The country’s healthcare system is very reliable and ranks highly as one of the best in the world. However, medical professionals can make mistakes and you may be a victim of negligence. You may sustain an injury or suffer an illness due to a prescription error, misdiagnosis or other errors related to medical negligence. If this happens, you can make a medical negligence claim and receive the compensation you deserve.

Medical negligence UK laws are not exactly complex, but the process of filing a claim can be daunting, especially if you are a victim of medical negligence.

This timely piece discusses practical tips that can help you make successful medical negligence claims.

Hire a Medical Negligence Solicitor

If you are a victim of medical negligence and want to make a claim, the first thing you need to do is get a specialist solicitor involved. Specialist medical negligence solicitors can help you make informed decisions and take the necessary action from the onset. They also have the knowledge and experience to help you steer clear of mistakes that may dent your chances of a successful claim.

When choosing a medical negligence solicitor for your claim, there are three important factors you should consider: the solicitor’s experience, the cost of using the solicitor’s services, and how comfortable you feel working with the solicitor. Medical Negligence Direct has a panel of friendly and hardworking solicitors ready to walk you through every step of the way, as well as ensure the process is as stress-free as possible for you.

Involving a solicitor from the onset also means you can focus on your medical care and any health issues you are faced with. For your medical negligence claim to have a reasonable chance of success, your solicitor will have to prove three important elements.

The Three-step Medical Negligence Process

  • Duty of Care
  • Breach of Duty
  • Causation

Duty of Care

All healthcare professionals owe a duty of care to their patients. This means that they are under obligation to provide reasonable and acceptable standards of care when dispensing their professional duties. It is important that you establish a doctor-patient relationship and show that the doctor owed a duty of care to his/her patient.

Breach of Duty

Your case must demonstrate that your healthcare practitioner has breached their duty of care; that is, their responsibility to reasonably protect you from harm. Your solicitor will obtain expert evidence to prove that the medical care you received fell below the standard expected of a responsible body of medical opinion of other healthcare professionals with the same knowledge and skill-set. This is known as the “Bolam test”.

How Can I Establish Breach of Duty?

Medical expert opinion is crucial in determining whether the medical care in question would be considered acceptable by a responsible body of medical opinion.

Merely showing that another healthcare professional would have acted differently is not enough. It is normal to have more than one acceptable treatment method for a condition. If, for instance, there are two schools of thought on acceptable treatment methods and your healthcare provider acts in accordance with any of those, a court will likely not find the provider to have breached his/her duty.

The only exception here is if your case stems from the Bolitho case, where a responsible body of opinion is expected to rely on logical analysis. Healthcare professionals must, therefore, comply with a reasonable and responsible body of opinion.

At Medical Negligence Direct, we will help you arrange for a suitable medical expert to prove breach of duty after gathering relevant medical records and obtaining your testimony detailing the events.

Causation

After demonstrating duty of care and a breach of that duty, you must prove that the physician’s negligence caused the injury or illness you suffered.

The injury you suffered may:

  • Be a direct consequence of the treatment
  • Occur as a result of failure to recover from a condition
  • Have worsened a medical condition
  • Have caused premature life expectancy or even death

In any case, you must show that you would not have suffered the injury or illness ‘but for’ the negligent treatment you received.

How Can I Prove Causation?

Like breach of duty, you will need the help of an independent medical expert to prove causation. The evidence will not only consider what happened after the negligence you suffered, but what would have happened if you received the right treatment. If the case goes to court, they would consider what would happen on the balance of probabilities; that is, if the event would have happened more than 50% but for negligent treatment.

How Do I Know if I Have a Medical Negligence Claim?

No one expects you to know if you have a negligent claim or not. Medical negligence solicitors are trained and armed with the experience to determine this for you. They will review all relevant details, including your medical records, and listen to your detailed account of events. After this, they will let you know whether they believe your case is strong enough for a medical negligence claim.

If our panel of specialist solicitors at Medical Negligence Direct believe that you have a valid claim, we will support you every step of the way. Our goal is to ensure the process is as hassle-free as possible so you can focus on your recovery.

How Much Will My Medical Negligence Claim Cost?

Before starting a claim, your medical negligence solicitor will let you know how it will be funded. The three most common ways medical negligence claims can be funded are:

  • Conditional Fee Agreement

Also known as No Win No Fee agreements, this is an arrangement that makes it possible for you to pursue a medical negligence claim without any financial risks. This means that you won’t have to pay any fees for the legal services provided by your solicitor. At Medical Negligence Direct, our goal is to help you seek closure and seek the justice you truly deserve. This is why most claims we handle are funded via a No Win No Fee agreement where you incur no financial risks – and only win.

  • Insurance Policies

Car and home insurance policies usually come with legal expenses insurance that could cover the cost of obtaining legal support and pursuing a claim. You can purchase legal expenses insurance “before the event” (BTE) or “after the event” (ATE). “Before the event” provides cover in case of a legal action in future, while “after the event” provides cover after you have made a decision to pursue a claim, but do not wish to take on any financial risks.

ATE policies are usually activated only if there was no BTE cover, or the BTE policy has expired.

  • Legal Aid

Since the Legal Aid rules were changed in 2013, most medical negligence cases no longer qualify to receive government funding. This notably excludes children who suffered neurological injuries before or during childbirth, or within eight weeks of birth.

What Can I Receive with a Compensation Claim?

Compensation for medical negligence victims is designed to restore them back into the position they were prior to the negligent treatment. Obviously, getting back to your original state will be impossible if you have suffered permanent injury. Still, financial settlement helps to compensate you for the injury you suffered, and to reimburse any financial losses and cover future expenses.

Compensation generally consists of two elements:

  • General Damages
  • Special Damages

General damages: This is compensation for the pain, suffering and impact of negligence on your daily life. The amount you receive will depend on factors such as the severity of injury, recovery period, long-term implications for your hobbies, lifestyle and employment prospects.

Special Damages: This is compensation for any financial losses such as lost earnings, cost of medication, travel costs and cost of remedial treatment. Special damages may also cover the time spent by your family and friends who provided care for you or helped with routine household tasks. In extreme cases, it may also cover loss of dependency, funeral expenses, probate fees, and statutory bereavement.

Important Elements of a Successful Medical Negligence Claim

In addition to the elements discussed above, these three elements deserve special mention:

  • The Nature of Your Injury

According to the NHS Litigation Authority guidelines, several types of injuries can be caused by medical negligence. Some negligent actions that can cause injury include:

Misdiagnosis: This refers to a healthcare provider’s failure to identify and diagnose a patient’s symptoms. Misdiagnosis may also happen when a medical professional gives the wrong diagnosis or fails to correctly diagnose the patient’s symptoms.

Birth injury: When a healthcare professional fails to identify serious conditions. Birth injuries may also happen if a mother and her baby received below-par care before, during or even after childbirth.

Surgical negligence: When a surgeon operates on the wrong body part, operates on the wrong person or forgets a foreign object in the patient’s body.

Prescription error: When a healthcare provider administers the wrong dosage or prescribes the wrong medication.

As noted earlier, every medical negligence claim is unique; the compensation you receive will largely depend on the nature and severity of your injury. Thus, exaggerating the nature of the injury you suffered will only get your claim denied. When it comes to medical negligence claims, honesty about your experience can play a big role in expediting the process.

  • Time Limits

There is a statutory limitation period of three years for starting medical negligence claims. This time limit will commence:

  • From the date of the negligence
  • From the ‘date of knowledge’ of negligence. That is, when you reasonably should have become aware that the injury you suffered was a result of medical negligence.
  • From the 18th birthday of a claimant who was under 18 years of age at the time of the negligent act. In this case, a relative/parent can file the claim on the child’s behalf. If the child independently makes the claim on his/her 18th birthday, they will have until their 21st

In a situation where the claimant lacks the mental capacity to make independent decisions, there will be no time limit on starting a claim.

  • How Long My Claim Will Take

The amount of time your medical negligence claim takes will depend on a number of factors. Is there a need for further medical care? Is your opponent denying liability? Does your case need the input of a medical expert? Would the case be taken to court? Considering answers to these questions, your solicitor will let you know how long your claim may take.

The good news is that most medical negligence claims are dealt with within 18 to 24 months. While more complex claims can take longer than that, it is rare for a claim to exceed three years.

What Can Medical Negligence Direct Offer Me?

At Medical Negligence Direct, we offer you specialist medical negligence support, with an initial no obligation advice. We value our relationship with you; this is why our expert solicitors offer personalized care to help reduce the burden you already carry as a victim of negligence.

Thanks to the knowledge and experience of our panel of solicitors, we have what it takes to handle a wide range of medical negligence claims. When we take a claim on your behalf, you can rest assured we will help you navigate the minefield of the complex legal process so you do not have to worry about having your claim denied.