Defending Against Medical Malpractice: Errors in Interpreting Imaging Reports

Diagnostic errors are among the most common allegations in medical malpractice claims; and, in many cases, these errors result from misinterpretation of imaging reports. While these allegations can present substantial risks for physicians, physicians accused of misinterpreting imaging reports will often have strong defenses available.

3 Examples of Potential Defenses to Allegations of Misinterpreting Imaging Reports

As with all types of medical malpractice claims, the defenses that are available in cases involving errors in interpreting imaging reports depend on the specific facts and circumstances involved. With this in mind, here are three examples of potential defenses in these cases:

1. The Imaging Report was Inaccurate, Incomplete or Misguided

Physicians can only make decisions based on the information that they have available. While physicians may have an obligation to question radiologists’ conclusions in some cases, as a general rule, they are entitled to reasonably rely on the information they receive from their colleagues and other qualified specialists. Thus, if the information contained in an imaging report is inaccurate or incomplete, or if the radiologist’s conclusions are misguided, this may serve as a defense to medical malpractice liability.

2. The Imaging Equipment Malfunctioned or was Defective

Just as physicians are generally entitled to rely on the information they receive from their colleagues, they are also generally entitled to rely on the equipment in their facilities. If an x-ray, MRI or CT imaging machine produces an inaccurate image, a physician’s reliance on the image should not trigger medical malpractice liability in most cases.

3. Prompt Medical Intervention was Necessary

Typically, an imaging report will be just one piece of evidence that a physician has available when making a diagnosis. If a physician believes that an imaging report doesn’t tell the whole story, then the physician must generally order additional scans or testing before providing a diagnosis. But, in many cases, there simply isn’t time. If prompt medical intervention is necessary, then making an informed decision based on the current evidence may be the best option available.

Interpreting Imaging Reports and the Physician’s Duty of Care

All three of these defenses are based on the fundamental concept of the physician’s duty of care. Medical malpractice laws do not hold physicians liable for all mistakes. Rather, they only establish liability when a mistake represents a deviation from the relevant standard of care (and causes harm to a patient). While physicians must be very careful when acknowledging mistakes in defense of medical malpractice claims, this will often be the best approach—particularly when the evidence suggests that another party is accountable.

Contact the Medical Malpractice Defense Lawyers at Rendigs

The medical malpractice defense lawyers at Rendigs have extensive experience defending physicians and other providers against allegations of all types of diagnostic errors. If you need defense counsel for a medical malpractice claim involving allegations of misinterpreting an imaging report, we invite you to get in touch. Please call 513-381-9200 or contact us online to arrange a confidential consultation.