Have you ever heard the phrase ‘medical negligence’ or ‘clinical negligence’ in a news report or seen it in the press and wondered what it meant? Well this website will tell you what medical negligence actually is and what people can do about it.
Every year in the UK lots of us have to receive medical treatment for various conditions (from simple dental treatment through to serious back or even brain surgery). In most cases the treatment provider and their staff treat us professionally and to a standard that we’d expect to be treated but in some cases things go wrong.
Medical negligence is when something goes wrong with the treatment because somebody made a mistake or didn’t follow procedure and that their mistake, rather than any other illness or condition that you were being treated for, led to you needing extra care or problems that had an impact on your life at the time or in the future.
Can You Claim Compensation For Medical Negligence?
Some people are wary of making a claim for medical negligence as they see it as a punishment for the doctor, nurse or medical practitioner who caused the claim to arise but it’s not a punishment at all. The claim will be settled by the insurance company and is for pain or suffering that the patient has had to deal with at the time and in the future and also for any financial losses that have occurred as a result of the negligence.
What Can Be Claimed For?
Compensation for clinical negligence is made up of two factors. General Damages and Special Damages.
General Damages are compensation for any pain, discomfort or suffering that affects the patients day to day life.
Special Damages are for any financial loss that a patient has suffered because of the injury such as prescription costs, travel costs for appointments and possible loss of earnings.
As well as those two elements it is possible to claim for future losses which can be linked to the injury. This can mean potential loss of earnings in the future as the patient may not be able to earn as much as previously before the injury.
How Long Do Claims Take For Medical Negligence?
This all depends on the nature of the claim. Even complex cases should be resolved within 3 years and more simple cases as quick as 18 months. It can depend on whether a medical expert needs to review the evidence, whether the healthcare professional denies the injury was caused by them or if the case needs to be taken to a court case.
What Makes A Claim Successful?
There are two parts of a successful claim: Breach of Duty and Causation. You need to prove both to get a successful compensation claim.
Breach of duty is where you can show that the standard of treatment fell below what you’d expect from a competent medical professional. If the doctor or nurse can prove that the way they acted would be the same as other competent professionals then you probably won’t win the clinical negligence or breach of duty element of the claim.
Causation is where it can be proven that you have suffered an injury because of the negligence (and it’s not just ongoing symptoms for what you were already being treated for). You can then prove that you are entitled for compensation for that new injury.
Most cases of medical negligence have a three year time limit from when the negligence occurred or when the patient realised it had occurred so patients need to instruct a medical negligence solicitor as soon as they realise that something went wrong.
Medical professionals will be represented by expert medical solicitors so a patient should ensure they use a specialist who understands medical issues themselves to have the best possible chance of a successful compensation claim. It is important to give your solicitor as much time as possible as some claims can be complex and require medical investigations so the more time available the better.
How To Start A Medical Negligence Claim
As explained above, when patients are injured following a medical procedure or medical care then they may be able to make a medical negligence claim against the care provider. It is a trickier thing to prove than most personal injury claims but with the right solicitor and within the allowed time periods it is possible for patients to receive compensation for their injury.
Some cases are resolved by the courts but a large number can be resolved by solicitors from both parties agreeing on who’s to blame and the amount of compensation that will be awarded.
How To Choose A Medical Negligence Solicitor
In theory you could ask any solicitor that is registered with the law society to represent you when trying to make a claim for medical negligence, but in the same way that some specialise in criminal law or others in family law there are solicitors who are experienced in personal injury and medical law.
These specialist solicitors will know what’s required when claiming for medical negligence, they will know which medical experts to use for medical reports and they should be on a par with the the medical experts that are representing the hospital or medical facility that you are claiming against. The final part is important as most hospitals now either have in-house legal representation who deal with nothing else other than representing their staff in negligence cases.
What Should People Look For When Choosing A Solicitor?
When looking for a solicitor to take your case for medical negligence a patient should consider the following:
Speak to a few firms of solicitors:
As with a lot of things in life it’s good to get a few options. There are many reasons why a solicitor may not be the right one for you so meet with them first and see how you get on. Most solicitors dealing with medical claims will offer a free consultation so make use of it.
You need to ensure that you understand your solicitor and their plans for your case and that you get along. In most cases you’ll have been through an emotional experience already and you need to make sure the legal process isn’t going to be more of a toll because you don’t like your legal team.
Locality of the solicitor:
If you’re suffering from mobility issues then it can be very useful for the solicitor to be based locally as they may need to visit you in your home. It’s an important consideration but shouldn’t be the main reason for choosing as experience and technical ability is very important too.
Ask for references:
A lot of solicitors with experience in your type of injury should be able to provide a reference for you to contact regarding how they dealt with your case. They will obviously have checked with the other client first of all so that they are not breaching confidentiality restrictions.
Ask for examples of your type of injury:
During the free consultation ask the solicitor for examples of cases they’ve dealt with recently that were similar to your case. It’s very easy for a solicitor to say they are ‘Medical Negligence Specialists’ but they may never have dealt with a case like yours or your type of injury. They won’t be offended that you’re asking questions and in fact they’ll be expecting it and so should be prepared to share details with you.
Although this has been mentioned above it is necessary to reiterate the importance of being aware that there are strict legal time limits for medical negligence claims to be made. In most cases you have three years from the date you became aware of your injury to make your claim. The exceptions to this time limit are:
- If you are under 18 when the accident happened.
If the patient is under 18 at the time of the accident then the three year period begins on their 18th birthday.
- If you are suffering from a mental health illness.
Patients who are suffering from a mental health condition are given special allowances when dealing with medical negligence claims. The three year period will begin from when they recover from the illness. They will need to prove by way of medical reports that they were suffering and the date when they recovered.
As you can see it is important to start a medical negligence claim in a timely manner to ensure you don’t miss out because of the three year time limit.
It is equally important to choose the correct solicitor in terms of their legal and medical injury experience. At the same time the solicitor needs to be the right person for you or your carer.