Issue: November 2014
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More Than Skin Deep: Skin Cancer Misdiagnosis and Other Liability Issues

Introduction

Skin Cancer: Liability Issues

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. Because most cases are preventable, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a call to action to prevent skin cancer. Annual costs for treating skin cancer have been estimated at $8.1 billion, with about $3.3 billion of skin cancer treatment costs attributable to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. A recent study indicates that the number of skin cancer cases due to indoor tanning is higher than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking.

 

More than 63,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year. Early diagnosis and treatment can be vital in achieving the best possible outcomes, but as many as 9,000 deaths result from skin cancer annually.

 

Failure or delays in diagnosing skin cancer, along with mistakes in treating skin cancer, frequently lead to litigation. Lawsuits can result in high awards or settlements.

 

Attorneys, physicians, hospitals, insurers, employers, and other potential parties to the litigation should be aware of the types of lawsuits and other liability issues that arise in connection with the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer.


The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy

Attorneys:

What proof is needed to establish medical malpractice or negligence in the diagnosis or treatment of skin cancer? And, what is a potential strategy for the attorney to employ? 

Physicians:

How can liability for medical malpractice be avoided for an injury related to the diagnosis or treatment of skin cancer? And, what is a potential strategy for the physician to employ?

Insurers:

Can a payout under a medical malpractice liability policy be avoided by proof that the health provider was not negligent or that there was no coverage for the patient’s injury related to the diagnosis or treatment of skin cancer? And, what is a potential strategy for the insurer to employ? 

Employers:

Can an employer be subject to liability for an employee’s skin cancer? And, what is a potential strategy for the employer to use? 


Practice the Technique: Checklists

Attorneys:

Check this list of facts and circumstances tending to show a health care provider’s liability for malpractice or negligence in diagnosing or treating skin cancer.

Physicians:

A physician should review the items on this list when defending against claims of malpractice or negligence involving the diagnosis or treatment of skin cancer.

Insurers:

The insurer should check these “red flags” and inconsistencies when investigating a claim of malpractice in the diagnosis or treatment of skin cancer.

Employers:

Use this checklist to determine if the employee’s skin cancer is “work related” and occurred “in the course of the employment.”

Expert Analysis

How Can a Failure to Diagnose Skin Cancer Be Proven?

Amato A. DeLuca, JD

How Does Ultraviolet Radiation Affect the Skin?

Christopher R. Shea, MD

Litigation

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Arbitration or mediation may be required by contract or statute, may be mandated by the court or, in some circumstances, may be the appropriate method for a negotiated resolution.


Reasons To Reach Settlement

The following are reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to reach settlement, and not take the action to trial.


Reasons To Go To Trial

The following are reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to take the action to trial.


Jury Awards and Settlements

How much have juries awarded and what settlements have been reached recently in cases involving skin cancer? 



Medical Examples

Skin Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

This section provides detailed medical information on skin, benign skin conditions, the types of skin cancer, and skin cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. It also discusses the patient’s prognosis.  



Law and Medicine Resources

Law and Medicine Resources

Provided is a listing of law and medical resources for further information on skin cancer.


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More Than Skin Deep: Skin Cancer Misdiagnosis and Other Liability Issues

Table of Contents
Introduction

Expert Analysis
   Amato A. DeLuca, JD
   Christopher R. Shea, MD

The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy
   Attorneys
   Physicians and Health Providers
   Insurers
   Employers and Risk Managers

Practice the Technique: Checklists
   Attorney Checklist
   Physician Checklist
   Insurer Checklist
   Employer Checklist

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Reasons To Reach Settlement

Reasons To Go To Trial

Jury Awards and Settlements

Skin Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Law and Medicine Resources