dermatology medical malpractice case. Our lawyers can work with doctors and other experts to establish your claim and the full extent of your damages.
What Is the Time Limit to File My Dermatology Malpractice Case?
In Illinois, medical malpractice victims are subject to the statute of limitations, which sets a maximum time limit to file a lawsuit against the negligent healthcare provider. The statute of limitations is generally two years, which begins when the patient knew or should have known the malpractice occurred, or two years after a patient’s death in a wrongful death claim.
If the patient was a minor at the time the malpractice occurred, the statute of limitations extends to eight years after the malpractice occurs, but in any event, they must file the claim before their 22nd birthday.
Exceptions to the statute of limitations may apply, and so we recommend that you not delay seeking legal assistance following any potential dermatology malpractice affecting you or a loved one so you can preserve your legal rights.
How Can Dermatology Malpractice Affect a Patient?
One of the biggest concerns regarding dermatologist malpractice is the risk of a doctor delaying a diagnosis or misdiagnosing skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Approximately one in five people in the United States develop skin cancer by age 70. Delayed diagnosis and procedural errors can result in a dermatologist not promptly diagnosing skin cancer.
Early detection is key to preventing skin cancer from spreading and becoming fatal. Skin cancer that is not promptly diagnosed can lead to premature death, disfigurement, scarring, and pain and suffering. It can also result in the patient needing more aggressive and invasive medical treatment, which can affect their physical and financial well-being.
The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. represent patients who have been seriously injured because of dermatology malpractice, including a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis regarding skin cancer.
Causes of Skin Cancer
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most skin cancers are due to too much exposure to ultraviolet rays. Common sources of ultraviolet rays include:
- The sun
- Sun lamps
- Tanning beds
Signs of Skin Cancer
One of the ways that patients and dermatologists alike can help prevent skin cancer from becoming more serious is to recognize visible signs of skin cancer. Signs of skin cancer include:
- A mole, birthmark, or brown spot that gets larger, or thicker, or changes in color or texture
- A mole, birthmark, or brown spot that is larger than a pencil eraser
- A skin growth that gets larger and appears transparent, tan, brown, black, multicolored, or pearly
- Itchiness, pain, crustiness, scabbing, or bleeding around a spot or sore
- An open sore that does not heal within three weeks
If you notice any of these signs, seek immediate medical attention. If you experience these symptoms and your dermatologist did not take appropriate action, reach out to an experienced medical malpractice attorney for help determining your next steps.
Diagnosing and Treating Skin Cancer
Dermatologists should carefully monitor any changes to your skin. A dermatologist can order a biopsy of a mole or other growth. Common forms of treating skin cancer include:
- Targeted therapy – Targeted therapy uses drugs to identify and attack cancer cells.
- Surgery – A dermatologist or other medical professional may complete a simple excision, Mohs micrographic surgery, Mohs surgery, shave excision, cryosurgery, curettage and electrodesiccation, laser surgery, dermabrasion, or other surgical procedures to remove the cancerous growth.
- Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy uses drugs to prevent further growth of cancer cells and is often used with radiation therapy.
- Immunotherapy – This type of therapy involves using the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.
- Photodynamic therapy – This type of treatment uses a particular type of drug and light to kill cancer cells.
If a dermatologist removes a skin lesion, they should ensure no other cancerous cells remain.
Dermatologists may prescribe medications, which should be appropriate for the patient and made in consultation with their other medications.
Contact an Experienced Dermatology Malpractice Lawyer
If you or a loved one was harmed because of dermatology malpractice, such as a delayed case of diagnosing skin cancer or melanoma, reach out to an experienced dermatology malpractice lawyer for help. Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. is here to help defend your right to fair compensation. Contact us today to arrange your free case review.