How to make a claim for medical negligence
Despite the best interests of the medical profession here in the UK, and the huge efforts the National Health Service to ensure it provides a peerless and seamless service to those who need it most in the hours of need, there are times when the judgement calls of health professionals and episodes of human error conspire to leave patients in precarious medical predicaments. And it’s at times like this – as rare as they are – that you need to know that there are provisions in place which will help you to financially address (and subsequently come to terms with) the results of medical mistakes made by responsible parties.
Clinical and medical negligence affords injured parties to pursue a means of financial recompense for the ills they’ve suffered through no fault of their own and at the hands of those in whose trust they were put when their physical or psychological state was compromised.
What is medical negligence?
Essentially medical (or indeed, clinical – the term that it’s alternatively referred to as) is a breach in the duty of care afforded to an individual who had become ill or sustained an injury by a dedicated medical professional.
This negligence can take various forms and habitually ranges from a GP failing to recognise (and subsequently go on to diagnose) a patient correctly and/or instances of the wrong medication being prescribed through to surgeons operating on patients in theatre scenarios not carrying out their role properly and therein either complicating an individual’s existing health matters further or alternatively creating new ones due to lack of care and attention.
From a personal injury claim perspective, what constitutes a ‘breach of duty of care’?
Expanding on the above, the following examples give further insight into precisely what merits such a claim. Typically GP’s tend to be the guilty parties, however they don’t have exclusivity when it comes to clinical negligence, with dentists, midwives and psychiatrists a few more of those medical experts who could just as easily be cited.
Clinical negligence is what comes to pass as an accusation which apportions blame to a particular party who are responsible for the care of a patient, and moreover what occurs when a health practitioner strays from treatment and procedure standards which in turn leads to some form of injury, be it of a physical or emotional description. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the practitioner is incompetent as such, rather than they made what’s considered to be an avoidable mistake.
With regards further instances of medical negligence coming into play though, and below are a selection of additional scenarios which would provoke the pursuit of compensation;
- Failure to obtain consent to perform an operation
- Taking insufficient care in performing surgery
- Delayed referral to specialists
- Failed (or delayed) diagnosis of medical problems
- Prescribing incorrect medication
- Failure to give warning of risks in treatment
- Childbirth injuries
- Anaesthesia errors
- MRSA (and other superbugs contracted after hospital/clinical procedures)
What are the potential effects of medical negligence?
Catastrophic in the very worst of cases, whilst painful and above all else, largely avoidable in lesser instances. Medical negligence can – and does – lead to injury, disability and yes, even the death of a patient at times, so it’s certainly not a subject to be taken lightly. Yet thankfully, as we mentioned earlier, cases don’t present themselves with alarming frequencies and there are procedures in place which allow victims to challenge the perpetrators (unwitting as they are), normally culminating in the winning of personal injury claim cases.
What types of medical treatment/procedures are most commonly associated with clinical negligence?
Again, there are a number of situations where medical negligence can affect an otherwise positive outcome relating to either a transient or longer-term health issue and can, effectively impinge on any of the following examples;
- Accident and emergency
- Cancer treatment
- General practice
- Keyhole surgery
- Mental health
- Obstetrics and gynaecology
- Cosmetic surgery
- Vascular surgery
Would you advise pursuing a medical negligence claim if I received treatment which gave me reason to complain about the health care provider?
Yes, if only to ensure that the service/treatment you received (which you believe to be sub-standard) isn’t repeated again, so that another innocent party suffers in the same way that you might have done.
Whichever way you look at it there are certain things an injured party would seek in light of receiving unacceptable levels of care in a health context, whether it’s simply an official apology from who you feel are the perpetrators to an acknowledgement that improvements will be made to the service which failed you from that point onwards through to the aforementioned financial compensation by way of an appeasement.
For those pressing for an acceptance of clinical wrong-doing in the form of an apology – or even an explanation as to why a specific situation arose in the first place, which compromised your health and wellbeing at the time – this may be achieved by making a complaint to the hospital or care service. While those whose predominant objective is to pursue a personal injury compensation citing medical negligence as the primary factor/motivator historically trigger such actions with a view to fund additional care or support to help them come to terms with the injury (or disability) resultant of the professional failings of others/negligence.
How do I make a claim for medical negligence?
First things first and it’s vital that you speak with any one of the experts who offer specialist experience in the field of medical negligence claims, informing them of your personal situation and precisely detailing your back story.
Our solicitors will then look into your potential claim to ascertain if it’s a case they believe has the basis to pursue. If it is, then you will be in a position to actively move forward and set about putting a case to the responsible party. But before it even gets to this juncture it needs to be determined whether or not there has simply been a misunderstanding (or a problem in communication) somewhere down the line which could still be resolved by alternate means (recalling the above-mentioned official apologies and confirmation that procedures have changed since the events surrounding your particular experience).
What is the medical negligence claims process?
A solicitor will normally advise that before starting legal proceedings, the would-be claimant broaches the subject by way of penning a formal letter of complaint addressed to the establishment who they believe to be at fault for the medical negligence which befell them at the time.
This makes a deal of sense in the event that the claimant is seeking as apology first and foremost or looking to instill change/revision in specific and existing behaviours which they believe contributed to their claim.
If an individual is planning on going down the personal injury claim compensation route then their solicitor (nominated representative) will initially attempt to gain access to any medical records which are relevant to their client’s case. Thereafter it’s envisaged that medical experts will be called upon to review the reports, records and claimant statements to either lend their professional support to the claim process or conversely, suggest that the claim is not valid.
What is the role of medical experts?
Relatively straightforward as it happens, with medical experts running the rule over the three predominant issues (which at that point are professionally-speaking, still unresolved). These cover;
- Breach of duty – It’s their prerogative to determine if the standard of care an individual claimant received was deemed below the average of that which was expected
- Causation – They will establish the link between the alleged breach of duty of care and the injury/disability the individual claimant sustained as a direct result of this. In the event that they can’t arrive at a suitable association then the claimant will be duly informed that their claim is therefore unsustainable
- Quantum – They will then decide and elaborate with the claimant with regards to the compensatory figure that should be mooted from the outset in relation to the degree of negligence
Once – and not before – all this is taken into account and presided over fully, and ostensibly at a juncture when the medical experts conclude that they are in possession of enough data in their report, they will proceed to convey a final decision. It’s also at this stage if and when they’ll advise the claimant if they feel legal proceedings are not necessary.
How long does a medical negligence compensation claim take?
It can, unfortunately, be a lengthy process, with the availability of the medical experts potentially being the first hurdle; and ultimately something which is out of a personal injury claims specialists’ control. And next there’s the period it takes for the medical service to respond to your claim (assuming they don’t contest the allegations made by the claimant and their legal team), followed by demanding court timetables to work around.
What are the time limits to make a medical negligence claim?
Please note that there are strictly imposed time restraints governing the window of opportunity when you can instigate a medical negligence claim; which underlines why it’s important to speak with a personal injury claims solicitor/specialist ASAP so as to avoid exceeding these limits; with this very much in mind the claim should be triggered within three years of the injury/disability/death.
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Medical negligence resources
Learn more about the different types of medical negligence and how to claim with our useful guides and resources…