Can I sue an eye doctor for a misdiagnosis that has put me into financial debt due to medical bills for their recommendation to see a specialist?

I was diagnosed with glaucoma and was told to see another doctor that my insurance does not cover. The doctor said that nothing was different about my eyes and that they did not see any signs of glaucoma. I received a bill for over 600 dollars that I can not pay. What can I do?

Asked on March 28, 2017 under Malpractice Law, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

It is NOT worth suing. First, it's far from a given that the first doctor would be liable, or responsible, for this amount: he or she would only potentially be liable if you can show that not only was his diagnosis wrong, but it was negligent, or unreasonably careless--that is, no reasonable doctor would have thought you might have glaucoma or advised you to see a specialist or otherwise get another opinion. The law accepts that the practice of medicine is not perfect; doctors are only liable when they are unreasonable careless, not when they do what they should but happen to be wrong.
Second, even if the doctor had been negligent, all you could get back would be the $600 (what the neligence cost you); but it would cost you more than that to sue, since you'd have to hire a doctor to write a report and testify at trial about how the first doctor was wrong. (Your testimony about what a doctor told you would be heresay and would not be accepted by the court; you need a doctor to testify as to his/her opinion.)  But hiring medical experts for trial almost always costs far more than $600, and this is a cost you could not get back in the lawsuit.

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