While doctors and nurses do a fantastic job in the UK things can sometimes go wrong and a personal injury can be caused by a medical procedure. The number of people who make claims for clinical or medical negligence in the UK has increased significantly in the UK and currently, stands at between 15,000 and 20,000 claims annually. Mistakes can happen in any profession but when they are made by doctors or other medical practitioners the impact on the patient can be serious, even fatal. For this reason, all medical professionals in the UK are required to have specialist insurance to guard against claims.
What Is Medical Negligence?
Medical negligence is a situation that occurs when a patient is injured or killed due to a failure by a medical professional. The professional breaches their duty of care to the patient. Medical negligence can occur as a result of any type of medical treatment including emergency treatment, diagnosis, operations, ongoing treatments for disease, nursing, dental treatment, cosmetic surgery or psychological treatment.
Medical negligence claims can be made against NHS facilities and staff as well as those working in the private sector. Medical practitioners can be found to have breached their duty of care as a result of wrong or delayed diagnosis of an injury or disease. For example, if a doctor fails to diagnose a patient with cancer and the delay worsens their condition. Mistakes made during a surgery or as a result of the wrong medication being prescribed can also lead to claims.
Medical negligence is far more complicated and difficult to prove than other types of personal injury claims and as a result, it is vital to get specialist legal advice. A good lawyer will assess your chances of winning compensation and will advise you whether or not you should pursue the claim. While traditional personal injury claims are relatively easy to prove for a medical negligence claim to be successful the claimant and their lawyers need to be able to prove the medical professionals made serious and incompetent errors during the course of the treatment. In addition, the claimant has to demonstrate that the breach of their duty of care caused their injury.
Are You Eligible To Make A Claim?
If your lawyer assesses your claim and decides you meet the criteria outline above then you have, with a few exceptions, 3 years to make your medical negligence claim. The clock starts from the date of the medical practitioner's error.
As mentioned above you can make a claim against any private medical practitioner/facility as well as those run by the NHS. Claims can be made by anyone although for those under the age of 18, a parent or guardian will be required to make the claim on their behalf.
What Compensation Can You Receive?
Every case is different but there are a number of rules used to calculate the compensation you could receive as the result of medical negligence. Your compensation amount will be calculated as a sum total of 4 losses/expenses incurred;
- Special Damages (past medical expenses caused by the medical practitioner's negligence - receipts are required)
- General Damages (compensation for the suffering caused by the negligence)
- Legal Costs
Loss of income can also be included in your claim. A lawyer will be able to provide you with an estimate of the compensation you can claim by reviewing similar past cases. In addition, they will consider the seriousness of your injury or illness and the costs of any care or support you will require going forward. In fact, it is likely that the bulk of monies awarded will be based on future expenses/losses rather than past expenses.
Many cases are settled out of court and a compensation sum is agreed between the medical practitioner and the claimant's legal team. If however, the case goes to court, the judge will aim to compensate to the point where the claimant is no worse off than they would have been had the negligence not happened in the first place.
Starting Your Claim
Firstly you should write down all the details of the case as you remember them. This should include everything you know about the diagnosis and treatment you received and the impact this has had on your life and health. Any medical records, receipts and other related documents should be copied and kept safe. A tally of your out of pocket expenses will be required to help calculate your claim. It will also be helpful to your claim if you keep a record of the time required to care for the victim of the negligence.
When you have all of this recorded it is time to contact a reputable legal firm with expertise in medical negligence cases. A free consultation should be offered at which point they will advise you as to whether or not you have a realistic chance of succeeding with your claim.