Medical Negligence: Do I have a legal claim?

Written by: Keoghs Solicitors

Date: 21st February 2013

When we need medical advice or treatment, we place our trust in medical experts. We usually get the right advice and treatment, but sadly, mistakes can be made and the consequences can be serious.

If you, or someone you know, has been injured as the result of medical or dental treatment, which may have fallen below the expected standard, the question you’re likely asking yourself is: do I have a claim?

The answer depends on the circumstances. Suffering an injury as a result of medical advice or treatment does not mean the treatment received was necessarily negligent. It may be the incident that caused injury could not have been avoided.

However, where it can be shown that on the balance of probability, your treatment fell below the standard to be expected of a reasonably competent doctor, hospital or dentist, you may have a claim for compensation.

With this in mind, it is common for claims to begin for any of the following:

  • Incorrect treatment
  • Incorrect diagnosis
  • Important symptoms ignored
  • A delay in diagnosis or treatment
  • Failure of a medical product or device
  • Prescribing or administering the wrong drug or the right drug at an incorrect dosage
  • Making a mistake during your operation or procedure
  • Failing to warn you about the risk associated with your treatment

If you feel your experiences match one of the points above, you may be able to begin a claim.

It’s worth keeping in mind that legal action must be taken within 3 years of the date you first knew, or could reasonably have been expected to know, that you have suffered an injury caused through somebody else’s fault. For children, the 3 year limit does not apply until their 18th birthday so potentially they can claim at any point up to their 21st birthday.

To start a claim, we recommend that you seek advice from a specialist team of medical negligence solicitors as soon as possible – as claims are almost always a very complicated legal process. A solicitor will advise you about speaking to the clinician or care provider in order to ask for a full explanation as to what happened during the treatment. They will also consider with you whether (and if so how) to ask for an apology. This information can be obtained informally but some care organisations have formal, written complaints procedures and a legal advisor can help you identify the scope of the initial steps you need to take.

The decision to take legal action should not be taken lightly. It can be costly, lengthy and very stressful. You will be asked to repeat and relive experiences that may be traumatic. However, a good solicitor will guide and support you through the process.

As part of the initial investigations, your solicitor will gather all the necessary evidence from witnesses and also in the form of medical records and reports from independent experts.

The expert’s opinion will be based upon the following:

  • Your medical records
  • Your statement about what happened and the resulting injury
  • Any other supporting information and documentation

Frequently asked questions

What can I claim for?

You can claim compensation for any injuries or losses suffered which were a direct result of the negligent treatment. These can include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of earnings and potential earnings
  • Additional care costs
  • Cost to adapt your home and sourcing of additional equipment
  • Psychological injury

Will I end up having to go to court?

Negligence claims rarely end up in court, as many cases are settled after investigations are completed. Typically, both sides are encouraged to settle the matter quickly.

What do I need to do now?

The first step is to talk to a legal expert in this area, such as ourselves. In medical negligence cases we generally provide a free initial interview. New clients are seen by a senior solicitor so that the case can be expertly assessed and put on the right footing from the start. If you have a clinical negligence case you will be seen by John Gorner, a solicitor with almost 30 years’ experience dealing with medical negligence cases.

If you feel you need to speak to someone, then please get in touch.