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Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuits and Settlements

On this page, our cancer misdiagnosis lawyers look at medical malpractice lawsuits based on a failure to timely diagnose cancer.  We will explain what is necessary to prove a malpractice case for misdiagnosed cancer. Our attorneys also look at compensation and the average settlement payouts for cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits in Maryland and around the country.

What You Need to Prove to Win a Cancer Misdiagnosis Case

In a malpractice suit based on a misdiagnosis of cancer, the plaintiff needs to prove three elements: duty, breach, and damages.

Duty. In cancer misdiagnosis cases, the “duty” element is satisfied by proving that a doctor-patient relationship existed. The existence of a doctor-patient relationship is usually obvious, but is more ambiguous in others (e.g., on-call doctors). For Maryland law on determining doctor-patient relationships see Sterling v. Johns Hopkins. (Duty is rarely an issue in 99% of cases.)

Breach. The element of “breach” is established by proving that the cancer misdiagnosis was due to the doctor’s failure to conform to the applicable medical standard of care. In almost every case, our cancer misdiagnosis lawyers are trying to prove that the doctor made a mistake that a reasonably prudent doctor would not have made.

Damages. Plaintiffs in cancer misdiagnosis cases must prove that they were actually harmed or injured by the failure to timely diagnose their cancer. In other words, the plaintiff needs to show that the misdiagnosis made their cancer less treatable, or somehow changed their outlook to get compensation. This is often a contested issue missed malignancy claims.  Defense lawyers in cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits often argue that the plaintiff would have died even if the diagnosis was timely made.

What Impact Did the Failure to Diagnose Cancer Have?

In order to have a good medical malpractice case for failure to diagnose cancer, the plaintiff needs to be able to show that the doctor’s failure to timely diagnose negatively impacted their ultimate outcome. Almost all failure to diagnose cancer cases involve some sort of delay in the cancer diagnosis.

Here is a common example. Jane sees her OB/GYN for her annual check-up in January 2023 with a lump in her breast. The doctor feels the lump but fails to order a mammogram or do any sort of follow-up. One year later in January 2024, Jane is back for another annual check-up and this time the doctor orders a mammogram which reveals that the lump is cancer. Jane’s doctor negligently failed to diagnose the breast cancer in January 2023, resulting in a delay of 1-year before it was diagnosed.

In the example above, Jane will need to establish that the 1-year delay in diagnosis of her breast cancer had negative consequences. Jane will need to show that if her doctor had diagnosed her cancer a year earlier, her treatment options and her prognosis would have been much better. Jane’s doctor will argue that the 1-year delay made no difference because Jane would have had to undergo the same course of treatment had the cancer been diagnosed a year earlier.

How Common Is Cancer Misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis of cancer is much more common than most people assume. In fact, cancer is one of the most frequently misdiagnosed medical conditions.

A new study indicates that cancer is misdiagnosed more than 10% of the time.  Which cancers are the most frequently misdiagnosed? One study found that lymphoma, breast cancer, sarcomas, and melanoma top the list. Read up on these cancers and you will find a leitmotif: your best chance of beating these cancers is to catch them early.

How many of these misdiagnosis errors are viable medical malpractice claims? There are vast complexities associated with the development of a disease like cancer.

Not every missed cancer diagnosis lawsuit should lead to a medical malpractice claim. You cannot say that there is compensable damage or injury in every negligent misdiagnosis of cancer.  But for too many, it is a difference between life and death.

Five Factors You See in Successful Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuits

Some cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits in Maryland end in huge verdict.  In other cases, end in defense verdicts.

Determining the success of a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit involves evaluating a myriad of factors. Each case is unique, and various elements can influence the outcome, ranging from the quality of medical evidence to the specific circumstances surrounding the misdiagnosis. Sometime the key to success in a case one thing that you would only find in that specific case.

Still, there are elements that exist in most winning failure to diagnose cancer lawsuits:

  1. Quality of Medical Evidence: The availability of medical records, diagnostic tests, and expert testimony that clearly show a deviation from standard care practices.  The more clear and obvious, the better.  Our malpractice lawyers bring many lawsuits – we have a number pending right now – where the defense lawyers have a hard time finding an expert who will testify because the negligence is so clear.  But other cases are a dog fight.  The more clear the evidence of malpractice, the more likely you are to get a good settlement or verdict.
  2. Impact of Delay: Detailed analysis of how the delay in diagnosis affected the treatment options, prognosis, and overall outcome for the patient.  The longer the delay the better in these claims in terms of your chances of success at trial.
  3. Comparative Negligence: Consideration of the patient’s own actions or inactions, such as missing appointments or not following medical advice, which might affect the claim.  Defense lawyers want to blame the patient.  If they have not ammunition to do that, they look ridiculous.  But when the do have a leg to stand on, it can be a very effective defense.
  4. Expert Testimony: The role and importance of expert witnesses in establishing the standard of care and proving that the healthcare provider’s actions fell short of this standard. You need experts that are both strong on the medicine and the ability to communicate that effectively to the jury.
  5. Likability: The likability of the plaintiff and the perceived demeanor of the doctor can subtly influence juries and even settlement negotiations. A sympathetic plaintiff who presents as credible and sincere may garner more empathy and support.  Similarly, if the doctor is perceived as unlikable or dismissive, it will reinforce the narrative of negligence or indifference.

Average Settlement Compensation for Cancer Misdiagnosis

The median malpractice verdict in cancer-related malpractice cases is $1.75 million. The average verdict is much higher but we do not have the exact statistics. The vast majority of these cancer cases are misdiagnosis lawsuits.

A median or average verdict does not tell you a ton about the settlement compensation payout you can expect for your claim.  If you look at the list below on specific types of cancers, you can get average settlement payouts for cancer misdiagnosis for specific types of cancer This may be more illuminating in drilling down on the settlement value of your case.  Still, the reality is that cancer misdiagnosis settlement amounts are dependent on the unique facts of the case.

Settlements and Verdicts in Cancer Misdiagnosis Cases

It is not easy to calculate settlement values in lawsuits where cancer is misdiagnosed.  But when evaluating settlement amounts and jury payouts in cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits, several key factors regularly come into play.

Insurance companies, hospitals, and juries consider various elements, including the severity of the misdiagnosis, the delay in proper treatment, and the resulting impact on the patient’s health and life expectancy. The extent of physical and emotional suffering, the cost of additional medical treatments, and the potential for loss of income or earning capacity are also crucial considerations.

Additionally, the degree of negligence or malpractice demonstrated by healthcare providers influences compensation decisions. Ultimately, these factors collectively determine the financial compensation awarded to plaintiffs in these often complex and sensitive cases.

Below are sample lawsuits involving the failure to diagnose cancer and the settlement compensation or jury award the victim received:

  • 2024 Pennsylvania – $1,375,000 Settlement: The decedent was under the care of the defendants who were responsible for monitoring him for colorectal cancer recurrence. For several years they failed to diagnose a tumor growing in his colon. By the time it was diagnosed (by another doctor) it was too late and he died. The estate brought a wrongful death case alleging that the defendants negligently failed to timely diagnose his cancer. The case settled.
  • 2023 Pennsylvania – $1,000,000 Settlement: The decedent was a patient at a VA medical center. A CT scan revealed a potential sign of lung cancer, but for several years no follow-up was ever done and the cancer went undiagnosed for almost 9 years. By the time it was diagnosed, it had already spread and he died shortly after. The wrongful death lawsuit was brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act and the case was settled.
  • 2022 Pennsylvania – $18,000,000 Verdict: The plaintiff was only 22 years old when she presented to her OB/GYN office and a lump was felt in her breast during a breast exam. The CRNP who did the exam failed to order a mammogram or do any other sort of follow-up whatsoever to determine whether the lump was cancerous. This resulted in a 7-month delay in the diagnosis of her breast cancer and the plaintiff had to undergo a double mastectomy, 8 rounds of chemotherapy, and 28 radiation treatments. This is a classic example of a negligent “failure to follow-up” breast cancer case.
  • 2021 Virginia – $900,000 Settlement: The decedent, a woman in her 80s, underwent regular mammograms over a period of 3 years. The mammograms were interpreted by the defendant radiologist who failed to identify the cancerous mass in her breast. The resulting delay in diagnosis caused the cancer to spread and the woman died.
  • 2019 Maryland – $2,582,529 Verdict: A 56-year-old woman developed a lump in her breast. She underwent a mammogram and an ultrasound at Advanced Radiology, the largest medical imaging provider in Maryland.  The radiologist interpreted the results as normal. A year later, the woman was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. She died three years later. Her family alleged that the radiologist’s negligence prevented her from timely receiving life-saving treatments. Her malpractice lawyer filed a lawsuit alleging the radiologist improperly interpreted the woman’s test results and should have made a referral for further diagnostic testing.  Advanced Radiology argued at trial that an earlier diagnosis would not have saved her life (classic cancer causation defense).  The Baltimore County jury that heard the case obviously disagreed.
  • 2019 California – $887,806 Settlement:  A 47-year old plaintiff died after a botched needle aspiration biopsy by the defendants causes a 4-month delay in the diagnosis of very aggressive breast cancer.  Is a four-month delay long enough for a viable malpractice case?  It really depends on too many factors to make a general rule for how long of a delay is too long.  The average payout for cancer misdignosis is contingent in part on the length of delay the misdiagnosis caused.
  • 2019 New York – $4,500,000 Settlement: A radiologist identifies colon cancer on CT scans but negligently fails to directly notify the patient or referring doctor of the findings resulting in a 19 months delay in treatment of colon cancer.
  • 2019 Washington DC – $680,000 Verdict: The defendant radiologist misinterpreted mammogram imaging and failed to identify breast tumor resulting in over a year delay in treatment. As a result of
    the delay, the plaintiff had to undergo a double mastectomy, chemo, and numerous reconstructive surgeries.
  • 2018 Pennsylvania – $450,000 Settlement:  Despite a significant family history of colon cancer, the patient’s primary care doctor did not schedule routine colonoscopies and screening at recommended intervals. The patient’s colon cancer goes undiagnosed. He dies and his family sues the primary care doctor for negligent care.
  • 2017 Maryland – $461,862 Verdict: A 79-year-old man with a history of tobacco smoking underwent two chest CT scans within three years. He was never informed of any issues with either of them. Two years after his second chest CT, the man was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Despite undergoing treatment, he died two years later. The man’s family hired an attorney who alleged that the four treating physicians’ negligence caused a delayed lung cancer diagnosis that prevented him from lifesaving treatment. The jury found one of those doctors responsible.  It seems like the jury reduced the amount of the award because the family sought compensation for a smoker who got lung cancer.  Lung cancer may be the most commonly misdiagnosed cancer but many lawyers steer clear of these cases because most misdiagnosis victims are smokers.
  • 2017 Maryland – $495,000 Verdict:  This is a kidney cancer misdiagnosis case, again involving Advanced Radiology.  An elderly man in his 80s has internal symptoms and gets a CT scan done to rule out kidney cancer. Radiologist at Advanced Radiology in Baltimore County fails to identify signs of cancer on images resulting in a 2-year delay in diagnosis of kidney cancer. The patient dies shortly after and his family hired a Maryland cancer misdiagnosis lawyer and sues for wrongful death.  This is another Maryland case where the verdict seems low for a wrongful death.
  • 2017 Maryland – $1,000,000 Verdict: (Uterus Cancer Misdiagnosis) OB/GYN sends out tissue samples to screen for cancer. The pathologist diagnoses a “smooth muscle tumor of uncertain malignant potential” and recommends close clinical follow-up. Defendant OB/GYN does essentially no clinical follow-up and 2.5 years later the plaintiff is diagnosed with uterus cancer that has spread to her lungs. Plaintiff sues alleging that the OB/GYN was negligent in failing to conduct follow-up, including periodic CT scans that would have led to a timely diagnosis.

More Cancer Settlements

Below are pages where our lawyers talk about failure to diagnose malpractice involving specific types of cancer, such as failure to diagnose breast cancer. The process and medical care standards for diagnosing certain types of cancer vary significantly. This means that diagnostic malpractice cases tend to have unique attributes based on the type of cancer involved. Check out these pages for information (including settlements & verdicts) on failure to diagnose a specific cancer type.

Breast Cancer Colon Cancer
Cervical Cancer Skin Cancer
Lung Cancer Radiologist Misdiagnosis

FAQs: Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuits

These are some of the questions victims have in missed cancer diagnosis lawsuits.

Can You Sue a Doctor for Not Finding Cancer?

Yes. If a doctor fails to diagnose your cancer because of negligent care or a mistake, you can sue for medical malpractice. Missed cancer diagnosis lawsuits are common. In fact, failure to diagnose cancer is one of the most common types of medical mistake claims our medical malpractice lawyers see.

Some estimates suggest one-third of misdiagnosis errors involve cancer. Some common examples of medical negligence in cancer misdiagnosis cases include failure to identify tumors on radiology images and failure to order appropriate testing.

How Much Is Average Settlement Compensation for Failure to Diagnose Cancer?

The average settlement compensation in a failure to diagnose cancer lawsuit is between $300,000 and $600,000. Cancer misdiagnosis cases have a somewhat lower average settlement payouts than other types of medical negligence cases because of these challenges in proving many of these claims.

What Are the Most Commonly Misdiagnosed Types of Cancer?

The most frequently misdiagnosed cancers are breast cancer, colon cancer, lymphoma, and lung cancer. There are a variety of factors that make these cancers more problematic to diagnose.

What Products and Drugs Are Involved in Class Action Lawsuits for Causing Cancer?

There are a number of products and drugs that are current the subject of MDL class action lawsuits in 2021. They include

Getting a Lawyer for Your Cancer Misdiagnosis Case

The cancer misdiagnosis attorneys at Miller & Zois have experience handling medical malpractice cases from start to finish. We have had a history of success. Our missed cancer lawyers have the right experts and the resources and experience to put you in a position to win your case and get the compensation you richly deserve. There are no fees or expenses – none – unless we win a financial recovery for you.

Call us today to review your claim at 800-553-8082. You can also get a free online consultation and case evaluation.

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The last case I referred to them settled for $1.2 million. John Selinger
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The case settled and I got a lot more money than I expected. Ron even fought to reduce how much I owed in medical bills so I could get an even larger settlement. Nchedo Idahosa
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