Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for more than 600,000 fatalities annually. Many types of cancer are aggressive, and the treatments are also aggressive to provide the patient with the best chance of surviving the disease. Unfortunately, diagnosis errors are also common in the U.S., including errors involving those who are believed to have cancer when they do not, as well as those who have cancer but are believed to be suffering from something else.
If you have suffered physical harm due to a cancer misdiagnosis in Chicago, a Chicago misdiagnosis attorney from Zayed Law Offices can explain the process of seeking compensation for the financial and emotional costs you incurred due to the misdiagnosis. We can also help answer the questions you have about your claim and provide you with information about the services we can offer to help you with your claim.
Why Cancer Misdiagnosis Happens in Chicago
As the third-largest city in the U.S., one would assume that Chicago has several options for those needing medical treatment. However, despite that being true, studies indicate that Chicago’s healthcare facilities are not among the top-ranked in large cities for providing access to care, hospital quality, and local specialists. The city ranked 54th for hospital quality.
Even among the most qualified cancer specialists, errors in diagnosing cancer are not uncommon. Some cancers are more difficult to spot than others, and some are so rare that the doctor does not necessarily consider the diagnosis, in favor of more common ailments as a likely cause of the patient’s symptoms. Commonly, errors occur in how pathologists and physicians view and interpret laboratory testing. Many types of cancer appear to be something else when seen through diagnostic imaging scans such as X-rays.
The Most Common Types of Cancers to Be Misdiagnosed
As mentioned, some cancers are more difficult to detect than others.
According to a report from National Law Review, the most common types of cancer to be misdiagnosed include:
- Lymphoma, of both the Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s variety. This type of cancer occurs in white blood cells known as lymphocytes. The most common symptoms that a patient experiences that indicate the presence of lymphoma include fever, weight loss, night sweats, and fatigue, which are also common symptoms of other, less severe illnesses.
- Breast cancer. Breast cancer misdiagnosis is the most frequent cause of medical malpractice lawsuits against physicians. Around 31 percent of breast cancer diagnoses involve precancerous cells that do not cause clinical issues or endanger the patient’s life. Yet, women diagnosed with breast cancer, due to the presence of precancerous cells, wind up receiving treatment—that can include removal of some or all of the breast, chemotherapy, and radiation—that they do not need. On the flip side, 16 percent of breast cancers are missed by routine screening procedures, leaving a patient’s condition to potentially worsen due to not being treated.
- Colon cancer. Doctors use routine colonoscopies to not only detect cancer in the colon, rectum, or bowel, but to prevent it by finding and removing noncancerous tumors, known as polyps, that can develop into cancer if left untreated. Getting an accurate colon cancer diagnosis correct is crucial, as the patient’s survival rate drops dramatically if the disease is allowed to progress unchecked.
- Lung cancer, which is the second most diagnosed cancer in the United States. Lung cancer tends to progress slowly, which is helpful in terms of allowing doctors the time needed to find an effective treatment plan in many cases, and harmful in that early-stage lung cancer often does not produce any symptoms. If it does, they can be confused with the symptoms of other conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Skin cancer, particularly melanoma. In its early stages, skin cancer can mimic other conditions, such as eczema. Another common reason for misdiagnosis with skin cancer is errors in the lab when determining whether the biopsied tissue samples are cancerous.
The Impacts of Cancer Misdiagnosis
A cancer misdiagnosis can have particularly severe consequences, not only on the patient’s physical health but also on their emotional health and finances.
Some of these impacts include:
- Increased medical expenses due to a decline in the patient’s physical health as a result of the misdiagnosis; the cost of obtaining treatment once a diagnosis has been made (sometimes after affording treatment for the wrong condition); and treating additional medical issues that developed due to the wrong treatment or the lack of treatment recommended for the type of cancer that the patient is suffering from.
- Lost income due to the patient missing work to undergo unnecessary treatment or missing additional work to treat a condition that would have been more easily treated if caught earlier.
- Loss of future earning capacity if the cancer misdiagnosis led to such a decline in the patient’s health that it resulted in permanent injuries that will impair the patient’s ability to work again or to earn in the same capacity as they did before the misdiagnosis occurred.
- Physical pain and suffering resulting from the disease’s progression after diagnosis or as a result of the patient undergoing painful and invasive cancer treatments they did not need.
- Emotional distress caused by misdiagnosis.
Fortunately, the medical malpractice claims process allows individuals to seek compensation for these financial and emotional costs.
The Chicago Medical Malpractice Claims Process
Errors occur regularly in healthcare settings. Not all of these errors result in a patient becoming injured, however. Further, suppose a patient suffers a bad outcome due to a procedure or treatment. In that case, it does not necessarily mean an error has occurred, as there is a risk of a bad outcome with virtually any type of treatment or procedure.
For a patient to seek compensation from a physician through a medical malpractice claim, there must have been an error on the part of a provider—such as a doctor, nurse, or facility—and it must result in physical injury.
Most Malpractice Claims are Compensated by the Provider’s Malpractice Insurance
When a provider’s error physically harms a patient, they will generally seek compensation for their expenses and impacts by filing a claim against the provider’s medical malpractice insurance policy.
Medical malpractice insurance is a specialized type of professional liability insurance that provides coverage of expenses incurred by the provider as they defend themselves against or agree to settle medical malpractice claims against them, including attorney fees and costs, compensatory and punitive damages, medical damages, and settlements.
Healthcare providers in Illinois are not legally required to have medical malpractice insurance. However, most hospitals and physicians’ offices in Chicago not only have policies to protect themselves in cases when their staff makes an error that results in a medical malpractice claim, but also require the doctors who have privileges at their facility to maintain a medical malpractice policy.
When an individual becomes injured due to a medical error and files a claim against the at-fault provider’s policy, the claim is usually assigned to a claims adjuster. The adjuster is an insurance company employee tasked with evaluating the claim and determining whether the insured was liable and—if so—how much compensation is owed to the claimant. While this sounds like a fair and reasonable process, it is essential to remember that an insurance company employs the adjuster—not in business to pay claims but to profit from premiums.
Pay, Negotiate, or Litigate?
Like the providers of other types of liability insurance policies—such as auto liability, homeowner’s, or business policies—the providers of medical malpractice policies have three potential responses when they receive a claim: They can pay the claim in full, negotiate an out-of-court settlement for less than the claim’s value, or they can deny the claim. If they fail to resolve the case by either paying the claim in whole or entering a settlement agreement with the claimant, the claimant has the option to file the claim as a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The Clock Is Ticking
Individuals unable to resolve their malpractice claim against the at-fault provider’s medical malpractice insurance policy can file the claim as a medical malpractice lawsuit, which is a formal request for a judge or jury to hear the case and make determinations about liability and compensation.
To protect this right, the claimant must file their lawsuit within two years of the date on which they knew or—through “reasonable diligence”—should have known they experienced an injury due to a medical error. Even if there was a delay in determining the error occurred, claimants only have a maximum of four years from the date of the error to file a lawsuit.
There are some exceptions, however, such as claims involving minor children, in which parents or guardians of the child have up to eight years to file the claim, or the child is granted the ability to file the claim themselves within four years of reaching the age of majority (which means they must file the claim before their 22nd birthday).
While it seems like an arbitrary number, this deadline (known as the statute of limitations) is one of the most critical aspects of your claim. Failing to file a lawsuit during this time frame will usually bar the claimant from using the court process to seek compensation for the expenses and impacts they incurred due to the error. If the statute of limitations has expired, the at-fault provider’s insurance company will likely refuse to compensate the claim as well, as they no longer face litigation if they do not.
The Affidavit of Merit
Medical malpractice lawsuits share a lot of common steps as other types of personal injury claims. However, this type of lawsuit also has some distinct differences, including the requirement of an affidavit of merit along with filing the lawsuit. The affidavit of merit requires the claimant’s attorney to consult a medical professional in the area of medicine relevant to the claim and to swear that the professional found reason and merit for the patient to file a claim.
A Chicago Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyer Can Assist You With Your Claim
Being diagnosed with and treated for cancer is not easy. Neither are medical malpractice claims. An experienced misdiagnosis attorney who understands the legal process, the types of expenses and impacts you are dealing with, and the type of compensation needed to compensate those costs fairly is crucial to obtaining the compensation you need.
In addition to providing the guidance you need to make decisions that reflect your best interest, your attorney and their legal team can also offer services such as:
- Determining who was liable for the error
- Establishing a value to the claim
- Managing communication with the malpractice insurance provider
- Negotiating a settlement that fairly compensates you for your injury
- Gathering the evidence and eyewitness or expert witness needed to prove your claim in court
- Litigation services pertaining to the representation of your case to a judge or jury
- Assistance in obtaining the proceeds of your negotiated settlement or court award.
Contact Zayed Law Offices for Help With Your Claim
Suppose you have suffered physical harm as a result of a cancer misdiagnosis in Chicago. In that case, the experienced medical malpractice legal team at Zayed Law Offices can provide information about the medical malpractice claims process, answers to the questions you have about your specific claim, and an overview of the types of services we provide that have helped more than 99 percent of our clients receive the compensation they need.
With decades of trial experience, we are confident in our ability to fight for your right to compensation, whether that fight takes place during settlement negotiations or in the courtroom.