Medical Negligence: Could You Be Entitled To Compensation?

Ask anyone about the standards of healthcare anywhere in the UK and the vast majority of people would probably tell you that the standards of medical and nursing care available here are second to none. 

They might complain about having to wait to get an appointment with their GPs, but that’s just the way it is at the moment. Our National Health Service is, quite rightly, the envy of many other countries. Few other countries can offer free healthcare from cradle to grave.

However, as with any major institution, there can, on occasions, be problems.

Sometimes things just go wrong. As NHS staff work under incredible pressures, not just in terms of budgets, but also with deadlines, it’s hardly really that surprising. In a concerted effort to meet targets, sometimes, unfortunately mistakes are made. As patients we have to accept that any treatment inevitably carries an element of risk: that’s why we are informed of the potential risks and complications before treatment begins; and that’s why we sign consent forms.

Occasionally, however, things don’t run to plan even though all the necessary safety procedures have been followed. In such cases there may be grounds for any patient affected to pursue a claim for compensation. However, it should be noted that in English law compensation will only be awarded if it can be proved that the treatment was carried out negligently, or that the standard of care given to the patient fell below the standard generally accepted to be reasonable for that particular area of medicine.

How can a solicitor help you pursue a claim for clinical negligence?

Why should a patient who has suffered or been affected by procedures where medical negligence is suspected, consult or take expert advice from a specialist solicitor? Well, for this simple reason: clinical negligence claims can be extremely complicated, and they are usually vigorously contested, so expert knowledge of the sector and procedure is needed in order to pursue a case.

How should you proceed with a claim for medical negligence compensation?

It imperative that you contact your solicitor as soon as possible, as there are strict time limits for making complaints, sometimes as little as 13 weeks. Generally though, legal action must be taken within three years of the date the patient first knew, or could reasonably have been expected to know, that they have suffered an injury directly caused by someone else’s fault or omission. In special cases, the court has discretion to allow certain cases to be pursued outside of these time limits, for example, in cases where there have been injuries to children, proceedings only need to be commenced before the 21st birthday. Similarly, there are no time limits for cases where the plaintiff is mentally incapable.

Specialist personal injury lawyers will always advise clients to talk to their medical practitioner before starting any legal action. There may be a genuine misunderstanding, or simply a problem with communication, and it is far better to try to resolve the matter at that stage than pursue unnecessary legal action. However, if this fails then patients will have to make a formal complaint. To complain about a GP, patients must write to the Practice Manager: to complain about a hospital patients will need to write to the Complaints Manager. Making a complaint is particularly useful if your concerns are about procedures or behaviour that you want put right, or you want an apology for the way you have been treated.

How can you prove that your treatment was delivered negligently?

There are a number of elements to establishing that medical treatment was negligent.   The patient has to prove on “the balance of probabilities” that the clinical practitioner has been negligent: in other words they will have to demonstrate that the standard of care fell below what could reasonably have been expected. However, medical opinion and practice can often differ over the appropriate treatment for a particular ailment or illness. It is a valid defence if it can be shown that the treatment accorded with the views of a responsible body of medical opinion.

Even if it can be can proven that the standard of care was in fact negligent, patients pursuing a claim will still have to prove that it was the negligence that actually caused the injury. This is often the hardest part to prove, and that’s why it’s vitally important to have a solicitor with specialised knowledge acting on your behalf. The medical practitioner may claim that the injury arose from the illness itself and not from the treatment; or that the injury would have come about in any event. Detailed medical evidence will be called with specialists arguing for each side. Clinical negligence is a highly specialised area of law, so it is important that your solicitor is experienced in this field. The clinical practitioner or authority will be defended by experts and therefore clients must receive equal specialist advice. 

If you’ve been injured as a direct result of medical negligence, you and your family will need all the help and support you can get. Harold Stock & Co solicitors can provide that support and will deal with your case sensitively. Our solicitors are here to help you make the decisions that are right for you, and we will vigorously contest the case in order to help you claim the maximum compensation you’re rightfully entitled to, on a strictly no-win no-fee basis.

For further help and advice, or for a more informal discussion about clinical negligence claims, contact Harold Stock Solicitors on 01457 835597 or email info@haroldstock.com.

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