Doctor didn't tell me my hand was broken for 3 months...

by Josh
(Hull, MA, USA)

I broke my hand and fractured my wrist at school. The same day I went to the hospital and got x-rays. The doctor said it was just swollen and I had a bad bruise.

Three months later I went back to the doctor for a sinus infection and the doctor said, "By the way, your hand was broken, let me refer you to an orthopedic doctor."

Is this malpractice? Why would he wait so long to tell me I had a broken wrist? Wouldn't it have been expected for him to refer me as soon as it happened? If the hand heals incorrectly it could cause me problems for life.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Doctor didn't tell me my hand was broken for 3 months...":

Josh (Hull, MA, USA):

It appears you are taking about the same doctor. If, at your initial visit the doctor read your x-rays and missed a fractured or fully broken bone and three months later informed you he was mistaken, you my have a claim for malpractice. There are though, several variables.

1st: If your initial school injury was a hairline fracture it is possible the doctor's missing it might be reasonable. Hairline fractures are often misdiagnosed as they are quite difficult to see. Sometimes it takes an orthopedic surgeon or radiologist to discover a hairline fracture on an x-ray.

2nd: If you waited 3 months to return to the doctor and in the interim didn't feel any pain from the injury, there's a good chance the injury resulted in only a hairline fracture. It is plausible to believe if your bone was broken or the fracture was extensive you would have returned to a doctor for treatment well before three months had elapsed. Your having waited three months may be used as a defense by the doctor.

3rd: When you returned to the doctor for a sinus infection you say he mentioned your hand was broken and wanted to refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. Therein lies the question. Why would he make such a statement, especially if you only came in to see him for a sinus infection? Especially if you didn't complain about pain or discomfort in your hand.

If the doctor misdiagnosed your hand injury and as a result you suffer some form of debilitation, you may have the basis of a malpractice claim. From the lack of symptoms at this point the strength of that claim is tenuous.

Your best bet is to follow your doctor's suggestion and see an orthopedic surgeon. If you then learn your bone improperly healed and as a result you may suffer some form of pain, discomfort or future disability, then your claim against the doctor immediately is strengthened.

One step at a time. See the orthopedic surgeon and go from there.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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