Damages and Compensation

Cancer misdiagnosis patients may wish to file a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit against the doctor or other party whose medical negligence led to harm. Through a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit, patients can receive damages and compensation in the form of monetary rewards. These damages and compensation act as reimbursement for the financial, physical, mental, and emotional harm that the patient experienced as a result of the medical negligence.

Special Damages

Special damages, also called economic damages, are quantifiable expenses that a cancer misdiagnosis patient now faces due to the defendant’s medical negligence. In a case where a patient was falsely diagnosed with cancer, special damages may refer to the costs of unnecessary cancer treatment that the patient underwent. In cases where a cancer patient experienced delayed diagnosis, failure to diagnose, or incorrect diagnosis, special damages may refer to additional treatment that was needed to compensate for a lack of timely treatment. Special damages may also be calculated based on the projected cost of future medical treatment.

Types of special damages in a cancer misdiagnosis case may include:

  • Past and future medical bills including surgery, medication, physical therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments
  • Costs of home modification, such as handicapped railing for those who have become physically impaired
  • Nursing or child care costs resulting from inability to perform self-care or child care
  • Lost wages due to work that was missed during treatment and recovery time
  • Funeral costs in the event of patient death due to cancer misdiagnosis
  • Transportation costs to and from hospitals and other treatment facilities

General Damages

General damages, or non-economic damages, refer to less quantifiable harm that a cancer misdiagnosis patient experiences. General damages aim to provide patients with financial rewards to compensate for harm caused to the patient’s overall quality and enjoyment of life. Cancer misdiagnosis patients who experience physical, mental, emotional, or social harm may be entitled to general damages.

Types of cancer misdiagnosis general damages may include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Mental anguish, depression, and anxiety
  • Loss of consortium, or loss of a loved one
  • Loss of future earning capacity due to disability

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are essentially damages awarded as “punishment” to the defendant for the negligence in question. Punitive damages are also intended to act as a deterrent for preventing similar medical professionals from committing similar negligence. State laws regarding punitive damages vary. In general, the defendant typically must have been aware of the potential harm caused by his or her behavior. For example, punitive damages may be warranted if the plaintiff successfully proves that the doctor provided an intentional cancer misdiagnosis to profit from the resulting cancer treatment.

State Damages and Compensation Caps

A number of states place a cap, or limit, on the amount of compensation that a winning plaintiff can receive from a medical negligence lawsuit. Most of these states place damages and compensation caps may only on general damages, and not special damages. In some states, these caps pertain to all types of damages that a plaintiff can receive from a successful medical negligence lawsuit. Patients who wish to file a cancer lawsuit should speak with an experienced cancer misdiagnosis attorney to discuss damages and compensation caps in the state where the lawsuit will be filed.

Damages and Compensation Examples

The following are examples of damages and compensation awarded to cancer misdiagnosis patients:

  • Jennifer Rufer of Washington received a $15.5 million reward after undergoing a hysterectomy and partial lung removal for a rare type of cancer that she did not have. The false diagnosis resulted from a faulty test manufactured by Abbott Laboratories.
  • Michael Harrison of Mississippi received $800,000 to compensate for unnecessary radiation treatments for falsely diagnosed brain cancer. As a result of the treatment, Michael suffered brain damage, partial paralysis, difficulty speaking, and seizures.
  • Herlinda Garcia of Texas was awarded $367,000 for undergoing seven months of chemotherapy after being falsely diagnosed with breast cancer. The treating doctor misread the lab test results after a benign tumor was removed.




Edwards, Amanda. “Medical Malpractice Non-Economic Damages Caps.” Harvard Journal on Legislation 43.1 (2006): 213-230. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Ireland, Thomas R., and David G. Tucek. “Economic Damages under House Bill 393.” Journal of The Missouri Bar 62.4 (2006): 214-221. Index to Legal Periodicals & Books Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Kelly, Carly N., and Michelle M. Mello. “Are medical malpractice damages caps constitutional? An overview of state litigation.” Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics Fall 2005: 515+. Academic OneFile. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.