Is a Missed or Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Medical Malpractice in Alabama?

By Jon Lewis on Jun 03 in Lewis & Feldman Blog.

Is a Missed or Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Medical Malpractice in Alabama?

Cancer is one of the most common serious medical conditions. According to data provided by the American Cancer Society, there will be approximately 1.8 million new cancer diagnoses in the United States this year. Tragically, there are also an average of 600,000 cancer deaths nationwide each year. The sooner cancer is detected, the better a patient’s prognosis. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that a delayed cancer diagnosis is associated with: 

  • Higher costs of care;
  • More severe medical complications; and
  • A reduced likelihood of survival. 

This raises an important question: Can a missed cancer diagnosis or a delayed cancer diagnosis be medical malpractice in Alabama? The short answer is ‘yes’—but the specific circumstances of the case always matter. In this blog post, our Birmingham medical malpractice attorney explains the most important things you should understand about missed cancer diagnosis claims and delayed cancer diagnosis claims in Alabama. 

Background: Misdiagnosis/Delayed Diagnosis Can Constitute Malpractice 

As a starting point, it is important to understand that misdiagnosis and/or delayed diagnosis can constitute medical malpractice in Alabama. Under state law, physicians, medical specialists, and other health providers have a legal responsibility to provide adequate quality care to patients. In fact, some studies have found that misdiagnosis is the most common form of medical malpractice. 

A negligent misdiagnosis of cancer or a negligent delayed diagnosis of cancer could be deemed medical malpractice. That being said, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is not automatically malpractice. It will only be deemed malpractice if the doctor/health provider’s negligence was a factor in the improper diagnosis. 

A Timely and Accurate Diagnosis is Crucial in Cancer Cases

A prompt and accurate medical diagnosis is always important—especially when it comes to cancer. The research on this issue is overwhelming. A timely cancer diagnosis can be life-saving. A study published in The Lancet (an academic journal), found that early detection of a diagnosis of cancer significantly increases the odds of a full recovery. Another study in the academic journal BMJ found that the risk of death from cancer jumps 10% each month that the diagnosis is delayed. 

Three Things You Must Prove in a Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Case in Alabama

To bring a successful medical malpractice claim in Alabama, a patient (and their family) must be prepared to present a strong and well-supported legal case. There are specific elements that must be met in order to prove medical malpractice. Here are three things that a plaintiff must prove in a delayed cancer diagnosis medical malpractice claim in Alabama: 

  • Formation of a Doctor-Patient Relationship: The first element of a medical malpractice claim in Alabama is establishing the existence of a doctor-patient relationship. Unless a valid doctor-patient relationship has been established in the eyes of Alabama law, you cannot hold a provider liable for malpractice. For example, if randomly met a doctor at a restaurant, described your symptoms, and they casually (but wrongly) told you that “it is probably not cancer” it is unlikely that you have any type of malpractice claim. Malpractice requires a valid doctor-patient relationship. 
  • Substandard Care By the Medical Provider: The most important element of any medical malpractice claim is negligence. Simply put, a medical provider is negligent when they offer substandard care. Put another way, a doctor or health provider is negligent when the care that they provide is worse than the care that you would have received from a reasonably prudent alternative provider. An improper cancer diagnosis is medical malpractice if an ordinarily qualified doctor would have likely made an accurate diagnosis. 
  • Patient Must Have Suffered Actual Harm: Finally, a patient can only bring a successful medical malpractice claim in Alabama if they have suffered actual harm as a consequence of the substandard care that they received. For example, imagine that you went to a physician to get your symptoms checked out on a Monday morning. They failed to diagnose you with cancer. The next day, you sought a second opinion from another doctor. They diagnosed you with cancer and treatment started the following week. In this scenario, it would be difficult to prove that actual harm was suffered due to the misdiagnosis. 

What Compensation Can be Recovered in a Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Malpractice Claim?

If you or your family member suffered harm due to a delayed cancer diagnosis, it is crucial that you get access to full and fair compensation to pay bills and support your loved ones. Sadly, medical malpractice insurance companies are extremely aggressive. They try to fight liability and settle claims for the minimum amount possible. Our Birmingham medical malpractice lawyers fight hard to help people and families maximize their recovery. Compensation may be available for: 

  • Emergency room care;
  • Hospital bills and health costs; 
  • Physical therapy;
  • Mental health support; 
  • Lost wages and loss of income;
  • Pain and suffering and emotional distress;
  • Physical disfigurement and/or disability; and
  • Wrongful death of a family member. 

Medical malpractice claims are notoriously complex. Proving that a misdiagnosis of cancer or delayed diagnosis of cancer constitutes negligence can be challenging. In most cases, testimony from an expert witness is required to help support the claim. At Lewis & Feldman, LLC, we have a deep understanding of Alabama’s medical malpractice laws. Our team is ready to help you and your family take action to get justice and the full available financial support. 

Contact Our Birmingham, AL Medical Malpractice Attorney for Immediate Legal Help 

At Lewis & Feldman, LLC, our Alabama medical malpractice lawyer is a devoted advocate for justice. We know how to hold negligent hospitals, doctors, and other health providers accountable. If you or your family member was harmed due to a missed cancer diagnosis or a delayed cancer diagnosis, we can help. Give us a call at 205-896-6410 or send us a direct message to set up your free, no commitment case review. From our Birmingham law office, we handle medical malpractice claims throughout the region, including in Trussville, Gardendale, Pelham, Hoover, Bessemer, and Jasper. 

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