Healthcare providers have a ‘duty of care’ to provide acceptable levels of treatment to their patients. We place a huge amount of trust in healthcare professionals, however sometimes mistakes are made and when this happens it can be difficult to know where to turn to and what to do.
Many victims do not think of making a compensation claim because they feel overwhelmed and nervous at the prospect of suing a doctor or hospital. However, making a claim is not just about money, very often an apology is important and many people want to bring about change by learning from mistakes which have been made so as to avoid other people going through what they have experienced.
WHAT IS MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE?
There are many types of medical negligence claims (also known as clinical negligence). Common examples include surgical error, misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis, birth injuries (injuries suffered by mother or baby) and medication errors. We also deal with claims involving dental negligence and cosmetic surgery which has gone wrong.
In order to succeed in a claim for medical negligence an individual has to show (‘on the balance of probabilities’) that the treatment in question fell below the standard of a reasonably competent practitioner in the relevant field (breach of duty).
If you can show the standard of care was negligent, you then also have to prove that the negligence was the cause of, or contributed to the adverse outcome (causation). This is often the most difficult part of the case. Independent expert evidence will need to be obtained to support these factors if a claim is to succeed.
THE FIRST STEPS TO TAKE – THE COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE
Before taking legal action against a medical practitioner you should make a formal complaint. This involves setting out in writing the full details of the treatment you have received and the reasons why you are dissatisfied with it. To complain about a GP you must write to the Practice Manager and to complain about a hospital you must write to the Complaints Manager at the Hospital Trust. Following the complaints procedure is a useful tool for obtaining the health practitioner’s version of events and is designed to give you an explanation. The response to your complaint will often assist when assessing whether you can claim compensation.
Medical negligence is a highly specialist area and it is important that you instruct a solicitor with specific experience in this field. The medical negligence team at Morrish Solicitors includes solicitors who are members of the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Accreditation Scheme and APIL.
STRICT TIME LIMITS – HOW LONG DO YOU HAVE TO MAKE A CLAIM
A claim for medical negligence must be brought within three years of the date from which you first knew, or could reasonably have expected to know, that you suffered an injury as a result of medical treatment. For injury to children, a claim must be made before the child reaches 21. It is important that you seek legal advice as early as possible as there is a considerable amount of investigatory work to be done before bringing a claim.
CAN I AFFORD A SOLICITOR?
Understandably people are often worried about the legal costs in pursuing a medical negligence claim and because of their complexity they can be expensive. There are a number of ways to fund your claim, dependent upon your individual circumstances and the facts of your potential claim. The majority of claims are dealt with under a Conditional Fee Agreement or ‘no win, no fee’. Morrish Solicitors also have a Legal Aid Franchise which means we have been approved by the Legal Services Commission and can also offer Legal Aid for certain types of cases.
At Morrish Solicitors we are committed to helping victims of medical accidents find answers. If you or a member of your family has suffered an injury due to mistakes during medical treatment or because of poor medical care, contact our specialist medical negligence team today who can advise if you are eligible to claim compensation.