For most people with little or no knowledge of law, pursuing a medical or clinical negligence suit can seem like a daunting task. But with the right help and the right knowledge, you can ensure that you are making the best decisions for your future. Here are ten vital things you should know about medical negligence claims.
1. Their Legal Definition
Medical negligence, sometimes known as clinical negligence, is when a patient decides to take their medical practitioner or hospital or both to court for compensation. In order for this to happen, the Claimant needs to prove that the care provided fell below the standard of a reasonably competent medical professional. If the Claimant can show that breach of duty as occurred, the Claimant must then establish causation. This means that the treatment that caused the damage, which would not have otherwise occurred.
2. Time Limits
Usually, a claim has to be made within three years of the patient becoming aware of the problem — this is often when the negligence occurred. There are exceptions, including if the patient is under the age of eighteen or mentally ill at the time, and judges can make exceptions, although this is unlikely.
3. Finding a Solicitor
The first action to take is usually to look into specialist Medical Negligence Solicitors. Try to find one who is experienced and knowledgeable in the field of Medical Negligence you are pursuing. They will tell you whether they think you have a case, and discuss the next steps.
4. You Probably Won’t Go To Trial
Almost all cases of medical negligence are settled before you go to a full trial. In most cases, the defence will come forward followed by an offer of financial settlement. However you should be prepared that it is possible for your claim to proceed to court, however this is very much dependant on the issues involved in your case.
5. It Doesn’t Need to be an NHS Doctor
Any and all health practitioners can be held accountable if you have the proof that they have neglected your care or similar. This includes Dentists, cosmetic Surgeons, and private clinics and Optical clinics.
6. How You’re Going to Fund It
It used to be that Legal Aid was available to fund medical negligence claims, but this no longer applies in most instances. Legal Aid is only available in very limited circumstances. The main option that most Claimants use to fund medical negligence claims is to enter into a Conditional Fee Agreement (known as “no win, no fee” ).
Private funding is also available but not commonly used.
7. You Will Need Proof
If you don’t have any physical evidence it’s very unlikely that your case will go through — that is why it is so important that you keep records of absolutely everything to do with the case. The kind of proof you need will be records, notes and expert medical opinions.
8. How To Get Additional Proof
When your Solicitor first gets in contact with the medical practitioner, they will simultaneously request any medical records or notes which are relevant. This tends to include a written case record from the time of your treatment.
9. How Long It Might Take
In most cases of medical negligence, the process leading up to a trial can take somewhere between eighteen months to 3 years and sometimes longer. The duration of the claim depends on the Defendants attitude to liability and causation, the injury sustained and the complexity of the complaint.
10. You Will Need Medical Witnesses
Medical or clinical trials are quite different from personal injury claims, as the Claimant needs to prove that the care provided fell below the standard of a reasonably competent medical professional. If the Claimant can show that breach of duty as occurred, the Claimant must then establish causation. This means that the treatment caused the damage, which would not have otherwise occurred. In the vast majority of cases multiple medical witnesses will be called upon for their professional opinions to discuss these issues.
In this difficult time, it’s important that you meet with a Solicitor you trust and who can help to guide you through the various hurdles of medical negligence claims. Learning as much as you can before starting the process will aid you in making sensible decisions.