Whilst we may all love and treasure the NHS, we’re realistic enough to know that it can’t be all things to all people all of the time. With budgetary restraints and escalating pressures on already-overworked staff, it’s inevitable that sometimes things can go wrong. Operations may fail, and mistakes may be made. We all accept that there is a certain element of risk whenever we agree to undergoing a medical procedure, but the very least we expect is professionalism and the appropriate levels of care and attention. Sadly these cannot always be guaranteed. In those cases, which we’re glad to say are few and far between, patients may be entitled to pursue a claim for clinical injury compensation if they can prove that any treatment they received was carried out negligently.
In English law compensation will only be awarded if it can be proved that clinical treatment was carried out negligently: in other words if there is clear evidence that the standard of care given to the patient fell below the standard generally accepted to be reasonable for that area of medicine. If you feel that you have been a victim of clinical negligence, or have been affected by procedures where medical negligence is suspected, it is important that you consult or take expert advice from a qualified solicitor like Harold Stock & Co with specialist knowledge of the sector. The reason for this is simple: clinical negligence claims can be extremely complicated, and are usually vigorously contested, so expert knowledge of the sector and procedure is needed before any case is pursued.
How should you proceed with a claim for medical negligence compensation?
If you feel you may have grounds for making a claim, you should contact us 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.
We 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 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. Claimants will also have to prove that any subsequent damage and losses stemmed directly from this breach of the duty of care, and that is often far more difficult to pin down.
Even if it can be can proved 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 & Cocan 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.
For further help and advice, or for a more informal discussion about clinical negligence claims, contact Harold Stock Solicitors on 01457 835597 or email email@example.com.