Can I sue a hospital for falsely diagnosing a situation that could have been deadly?

I was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy last month. I was given the drug methotrexate. Then 10 days later, I went to the emergancy room because I had woken up gushing blood and in severe pain. I told this to the attending physician and she proceeded to tell me that it was nothing to worry about, that it wasn’t my body’s way of trying to get rid of the baby. I was sent home with no other intructions about the pain or bleeding or no other test done to make sure that that’s what it was. About 2 days later, I went to park with my husband and our son. We went for a boat ride but I ended up getting rushed to a hospital because I was in severe pain. The ER did an ultrasound of my stomach, pelvis and my

fallopian tube and it turned out that my fallopian tube had ruptured. I was

then told that I was bleeding into my stomach and pelvis and that I had to have

emergancy surgery. After the surgery, the surgeon came into the room to check on me and told me that I had 300cc’s of blood in my pelvis and in my stomach. He said that it was 2 days worth of blood. I told him about my previous trip to the ER and the pain I had; he said that the pain and blood was most likely from the tube being ruptured. He also told me that my fallopian tube was 6x the size it should have been and that I was lucky to be still living. He said he was surprised that I wasn’t in more pain then what I was.

Asked on September 3, 2016 under Personal Injury, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You can sue the hospital for the actual effects of its wrongful diagnoses: for example, additional medical costs; if the delay in properly diagnosing you has led to some long-lasting or life-long disability or impairment that you would not have suffered had they diagnosed you correctly the first time; if you missed more work than you would have with a correct diagnosis, for lost wages; etc.
But you can't sue for *could* have happened--i.e. for the fact it "could have been deadly." The law does not provide compensation for potential or hypothetical injuries, only for the actual injuries and costs you suffered, which means the additional injury and additonal costs occassioned by the first wrong diagnosis and the resulting delay in properly diagnosing you. 

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