When is a Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Medical Malpractice in Virginia?

Cancer remains one of the most common medical problems in our society. The federal government estimates that nearly 40 percent of all people in Virginia will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their life. The prognosis after a cancer diagnosis depends on many different factors, including the specific type of case and, importantly, how early it was detected. 

The World Health Organization is clear: A delayed cancer diagnosis decreases the patient’s chances for survival. A timely cancer diagnosis can be a life or death matter for patients. Failure to diagnose/misdiagnosis may be malpractice. In this article, our Winchester medical malpractice attorney explains the key things to know about delayed cancer diagnosis claims in Virginia. 

What You Must Establish to Bring a Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Malpractice Claim in Virginia

A doctor, hospital, or other health provider is not automatically liable for malpractice simply because there was a bad outcome. There are specific criteria that must be met to prove medical malpractice. Here are three important things that a plaintiff must prove to bring a successful delayed cancer diagnosis medical malpractice claim in the Commonwealth of Virginia: 

  1. The Formation of a Doctor-Patient Relationship: You can only bring a delayed cancer diagnosis malpractice claim if a doctor-patient relationship was formed in the eyes of Virginia law. While this element may not be an issue in every case, a patient may not have any claim against a doctor who has an informal opinion outside of a professional setting. 
  2. Diagnose Missed/Delayed Due to Substandard Care: Cancer is complicated. Even with our best modern science, it is still sometimes hard to diagnose. Doctors are not expected to be perfect. A missed cancer diagnosis is not necessarily malpractice. To prove malpractice in Virginia, you must prove that the cancer diagnosis was delayed/missed due to substandard care. Put another way, you must prove that a reasonably prudent doctor would have made the correct diagnosis.  
  3. Actual Harm Suffered By the Patient: Finally, medical malpractice requires actual patient harm. If a doctor provides poor care and misses a cancer diagnosis, but another doctor is able to catch it during a second opinion on the same day, it is unlikely that any tangible patient harm can be established—meaning it would be difficult to pursue any malpractice. Still, with cancer, even a few weeks can make a dramatic difference. 

Ultimately, delayed cancer diagnosis claims are among the most complex types of medical malpractice cases. Expert testimony is often required to determine a physician was negligent in failing to diagnose cancer. Do not assume that you or your loved one has no case without first consulting with an experienced Virginia medical malpractice lawyer. 

Call Our Winchester, VA Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

At Correll Law Firm, our Winchester medical negligence lawyer has the professional expertise and real world legal experience that you can rely on. If you have any questions about delayed cancer diagnosis and malpractice, we can help. Give us a call at 540-535-2005 or use our online contact form for a free, no obligation case evaluation. With an office in Winchester, Correll Law Firm, PC handles medical malpractice claims throughout Northern Virginia.