Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuits: Do You Have a Case?

doctor misdiagnoses cancer in a patient

When doctors fail to diagnose cancer properly, patients can require much more aggressive treatments, and many will die. Cancer misdiagnosis is unfortunately common. According to statistics kept by the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a misdiagnosis happens almost 30% of the time.

Doctors can misdiagnose cancer in many ways. For example, they can completely miss the cancer altogether, claiming your pain is just heartburn or another harmless condition. Alternately, a doctor might misidentify the cancer or claim you have cancer when you don’t have the disease at all.

Cancer misdiagnosis happens in North Carolina, too. One hospital in Winston-Salem made the news for having 25 cancer test errors. According to WWAY TV3, several patients underwent cancer treatment when they never had the disease. A few had their breasts removed after a wrong diagnosis for breast cancer.

If a doctor was careless, then you might have a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit if the doctor failed to properly diagnose you. You should meet with an experienced attorney to learn more about the legal process.

Can You Sue for Misdiagnosis of Cancer?

Not everyone who comes down with cancer has a possible cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit. There are some legitimate reasons why a doctor would not have properly diagnosed you. For example, you might not have had any symptoms that would suggest to a competent doctor that you might have cancer, in which case there is no reason a doctor should order certain diagnostic tests.

Instead, to bring this type of legal claim, you must prove the following four elements:

  • You had a doctor-patient relationship with the person who misdiagnosed you. This is usually easy. If the doctor agreed to take you on as a patient, then a relationship exists.
  • The doctor was negligent, which led to the misdiagnosis. The doctor needs to have met the standard of care established in the profession. If not, the doctor has breached his or her duty of care.
  • The misdiagnosis caused the patient harm. If the patient died, then the diagnosis must have been the cause of the death. This can be tricky to establish, as many cancers will lead to death even with a proper diagnosis.
  • You have suffered specific damages as a result of the misdiagnosis. Generally, this means you have incurred medical expenses.

In our experience, the second element is most often in dispute. For example, patient and doctor might have wildly differing memories about what was said in a consultation. A doctor might claim that he or she had no reason to suspect you had cancer, whereas you remember discussing specific symptoms that would have caused a competent doctor to investigate further.

Generally, you will need an expert witness to help you establish whether a doctor followed the correct standard of care. An expert can also help establish whether the misdiagnosis was the cause of damages.

Some cases are easy. If you didn’t really have cancer and a doctor removed your breast, then the misdiagnosis is obviously the cause of your injury. But if a loved one died because a doctor failed to diagnose a condition, then he or she might have still died anyways with a proper diagnosis.

What Type of Compensation Can You Receive?

The compensation our clients receive for a cancer misdiagnosis depends on the circumstances of their case. For example, they might receive:

  • Medical bills, especially if they need corrective surgery.
  • Lost wages due to missing work.
  • Lost earning capacity if the cancer misdiagnosis led to them becoming partially or fully disabled
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

If the misdiagnosis caused a loved one to die, then you might be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. You could receive compensation for the income your loved one would have earned as well as for the loss of services, companionship, comfort, or guidance. Wrongful death cases require an individualized review of all the circumstances, so meet with an attorney for a case evaluation.

Why You Need a Medical Malpractice Attorney in Greenville

North Carolina makes it difficult to bring medical malpractice lawsuits. You will need a medical expert to provide an affidavit about the quality of the care you receive before you can even get through the courthouse door. There are also different rules that will apply to medical malpractice cases, which can make it harder to be fully compensated for your injuries.

For help with your case, please contact Attorney Albritton of Irons & Irons P.A. We have brought many medical malpractice cases and understand North Carolina law inside and out. We offer a free consultation if you contact us.


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