Clinical Negligence Guide

This brief guide will explain what clinical negligence is, what sort of injuries it includes and how to start a claim for compensation.

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The standard of healthcare in the UK is the envy of many countries across the world, with doctors, nurses, dentists and other medical professionals providing expert care every day. However, every now and then, things can go wrong and the patient is left feeling let down by the professionals they trusted.

All professionals can make mistakes, and in a medical context that may result in a negative outcome for the patient, such as a further injury needing treatment or permanent and even life-changing damage.

Sometimes, an explanation and an apology are what the patient or their relatives may be seeking. In others, the patient or their relatives may be entitled to seek compensation by pursuing a damages claim for clinical negligence. In this guide we will explain what is involved in that process.

What is clinical negligence?

Clinical negligence covers all medical professionals, in addition to physiotherapists, psychologists, nurses and midwives. Negligence occurs when the medical professional provides a service that is considered below a reasonable standard within their specialism.

A key thing to remember is that just because a doctor makes a mistake does not mean that they are negligent. A doctor is only negligent if he or she does something which no other reasonably competent doctor would have done. This may occur where a doctor does something which they should not have done, or failed to do something which they should have done. Mistakes include failing to discuss/advice other medial options which are less risky.

What kind of injuries are involved in clinical negligence?

Injuries resulting from clinical negligence can vary in severity. Claims have been brought against medical professionals for cases ranging from burns and bed sores, to death. No matter what the severity, every patient going through this process feels let down by the professionals they put their trust in.

Different types of clinical negligence cases include:

  • Problems around pregnancy and birth
  • Misdiagnosis & failure to treat
  • Surgical error (including cosmetic surgery)
  • Failures in nursing care (including bedsores and use of the wrong drugs)
  • Failure to diagnose a fracture
  • Failure to diagnose impending stroke, heart attack or other life-threatening conditions when symptoms are present
  • Dental treatment

These are a few of the most frequent cases, however there are hundreds of instances in which clinical negligence could occur and it is not limited to the above list.

How do you succeed in showing a clinical negligence?

The two most important things in establishing in any clinical negligence claim are 1. Negligence and 2. Causation. In order to proceed with any case these two things must be established, on the balance of probability, meaning there is a greater than 50% likelihood that it occurred in this manner.

  1.     Negligence (often referred to as “Breach of Duty”)

You must prove that the professional who treated you was acting in a manner that a qualified professional in the same field would not. If no other reasonably competent practitioner would have acted in a similar manner, then the professional is liable.

  1.     Causation

You must also prove that any harm done to you in the process would only have happened as a direct result of the negligence. In other words, you must prove that you would not have suffered the injury if the professional had provided the correct level of care.

Causation can be complex. Sometimes, showing the failure has made a material contribution to the injury caused by the negligence may be enough.

Proving these two things can often be difficult, however, evidence may be obtained from:

  • Medical records
  • Photographs
  • A detailed statement from you and/or family

Independent medical experts will have to be instructed to provide in-depth reports on the treatment and the resulting medical condition.

What is the compensation?

The amount of compensation claimed can vary from case to case. When settling a claim, the factors that are considered may include the following:

  • Any financial loss, such as prescription charges, medical treatment
  • Loss of earnings, through taking time off of work
  • Anticipated losses and expenses
  • Care provided by family/friends
  • Damages to reflect any pain, suffering and restrictions caused by the injuries
  • Bereavement, funeral expenses and other associated losses if a death occurs

In order to value your claim, a solicitor will consider the nature and extent of the injury from the beginning of the case. Evidence will need to provided for any financial losses, including receipts and wage slips.

Is there a time limit from when I can claim?

In most clinical negligence cases concerning adults, there is a time limit set by the Limitation Act 1980, which states that the claim must be brought forward within three years.

This time limit is in relation to bringing a claim through the courts, not for speaking to a solicitor, so it is best to contact a solicitor as soon as possible for help as often gathering all of the relevant evidence and information can take a while.

There are other cases in which the three-year limit does not apply, in particular those where a child is involved. In any case, it is always best to seek professional help as soon as you believe there has been negligence.

How can I fund my case?

Many solicitors will have different arrangement for funding these cases. At Percy Hughes & Roberts we like to make things a lot easier for the client. We offer a “No-Win No-Fee” agreement, which means you won’t have to pay a fee if you do not win the case.

The only time we will ever take any funds from a claimant is if the case is successful, in which case we take a small percentage of the compensation paid, limited to a maximum of 25% of the recovered damages.

We would recommend you take out Legal Expense Insurance. There will be a premium payable from your damages if we succeed.

How we can help

At Percy Hughes & Roberts we understand that bringing forward a clinical negligence claim against a professional can seem daunting. Our experienced team can guide you through your claim, step-by-step, and ensure that you feel comfortable in progressing the claim.

Norman Jones has over 40 years of experience in dealing with clients’ claims, having successfully brought claims locally in the Wirral and also nationally against GPs, hospitals and dentists. Norman is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, a former President of the Liverpool Law Society and is one of the most experienced negligence solicitors in the UK.

If you would like to contact Norman or one of our expert negligence solicitors you can do so by calling 0800 781 3894 or by completing the “Get in touch” form on this site.