Delayed diagnosis can significantly impact a cancer patient’s chances of survival and quality of life. Failing to diagnose the condition on time is a basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
If you are a victim of a delayed diagnosis that significantly affected your health, you can seek compensation. Healthcare providers who acted negligently are liable for your damages.
When it comes to cancer, delayed diagnosis lawsuits can be complex. Having an experienced medical malpractice lawyer in your corner can improve your chances of winning the case.
Delayed Diagnosis Guide
- Reasons for Delayed Diagnosis
- How to Prove Medical Negligence
- Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Claims: Stumbling Blocks
- Damages in a Delayed Diagnosis Case
- Do You Need a Medical Malpractice Attorney?
- Fight for the Money you Deserve
Reasons for Delayed Diagnosis
While some cancers can be hard to diagnose early, it’s still the doctor’s responsibility to follow medical standards of care when evaluating your condition. If they fail to do so and miss the signs of cancer, you can try to recover compensation.
According to studies, around 5 percent of American adults face a delayed diagnosis every year. In the past 2.5 decades, missed and wrong diagnoses made up a significant share of medical malpractice payouts and totaled nearly $39 billion.
Reasons for delayed diagnosis include:
- Incompetent medical personnel - The doctor who treats you may not have sufficient competence to make a correct diagnosis. This mistake can happen if doctors and other medical staff don’t receive proper training or don’t have due experience working with cancer patients.
- Understaffed hospitals - In understaffed hospitals, doctors are often overworked. It’s easy for frustrated and overwhelmed staff to miss signs or forget to run specific tests. However, this doesn’t excuse the medical staff from following medical standards of care.
- Mishandled tests - Labs make mistakes. They can provide wrong test results due to using expired reagents for screening, mislabeling samples, mixing samples up, avoiding quality control measures, and more. Inaccurate test results lead to wrong diagnoses or a lack thereof.
- Lack of time - Some doctors don’t spend enough time studying their patient’s medical history, running tests, and analyzing the available data. This mistake could lead to them missing important details and failing to make a timely diagnosis.
- Dismissed concerns - Some doctors can dismiss a patient’s symptoms and concerns during a visit. A medical professional may not trust patients’ understanding of their medical condition and ignore their opinions. Some patients even skip further appointments because their doctors make them feel like hypochondriacs.
Regarding cancer, a delayed diagnosis could make a difference between life and death. Overlooked symptoms, wrong tests, lack of time, and incompetence could cost a patient their chance of survival. That’s why it’s imperative to try and prove medical malpractice and fight for the money you deserve.
It’s important to understand that delayed diagnosis doesn’t always equal medical malpractice. To recover compensation in a medical malpractice case, you must prove medical negligence.
How to Prove Medical Negligence
Doctors have a duty to prevent harm to their patients. They must examine patients and run appropriate tests to make a correct diagnosis as early as possible. If they don’t, they may be negligent.
To have a chance of obtaining compensation, you must demonstrate four aspects of medical negligence.
1. Duty of Care
This part is usually easy to prove. If you receive treatment or consultations in a healthcare facility (inpatient or outpatient), you have an official doctor-patient relationship with the healthcare provider. In this relationship, the doctor automatically owes a duty of care to the patient.
If the doctor consulted you in a private setting (over a friendly dinner), the duty of care could be hard to prove.
2. Breach of Duty of Care
Next, you must prove that the healthcare provider breached their duty of care. In medical malpractice cases, this means showing that a doctor’s actions fell below medical standards of care.
To prove this, you must find another doctor with the same specialty. That doctor would testify that under the same circumstances, they would make a timely diagnosis under the same or similar circumstances.
This part of proving negligence is usually complicated because it requires the subjective opinion of another doctor. Different doctors may have different opinions, and not all of them are ready to be witnesses.
You must demonstrate that the breach of care caused health issues or injury. For example, if the doctor didn’t identify colon cancer on time, the tumor metastasized, and you had to face a total colectomy (remove the entire colon).
If the doctor had made a timely diagnosis, you could have kept your organ or settled for a partial colectomy.
Sometimes, the delay in cancer diagnosis isn’t significant enough to cause any real damage. In such a case, you can’t seek compensation.
Lastly, you must demonstrate that the health issues you encountered due to the delayed diagnosis resulted in damages.
For example, if you had a colectomy and you incurred surgery costs and post-op expenses, you would also miss work while recovering from surgery. Meanwhile, your quality of life would likely suffer. With these expenses and effects, you could claim non-economic damages as well.
Overall, proving medical negligence requires a comprehensive approach to collecting evidence and finding the right expert witness. While it’s possible to do this without an attorney, many victims opt for professional legal assistance.
Medical malpractice lawyers know how to prove negligence without making unfortunate mistakes and risking the integrity of your case.
Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Claims: Stumbling Blocks
If you are a victim of a delayed cancer diagnosis, you have an opportunity to recover a sizable compensation. However, building a strong case is rarely easy. Insurance companies and hospitals will work hard to minimize your payout or avoid a settlement altogether.
Here are a few stumbling blocks you need to know.
Proving That You Asked for Help
A common line of defense that medical providers use is that delayed diagnosis is the patient’s fault.
They will try to prove that you:
- Intentionally avoided visiting a doctor.
- Failed to share sufficient information.
You must provide sufficient evidence showing that you visited the doctor, shared your medical history, and agreed to the tests offered.
Knowing the Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitation is a regulation that states how much time you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Florida, it’s two years since the commission of the medical mistake.
When it comes to delayed cancer diagnosis, the clock starts running when:
- You discover that the misdiagnosis occurred (for example, another doctor makes a correct diagnosis).
- You should have reasonably discovered that the misdiagnosis occurred (for example, you received test results that pointed to misdiagnosis)
For example, in 2020, your doctor ran tests and told you that you were healthy. In 2022, you ran routine tests or visited another doctor and discovered that you have cancer, which has likely grown in your body for many years. The clock starts running in 2022 after the doctor’s visit.
Start legal action as soon as you learn about a delayed diagnosis. The longer you put off filing a claim, the harder it will be to make a case.
Even if you think two years is a long time, it isn’t. When it comes to collecting evidence, finding expert witnesses, and building a strong case, time plays a significant role.
Proving that your doctor didn’t catch the problem on time isn’t enough to recover damages in a delayed diagnosis case. You must show that the delay caused actual harm.
To do that, provide evidence that demonstrates:
- Consequences of the delayed diagnosis
- Financial effects of the delayed diagnosis
- Emotional effects of the delayed diagnosis
To do that, you must hire expert witnesses who can testify to the difference in outcomes between timely and delayed diagnoses in your particular case.
Since oncologists, radiologists, and other doctors may have different opinions, it’s imperative to find the right expert witness to strengthen your case.
Damages in a Delayed Diagnosis Case
If you can prove negligence in a delayed diagnosis case, you can seek sizable damages. When it comes to cancer, diagnosing this condition late could lead to severe consequences that warrant significant expenses and cause emotional anguish.
You can file a lawsuit to recover:
Economic damages are expenses related to the late diagnosis. These expenses usually include all cancer treatment costs because a timely diagnosis could have prevented its progression.
Covered costs include:
- Medical bills
- Surgery expenses
- Medication costs
- Post-op care
- In-home assistance
If you lost your job because of the inability to perform job tasks due to cancer, you could seek compensation for lost wages and earning capacity.
You can try to recover past, present, and future expenses related to your cancer. You must show the likelihood of new expenses to prove that you have a right to future damages. To do that, you may need to invite an expert witness to testify.
People who live with cancer often experience significant emotional anguish, pain, and loss of life quality. These damages multiply when patients learn that a timely diagnosis could have prevented their cancer progression.
Therefore, you have the right to seek non-economic damages.
These damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional pain
Unlike economic damages, pain and anguish aren’t tangible. That’s why insurance companies and judges use special methods to calculate them. The most common one is the multiplier method.
The judge applies a certain multiplier (usually between 1.5 and 5, depending on the extent of the damages) to the number of economic damages.
Non-economic damages can significantly increase the size of your compensation. That’s why some states impose caps on non-economic damage recovery.
For example, Florida has a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. New Jersey and Pennsylvania don’t have such caps.
Wrongful Death Damages
If your loved one died because a doctor didn’t diagnose cancer on time, you could seek wrongful death damages.
These damages can help you cover:
- Funeral expenses
- Burial costs
- Pre-death cancer treatment
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of emotional support
To recover these damages, you still must prove medical negligence, collect evidence, and hire expert witnesses.
Do You Need a Medical Malpractice Attorney?
If you are a victim of a delayed cancer diagnosis, you can seek compensation without an attorney. However, the chances of getting fair compensation without legal assistance are usually slim.
Medical malpractice cases, especially those that involve severe damages, end with sizable settlements. That’s why healthcare providers and their insurance companies do everything they can to avoid settling.
Insurance adjusters often pressure victims into taking lower settlements. Meanwhile, healthcare provider attorneys work hard to stop you from proving negligence.
An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you build and win your delayed cancer diagnosis case by:
- Collecting and vetting all the necessary evidence
- Finding and hiring expert witnesses
- Filing all paperwork on time, with the statute of limitations in mind
- Providing valuable advice throughout the case
- Offering consultations about the course of your case
- Negotiating with the insurance company
- Taking your case to court if necessary
When it comes to large compensations, having a legal professional in your corner is an excellent tactic. With an attorney’s help, you can avoid common mistakes that could cost you a fair payout.
Fight for the Money you Deserve
Delayed cancer diagnosis cases are complex but winnable. If you or your loved one suffered from a delayed cancer diagnosis, you could be entitled to a large compensation. With the right approach to building a strong case and hiring expert witnesses, you can get the money you deserve.
If you plan to file a medical malpractice claim against a healthcare provider, you may need legal assistance. Many medical malpractice attorneys offer free consultations. Take advantage of this opportunity to evaluate the possible merit of your case.