A Guide to Claiming Cancer Misdiagnosis Compensation

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a cancer misdiagnosis we can help.

The purpose of this guide is to help anyone who has suffered a cancer misdiagnosis and is considering a legal claim for compensation. If you are looking for medical advice, please see the NHS website.

Introduction

According to the latest available data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) there were 421,912 new cases of malignant cancers diagnosed in 2015. Almost half of these were skin, breast or prostate cancers.

Rates of cancer diagnosis have increased by 12% since the 1990s.

It is important that cancers are detected as early and as accurately as possible to give patients the best chance of recovery. If a cancer is misdiagnosed it may result in wrong or delayed treatment, with potentially severe consequences.

Only a quarter of cases are diagnosed at the earliest stage, Stage 1.

What is cancer misdiagnosis?

Many illnesses present with similar clinical features to cancer in the early stages, and it may be difficult to determine the cause of a patient's symptoms.

Medical professionals should use differential diagnostic procedures to identify the patient's condition and eliminate potentially life-threatening conditions.

A medical professional, such as a GP, may fail to recognise that his or her patient's symptoms potentially indicate that cancer is a possible diagnosis. The GP may fail to carry out appropriate tests or consult with specialists to investigate the condition further. As a result, they may mistakenly provide an incorrect diagnosis for the patient's illness. This is referred to as clinical negligence.

Even where tests have been carried out, faulty lab equipment or human error may result in inaccurate reports from the laboratory or clinic.

A cancer misdiagnosis may lead to incorrect or delayed treatment, and the subsequent and avoidable worsening of the patient's condition.

In extreme case, the error may be discovered too late to offer effective treatment.

Do I have a cancer misdiagnosis claim?

Medical negligence claims differ from personal injury claims as the following will need to be established:

  • there was a breach of duty ("negligence" or "fault"); and
  • the breach of duty was the cause of your injury, damage or loss ("causation" or "avoidable harm").

Breach of Duty

A breach of duty means that the standard of care you received was below the standard that could reasonably be expected of a competent healthcare professional.

Causation

To establish causation, it will need to be demonstrated that the injury you suffered resulted from the negligent care rather than the underlying condition.

Get an impartial opinion

To get impartial advice on whether you have a claim, speak to a cancer misdiagnosis claim expert on 0800 612 7456.

A brief phone consultation will tell you exactly where you stand. There is no obligation to start a claim.

You can also find out if you have a claim with our Online Claim Checker.

Is compensation always payable?

If an error occurred during treatment and the patient was harmed as a result, this may be referred to as an "undesirable outcome".

Not all treatment that results in an undesirable outcome will result in the payment of compensation.

Sometimes an undesirable outcome is due to a known risk associated with the treatment, or due to a mistake that a doctor could reasonably have made in the circumstances.

How long do I have to start a claim?

If your injury is apparent immediately after medical treatment, you will have 3 years to start a claim.

It may be that the negligent procedure happened more than 3 years ago, but your injury was only diagnosed recently, within the last 3 years. If so, you may still be able to make a claim.

What if your injury was diagnosed months or years after treatment?

You may not be immediately aware of your injury. In some cases, months and even years can pass before symptoms appear.

The law allows you to make a medical negligence claim up to three years after the 'date of knowledge' (when you first learned of the injury).

It is recommended that you start a claim as soon as possible, as medical negligence cases can be complex. Starting your claim sooner will give your solicitor more time to gather medical evidence, assess the extent of your injury and to negotiate interim payments and your final compensation amount.

How long does the misdiagnosis need to have lasted?

It must be proved that the misdiagnosis caused harm to the patient or worsened their condition.

In the event that a misdiagnosis is spotted after only a relatively short period, and so the cancer has not spread or developed to a later stage, it may not be possible to claim compensation. This will be decided based on the medical evidence and facts of the case.

Evidence of cancer misdiagnosis

All relevant evidence of the misdiagnosis must be kept. This includes any records or statements made by medical professionals and any prescriptions issued.

Notes of any financial losses, such as travelling costs and loss of earnings if unable to work, should be documented as they will form the basis of any claim for "special damages".

Can I claim if I have been wrongfully diagnosed with cancer?

In rare cases, patients have been diagnosed as having cancer, when in fact they did not.

Wrongful diagnosis can result in serious emotional and physical consequences that persist long after the error has been identified.

The perception of cancer as particularly harmful can amplify the emotional fallout of a diagnosis. A patient may be able to claim compensation for psychological trauma, stress and depression sustained as a result of the medical error.

Treatments for cancer including chemotherapy and radiotherapy can carry a range of risks and come with significant side-effects. Unnecessary exposure can permanently affect a patient's health and will mean that the correct treatment for the patient's true illness or condition is delayed.

Surgery also carries risks, and can result in irreversible, long-term physical and psychological harm in the case of the removal of breasts or sections of kidney, lung or bowel tissue.

How much compensation can I claim for cancer misdiagnosis?

The amount of money you could claim for your cancer misdiagnosis will depend on:

  • the extent of your injury, and
  • any financial losses or costs you have incurred.

At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your cancer misdiagnosis has affected your life. Your solicitor will take all of these effects into account to calculate the correct compensation award for you.

This calculation will factor in 'general damages' and 'special damages'.

General damages

General damages are awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA).

Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.

Special damages

Special damages are for financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident.

What can I claim for after a cancer misdiagnosis? (see list)

Examples of special damages (losses you can claim for) include:

  • Lost earnings (including future earnings)
  • Medical treatment costs
  • Physiotherapy
  • Travel costs
  • Costs of care
  • Costs of adapting your home or car

What is the average injury compensation for a cancer misdiagnosis claim?

The Judicial College injury tables give a approximate idea of the ranges awarded for different injuries.

However, the money you would receive following a cancer misdiagnosis will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

Your cancer misdiagnosis compensation will be calculated based on the unique impact your injuries have had on your life, your ability to work, and the actual financial losses you have incurred as a result of your injuries.

See the injury table above for some examples.

I can't find my injury in the table, can I still claim?

The table is a list of the most common injuries associated with a cancer misdiagnosis claim. You can see the full list of injury awards here: Judicial College Injury Tables.

Cancer misdiagnosis compensation calculator

Calculating how much compensation you can claim for a cancer misdiagnosis injury can be complicated.

Our injury compensation calculator tells you if you may have a claim, how much compensation you could claim, and what you can claim for.

Find out what your cancer misdiagnosis claim could be worth now:

Calculate compensation

How long does a cancer misdiagnosis claim take?

The length of time needed to process a cancer misdiagnosis claim can vary significantly.

A straightforward liability accepted medical negligence claim could be settled in 12 to 24 months. If the cases is particularly complex, it could take 2 to 5 years. Usually, a medical negligence claim should take 12 to 36 months. For more information on how long your claim could take, see:

How long will my claim take?

Will I still be able to claim for a cancer misdiagnosis after the law changes in April 2020?

The law relating to personal injury claims is changing in April 2020.

You will no longer be able to claim no win, no fee compensation using a solicitor for lower value claims (under £5,000).

In addition, compensation for whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries will be reduced.

Caring and sensitive support

Your solicitor will handle your cancer misdiagnosis claim from the initial consultation through to the financial settlement. In addition, your solicitor will work with other specialists to help you with:

  • Financial support: interim payments while you are unable to work.
  • Advice: on personal injury trusts, tax and welfare benefits.
  • Coordination: with rehabilitation providers and therapists.
  • Access: to treatment and therapies not always available on the NHS.

No win, no fee

Under a no win, no fee agreement (referred to as a 'Conditional Fee Agreement' or 'CFA') you can make a cancer misdiagnosis claim without having to worry about upfront legal fees. If your cancer misdiagnosis claim is unsuccessful you won't have to pay any money to your solicitor.

No win, no fee guarantee

Our no win, no fee guarantee means there is absolutely no financial risk in making a cancer misdiagnosis claim - even if you don't win your claim.

What do I pay if I win my cancer misdiagnosis claim?

Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, after your claim is settled. The solicitor's success fee can be up to 25%. Your solicitor will agree a success fee with you before you start your claim.

What do I pay if I do not win my cancer misdiagnosis claim?

If your cancer misdiagnosis claim is not successful then you do not have to pay any legal fees at all. Your solicitor may take out insurance to ensure there will be nothing to pay.

Is there a penalty if I withdraw?

Under a No Win, No Fee Agreement (CFA), fees may apply if a claimant refuses to cooperate, or abandons their claim after the legal work has started, or if the claim is fraudulent.

Read more about making a No win, no fee claim

How can Quittance help?

Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning medical negligence claims.

If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee claim, we are open 8am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm on Saturday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday.

Call us FREE 0800 612 7456 or arrange a callback:

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Cancer misdiagnosis FAQ's

Can I claim for someone else?

Yes. In certain circumstances, it is possible to claim compensation on behalf of another person in the capacity of a 'litigation friend'.

If an injured person is either too young or vulnerable, too injured or otherwise unable to claim on their own behalf, their litigation friend can handle the claim process on behalf of the injured person.

The litigation friend will be responsible for communicating with the solicitors, and for making decisions in respect of the claim.

Read more about claiming on behalf of another person.

Will I have to go to court?

Highly unlikely. The vast majority of claims that are settled by the solicitor panel are settled out of court.

Only a very small percentage (approx. 5%) of personal injury claims go to court. Generally, only very complex cases, or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court.

Cases that do ultimately go to court are held in front of a judge, not a jury.

Read more: Will my injury claim go to court and what if it does?

Will I have to go to a solicitor's office?

No. You will not need visit a solicitor's office. As with most professional services, it is no longer necessary to meet face to face with your solicitor. Personal injury claims are dealt with via email, post and telephone.

Should you need to have a medical, this will be arranged at a medical centre near you or at your GP's surgery.

Read more: Will I have to visit a solicitor's office?

Can I get an early compensation payment?

If you suffer financial hardship as a result of an injury, you may be able to claim an interim compensation payment.

An interim payment is a partial settlement of your claim which is paid before your claim is concluded. The amount you receive in interim payments would then be deducted from your final compensation settlement or award.

Read more about interim compensation payments.

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

About the author

Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.

Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert