This happens more frequently than you would realize.

Patient, we will call him Sam, has stomach pains. Goes to his PCP. PCP says “I think it is gas, or something not to worry about, call back if you still hurt in 3 weeks.”

Week 2 – patient is in such exteme pain, he goes to the ER. ER doc says “I think you have gas, take this medication and if it doesn’t work, call me back or go see your PCP.”

Week 4 – Sam is still in so much pain, goes to a different ER, and the doctor runs a CT and sees that Sam’s Appendix has ruptured – gets same into surgery right away… SAM IS FINE.

Doesn’t Sam have a Malpractice Claim against his PCP and the first ER doc?

Well. Maybe.

But would I recommend you file that case?

No way.

Why Not?

Thank God, Sam recovered and the failure to diagnose did not make Sam any worse off, than had it been diagnosed originally – but for his 4 extra weeks of pain and worry.

So what would I do in this situation?

Maybe let the PCP know what happened, so in the future he or she can recognize signs and symptoms…

But filing suit would be expensive, and very time consuming… and I doubt a jury will award a ton of damages for 4 weeks of stomach pain.

FAIR? Maybe not.

But our job is to evaluate cases and recommend whether or not it is worth a family’s time and energy. I am glad Sam is ok. But I wouldn’t recommend he file a lawsuit.

Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at