Misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses are behind more than 100,000 cases of permanent disability or death every year in the U.S. A study from Johns Hopkins University shows that three conditions in particular are frequently linked to diagnostic errors. Kentucky residents should know that the “Big Three,” as researchers label them, are cancer, vascular events and infection.

About 75% of diagnosis-related claims involve the “Big Three” with 37% attributed to cancer, 22% to vascular events and 13% to infections. Lung cancer was the most frequently misdiagnosed cancer while stroke was the most frequent vascular event and sepsis the most frequent form of infection. Other commonly reported conditions that fell under the three categories were heart attack, meningitis, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Researchers looked at 11,592 cases of diagnostic errors that occurred between 2006 and 2015. About 71% arose in ambulatory settings. The majority of errors were due to failures in clinical judgment, such as having an overly narrow focus for diagnosis, misinterpreting test results and failing to order a test or diagnostic consultation.

Since many conditions are hard to diagnose, especially in their early stages, patients are always encouraged to get a second or third opinion. They should also visit medical facilities that have more than one specialist in every discipline.

A diagnostic error could be the result of medical malpractice. In such a case, the victim may be able to file a claim. If successful, their claim could cover economic and non-economic damages like medical expenses both past and future, pain and suffering, lost wages and a diminished capacity to earn a living. It can be difficult to file, though, without legal assistance. A lawyer may be especially helpful when it comes to negotiating a settlement out of court and, as a last resort, litigating.