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Should I Seek Compensation for Emotional Distress?

Should I Seek Compensation for Emotional Distress?
Insights Med. Malpractice Dec. 2 4 min read

Misdiagnosis and malpractice are two of the most common causes of emotional distress in medical practice.

What is Medical Misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis can cause emotional suffering through unnecessary fear. One example of misdiagnosis is when a patient is told they have six months to live, but the diagnosis is wrong. Another example is a provider delaying treatment options, for example, when a patient is placed on anti-depressants when they have bipolar disorder. 

What is Medical Malpractice?

Malpractice occurs when a doctor makes a mistake that causes physical pain or mental anguish. This could happen in the case of unnecessary surgery or an operation on the wrong arm and can cause severe physical impairments or emotional suffering. 

In these instances, it is absolutely within your legal rights to seek compensation for emotional distress. However, it should be noted that the more extensive the physical damages, the higher the likelihood you will be awarded a higher settlement. 

When a Physician Causes Harm

All physicians operate under the principle that they will not harm a patient, so patients have the right to assume their doctor will place any of their own concerns aside to provide them with the best available treatment. By law, doctors are also bound by a fiduciary duty, meaning they will not place their own financial needs above the most suitable treatment option for their patients. However, sometimes this duty is violated, and to prove it in a court of law, a victim must establish a breach of duty in their standard of care. 

For example, suppose a patient has a broken nose, and the doctor insists he must also reconstruct a portion of their jawbone to fix the broken nose. In that case, there must be viable proof that the jawbone actually needs surgery, too. If there is no reason to operate, the doctor is working in his own financial interest and is in extreme violation of the patient’s trust.

Examples of Emotional Distress 

Do you think you might have an emotional distress case? It’s possible that you do, so let’s discuss some potential situations and common reasons for a doctor causing a patient emotional distress.

1. Negligence 

Negligence in medical practice occurs when a medical professional deviates from the accepted medical standard of care. It is considered to be an act OR an act of omission. An act of omission means there has been a failure to act appropriately. 

Negligence does not always mean that a physician has caused a visible injury–– think of a driver who runs a red light without getting caught. Negligence simply means that a negligent act has occurred. Unfortunately, it becomes much harder to mount a medical malpractice case without physical injury. Typically, medical negligence becomes medical malpractice when the negligence leads to personal injury, causes the patient’s condition to worsen, results in additional treatments, or causes further damages. 

2. Misdiagnosis

Medical misdiagnosis is one of the most common forms of medical negligence and occurs when a doctor gives an incorrect diagnosis to a patient–– be it a false positive diagnosis of a condition (i.e. the patient was told they have cancer when they do not), or a false negative of a disease (i.e. when a patient was told they don’t have cancer, but actually does). Misdiagnosis can cause emotional distress over the false belief that a patient may be dying when they aren’t, or worse, it can cause a patient to miss out on valuable treatment time to pursue treatment options.

3. Unnecessary Surgery

An unnecessary surgery occurs when a doctor accidentally operates on the wrong body part or when they perform a medically unnecessary procedure. This could happen when a doctor misreads a patient’s chart or is given the incorrect paperwork, resulting in surgery on the wrong area. It can also occur when a doctor prematurely decides to remove a body part before receiving the patient’s consent or exploring alternative treatment options. 

4. Birth Injuries

Birth injuries are one of the most common forms of medical malpractice and also one of the most preventable. For instance, many doctors make negligent decisions during childbirth, such as using a vacuum extractor to deliver a child that is too large to make it through the mother’s birth canal, causing an injury, or insisting upon an unnecessary C-section which places the mother at even greater risk. 

5. Anesthesiology Errors

All anesthesiologists have fantastic malpractice lawyers. And for a good reason–– anesthesia is risky, and human error is all too common. It’s not unusual for patients to have an allergic reaction to anesthesia or for anesthesiologists to accidentally administer too much or too little anesthesia.


Doctors are only human, and like all humans, they make mistakes. Unfortunately, their mistakes mean their patients’ physical and emotional well-being, if not their lives. 

However, you are entitled to legal compensation if you have suffered emotional distress due to your physician’s medical malpractice or negligence. Medical malpractice suits can ensure compensation for your physical and emotional damages. Hiring an excellent malpractice lawyer is one of the best steps you can take to ensure you are rightfully compensated for your suffering.

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