Expert help & advice for Medical Negligence compensation claims
Medical Negligence Claims are inherently complex and difficult to win - you really do need expert medical lawyers to fight your corner for the case
The number of people complaining about treatment received in the UK is growing as more and more of us question the quality of the care we receive. Our specialist legal team receive a lot of enquiries from people wanting to start a medical negligence claim for compensation.
Having to go to the doctors or receive treatment at a hospital is daunting enough; especially when it involves operations or lengthy periods of treatment. It's human nature to worry about the "what ifs" of invasive surgery or starting a course of treatment that may result in adverse side effects. What's worse though is when we are let down by the medical professionals we place our faith and trust in to help us get better.
We're only human, and humans make mistakes. So when you suffer due to the negligence of a medical professional, we're here to make sure that you are represented properly for your medical negligence claim to compensate you for any personal injury and loss that might have occurred.
Do you have a medical negligence claim?
To win a claim, we must prove two vital things: breach of duty and causation. Breach of duty means that there must be a breach of the duty of care that you received from a medical professional. Causation means that the breach of duty must have caused adverse suffering to you.
The common breaches that are involved in medical negligence cases are:
Failure to Diagnose
This is where a medical professional fails to properly diagnose you which causes an adverse affect. For example, the failure to diagnose you could lead to complications in your injury or condition, such as knee ligament damage being irreparable beyond a certain period of time. If that period of time passes because the medical professional failed to properly diagnose the problem, you may have a claim if any complications then arise.
At the same time, a failure to diagnose could lead to a longer period of suffering which could have been prevented. If it took six months to diagnose your condition because the initial professional failed to diagnose you, and as such you have been in pain for six months unnecessarily, you may have a medical negligence claim.
If you are incorrectly diagnosed, you could be in a similar position as the above. If too much time passes before you are correctly diagnosed, meaning that complications arise, you may have a medical negligence claim.
At the same time, you may suffer adverse affects due to any treatment given for the incorrect diagnosis. To give an extreme example, what if you were operated on and had your kidney removed when you actually didn't need it removed? That's weeks of pain and scarring from the unnecessary operation, and one less kidney to live with!
Failure to Treat
If you are not treated quickly enough, or at all, after diagnosis, and this causes complications or a prolonged period of suffering, there may be a negligence claim to answer for. In theory treatment should be given as soon as it is needed, but as stretched as the NHS is, mistakes can be made. There could be an unnecessary delay in your referral for treatment, which again can complicate an injury or a condition. If you are treated and further follow up treatment is needed but is not provided in time, or at all, then there may be a negligence case to answer for if you suffer as a result.
As with an incorrect diagnosis, being given the incorrect treatment could lead to unnecessary risk of complications and prolonged suffering. As an example, if you are referred for physiotherapy when you should have had an operation to treat a problem, you could face serious further damage. This kind of incorrect treatment could result in serious complications to an injury or a condition.
Whether you have a claim for an incorrect action or a failure to take action comes down to proof as to whether the expected standard of care has been met or not. There are certain injuries and conditions were it is difficult to give a proper diagnosis right from the start; or where it is difficult to commence treatment due to risks or complications. Whether the standard of care is negligent boils down to whether the caring medical professional should have been able to diagnose you properly or treat you properly.
A Classic Example - Missed Fractures
A classic example is that of the missed fracture on an x-ray. Initially a fracture may be very hard to spot due to swelling and an x-ray may show you are fine when in fact there is a break on the bone. Whether you have a claim can come down to the vital evidence that is the x-ray image.
If we instructed another expert to review the images, and it was clear that the fracture had been missed, there may be a case of failure to diagnose. However, if due to swelling the fracture cannot be seen, and is only seen on a follow up x-ray, making a medical negligence claim will be hard. No one is really at fault - the fracture was not visible on the original image.
This example can then be moved on to the failure to treat breach as well. If all the signs of a fracture are there but the x-ray doesn't show the fracture, medical professionals should consider whether the reason the fracture isn't visible is due to swelling. If so, precautionary measures should be taken to treat the injury as if it were a fracture. A follow up x-ray could then be arranged in a few weeks time to try and get a better image. If this isn't done, there could be a medical negligence claim for failing to treat properly.
Proving your claim for suffering - Causation
We must also prove that the breach of duty has then caused injury or suffering. For example, if a professional failed to diagnose you and this led to a prolonged period of suffering or a complication, the value of the claim is based on that period of prolonged suffering and / or the complication. However, if there was no pain or complication, you haven't really been put at any loss. As such, blame can still be with the medical professional for failing to take appropriate action, but if you haven't suffered as a result, there really isn't anything to claim for.
When you make a claim for compensation, you are claiming for the pain, suffering, and loss of amenity caused by an injury or a condition, as well as lost earnings or other out of pocket expenses. If there isn't any pain or loss then, in theory, you have no claim to make.
How a medical negligence claim works!
Your claim is pursued in accordance with a set of guidelines and rules that are known as the Pre-action Protocol for the Resolution of Clinical Disputes. We are a firm believer in explaining the ins and outs of how a claim works from the moment you first speak with us. We understand that you probably want to know what will happen during the case, and we appreciate that this is a difficult time for you. We'll go through this on the phone or in a meeting with you - but for now, here is an outline of how the general process works.
We will research the law and facts that are relevant for your claim to allow us to prepare a plan of action as to how we will best fight your case. We will advise you of the prospects for success and what we consider to be the potential difficulties to overcome in your particular claim. We pride ourselves on giving honest and thorough advice, so we will never lead you on, and we will always give you the facts in simple, plain English.
We will apply for your medical records and fund any administration fees involved for obtaining them. Your medical records are a key part of the evidence for any medical negligence case, and they will often determine whether there may be a case to answer for. We give a period of 40 days for the records to be received or we may take court action to enforce a response.
Obtaining your medical records is no problem for us at all - there is a right to the records under the Data Protection Act 1998 and ultimately they are extremely useful for the case. Once we have received the records we will fully review them and form a chronology of events with witness evidence from you that matches up to the relevant parts of your records.
We will carefully select an appropriate medical expert who is qualified to produce a medical-legal report to form a crucial part of the evidence for your case, and you will meet with them for an examination. Because many cases may come down whether the care provided to you was negligent, which can often be established by obtaining an opinion from an expert in the same field, this report is important. If that expert confirms that they would have taken an obvious alternative approach, their report confirming this can be used as vital evidence for a case.
On top of that, the other reason for the report is to identify the extent of the pain, suffering, and loss of amenity you have suffered from. The value of the medical negligence claim will be primarily based on the report that the expert provides to us. The report will also help us to justify any reasonable losses you want to claim for - e.g. justifying the need to have time off work, and as such claim back for lost earnings.
Several experts may be required to bolster our evidence as much as possible. We will review any reports we received and we will ask you to agree the contents if the report is fully correct.
You should also be aware that the Defendant may ask you to see their own expert as well as the one we instruct.
Letter of Claim
We will then send a Letter of Claim to the NHS or GP involved for the case, and ask that they respond within a period of just under four months. The idea is that the other side will then respond within the time frame and either accept or deny liability. If they accept liability, the claim should be more straightforward, as this is their admission that you have a claim that they must answer to. If they deny liability, we will look to fight your case for you.
What you should do next!
We are professional medical negligence lawyers and you can contact us to receive first hand, expert advice, regarding your medical negligence claim by either filling out any forms found on this page or by calling 0800 634 7575 and speak to our legal team today on making a claim for compensation.