A Guide to Claiming Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Compensation

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

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

Introduction

Outcomes for people with cancer are continuing to improve through better screening programmes, availability of treatments and quality of care. However early detection and referral is still crucial.

The latest analysis by Cancer Research UK estimates that around 52,000 patients a year may have their odds of survival reduced because the disease is not caught quickly enough.

If an avoidable delay results in harm to the patient, a worsening of symptoms or the need for more aggressive treatment, it may be possible to claim compensation for clinical negligence.

What is meant by "delayed diagnosis of cancer"?

The NHS National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) defines delayed diagnosis of cancer as when someone who has cancer is either:

  • Not investigated or referred for investigation, or, having been investigated, is not diagnosed at the time of investigation or is diagnosed incorrectly; or
  • Where a positive test result or diagnosis is not properly communicated to a healthcare professional who can act on the information; or
  • Where the information is not acted upon, meaning appropriate treatment is not commenced.

Other delays may occur if a patient does not recognise his cancer symptoms and therefore does not seek healthcare advice, or if the patient fails to attend an appointment for further investigations such as screening.

What types of cancer are at the greatest risk of a delayed diagnosis?

A study by the NPSA revealed that gynaecological, skin, urological and breast cancers were most commonly associated with a delay in cancer diagnosis.

The majority of delays were between one and three months, and in a third of all cases patients sustained harm as a result of the delay.

    The impact of the delay

    A delay in diagnosis of cancer may mean the required treatment is different, for example a patient may need chemotherapy as well as surgery, or perhaps a full mastectomy to treat breast cancer where a lumpectomy might have been sufficient with earlier detection.

    Stronger, more toxic, medication or more invasive surgery may have a negative impact on a patient's quality of life, where a cancer has been allowed to advance. Late diagnoses also increase psychological distress for patients and their families.

    A patient's chance of five-year survival may also have been reduced.

    Harm arising from a delay can include:

    • Unnecessary pain and suffering
    • More invasive or prolonged treatment, including cases where chemotherapy or radiotherapy has become necessary as a result of the delay
    • A worsened prognosis or poor prospects for recovery

    Can I make a claim for compensation for delayed cancer diagnosis?

    In some cases, a delay may be unavoidable.

    Many patients have initially non-specific symptoms, and a conclusive diagnosis of cancer may require consultations with specialists and a number of tests. It may also be necessary to carry out a biopsy. These factors can all result in a delay in diagnosis.

    The key issue when determining whether compensation can be claimed is whether or not a patient's care fell below a reasonable professional standard.

    If, for example, a medical professional missed diagnostic signs and failed to refer a patient for tests that would have promptly revealed the cancer, that professional may be found to be negligent. If a clinic or lab fails to return test results promptly, or those results are mislabled, they may be negligent.

    Your solicitor will address the issues of negligence and liability when they speak to you about your case.

    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 much compensation can I claim for delayed cancer diagnosis?

    The amount of money you could claim for your delayed cancer diagnosis 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 delayed cancer diagnosis 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 delayed cancer diagnosis? (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 delayed cancer diagnosis 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 delayed cancer diagnosis will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

    Your delayed cancer diagnosis 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.

    Can I claim for physiotherapy and private care costs?

    Private treatment can be expensive, but funding towards the cost of this treatment frequently comprises part of a compensation award. Your solicitor may even be able to arrange access to private medical care as soon as your claim is accepted.

    Delayed cancer diagnosis compensation calculator

    Calculating how much compensation you can claim for a delayed cancer diagnosis 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 delayed cancer diagnosis claim could be worth now:

    Calculate compensation

    How long does a delayed cancer diagnosis claim take?

    How long it can take to settle a delayed cancer diagnosis claim can vary considerably.

    For instance, a simple uncontested medical negligence claim could be settled in 12 to 24 months. If the case goes to court however, the process might take 2 to 5 years. On average a medical negligence claim takes between 12 and 36 months. For more information, see:

    How long will my claim take?

    Will I still be able to claim for a delayed cancer diagnosis 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 delayed cancer diagnosis 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 - the facts

    No Win, No Fee is an agreement with your solicitor (known as a Conditional Fee Agreement or CFA) that means that you can make a delayed cancer diagnosis claim with:

    • no upfront legal fees
    • no solicitor's fees payable if your claim is not successful
    • a success fee payable only if your claim is successful

    No Win, No Fee is the most common way to make a compensation claim.

    Our no win, no fee promise

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

    What do I pay if I win my delayed cancer diagnosis claim?

    Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, after your compensation is awarded. 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 delayed cancer diagnosis claim?

    If your delayed cancer diagnosis claim is not successful then you won't have to pay your solicitor any fees. Your solicitor may take out insurance to ensure there will be nothing to pay.

    What is Legal Aid available for?

    In 2000, the government abolished the right to legal aid in medical negligence cases. Depending on an individual's circumstances, Legal Aid may be available for discrimination cases, criminal cases, family mediation and court or tribunal representation.

    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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    Delayed cancer diagnosis 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