What is clinical/medical negligence?
Sometimes treatment is unsuccessful. But this does not necessarily mean it was negligent.
If a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional has made a serious and inexcusable mistake, and that mistake has caused harm is called medical or clinical negligence.
Just because you didn’t get the outcome you wanted doesn’t mean a mistake was made and if there was a mistake it may not be serious enough to sue the doctor or hospital for.
Without medical or legal training it can be hard to know if you have a claim. To get compensation, you have to prove:
- The treatment you received was so poor that no other healthcare professional would consider it acceptable or reasonable. This is legally termed as ‘negligence’; and
- That this treatment caused significant injury or harm. This is called ‘causation’.
You have to prove both 1 and 2 to be entitled to compensation.
Clinical negligence is a complex area of law, we would be happy to discuss your case free of charge and if we believe you have a good case we can discuss a No Win No Fee agreement.
What do medical negligence lawyers do?
Medical negligence lawyers help injured people claim compensation for injuries sustained as a result of mistakes in medical treatment.
Why make a claim for medical negligence?
You may just be looking for answers or an apology, often your questions will be answered by our investigations and sometimes the person the claim is against will apologise. This often occurs as part of the process to get compensation. Unfortunately, there is not a process that allows us to help you with just these things, our job is to obtain compensation for the injury you suffered. If you are only wanting answers you might wish to consider making a complaint.
How do I make a medical negligence claim?
We don’t recommend it but you can of course represent yourself in a medical negligence claim, cases for medical negligence are very complex, it is not simply a matter of being injured you have to proving that you are entitled to compensation.
This depends on using the relevant legal tests for negligence and causation.
Then there is assessing how much compensation you should be awarded , obtaining expert evidence, again it is not simply a matter of contacting an expert for a report, often experts can be expensive and you need to ask the right questions. The court process itself can be difficult to navigate and cases can fail due to procedural errors, for example if you fail to send a document to the Court on time the Judge may refuse to allow the case to continue.
NHS Trusts and healthcare professionals are normally represented by specialist lawyers.
Contact Ardent Law for initial free advice about your case.
How long do I have to make a medical negligence claim?
The time you have to make a claim is set out in The Limitation Act 1980.
It is usually three years from the date that you first became aware that you might have been injured by poor medical treatment.
However, unlike in Personal Injury Claims when there is often an actual accident date this time period does not always begin on the day of the poor treatment. It could be a while before you realise, or have reason to suspect, that you have suffered additional harm because of a negligent mistake. If so, the three year time limit would run from that later date.
There are two exceptions to this:
- If you were under the age of 18 at the time of the negligence. In this instance the three years runs from your 18th birthday so the date you turn 21.
- If the patient has lacked mental capacity to be able to instruct solicitors. In this case the time limit will not start to run until they regain capacity.
Court proceedings must be started within the three-year period. It’s important that you do not delay often lawyers will not take on your case if there is only a few months before the three year date runs out, the reason for this is that there are a number of things that need to be done to prepare it. So it is best to seek advice sooner, rather than later.
Once again this is an area of law where it can be difficult to work out when these time limits begin and end. It’s crucial that you get it right, because you will not be able to make a claim if you are outside the time limit. It does not matter how strong the rest of your case is if you run out of time then your case will not be able to proceed.
What will happen when I make a claim for medical negligence with Ardent Law?
Free, initial consultation, no obligation to instruct us.
Free assessment to advise whether we can take on your claim on a No Win No Fee – basis.
In a medical negligence claim, your medical records and your witness evidence are essential, they help to set out what treatment you have received and injuries you have suffered.
With your consent, we will obtain copies of your medical records.
Once we have your medical records, we will arrange for them to be reviewed by an independent medical expert who will prepare a report about the treatment you received and whether it was negligent.
Further reports are often needed from several experts, in different specialties
Contacting the Defendant
If the expert report we obtain supports your case, we will write to the doctor, hospital, NHS Trust or other health professional responsible, setting out in what is known as a letter of claim exactly what we think they did wrong and what harm that caused.
They have four months to review our allegations and make a decision on liability.
If they admit fault, or agree to pay compensation, we will gather evidence setting out your financial losses and negotiate a settlement.
If they deny fault and we disagree, we will gather more evidence and if after we have attempted to negotiate the issues in your case and we still believe you have a strong case we will issue Court proceedings.
Start Court Proceedings
Issuing the claim at Court does not necessarily mean you will have to give evidence at trial. The vast majority of claims settle without a Trial.
Once proceedings are issued the Court will give instructions and a timetable as to how the case will progress. This includes instructions for the parties to disclose their evidence to each other. An settlement is often reached after the parties have exchanged evidence.
How much compensation can I get for medical negligence?
Every claim is different, awards can vary from a £1,000 – £20m and above, the amount depends on the type of injury sustained and the effect the injury has on that person, each claim is assessed on an individual basis.
The whole point of compensation is that is meant to put you back to how you would have been if the negligence had not happened, so far as money can.
A guide to compensation for injuries is based on guidelines published by the Judicial College and reports of similar cases that have been decided by the courts.