If you or someone you know has suffered medical malpractice then hiring a clinical negligence solicitor may aid your circumstances.
Medical mistakes due to incompetence or lack of care can lead to permanent injury. In certain cases complaints need to be lodged for either financial compensation to cover care needs or to change the way some procedures are completed to ensure future safety.
1. How to Choose Medical Negligence Solicitors
Medical malpractice, is an unfortunate and common occurrence. When patients and family members acting on behalf of patients seek compensation for these events, medical professionals and facilities are forced to reassess their procedures and standards of care so that these events are not likely to recur. Moreover, victims can secure the compensation they need for future medical costs relating to the injuries or disabilities they have sustained as the result of provider negligence. They can also receive compensation for pain and suffering, loss of lifestyle and any required changes in accommodation. Finding the best medical solicitors, however, is vital for getting desirable results.
Choosing a Specialist Clinical Solicitor
Solicitors can practice law in numerous areas or they can maintain a specialty focus on just one legal area. Clinical negligence is a very complex type of personal injury law and there are many details for these cases that require specialty knowledge and experience. It should be noted that health related cases require both legal and medical knowledge. Thus, it is generally recommended that patients seek out specialty medical solicitors when securing representation for their claims.
It is important for patients or their family members to interview several firms before making their hiring decisions. Most firms will provide an initial consultation or interview free of charge. This is a good time to ask lawyers questions for your case about the medical negligence claims process, the success rate for past cases and to request references for consulting with past clients.
It is additionally important to learn whether the solicitor has experience dealing with the specific medical issues in question. This will ensure that this professional has ample background information for building a strong case in a quick and efficient manner. He or she will also be able to recommend the best medical experts for the claimant.
It is important for all victims of clinical negligence to note that there are specific time limitations for claims relating to these events. Most patients who have sustained moderate to severe damages due to provider negligence will have exactly three years or 36 months to bring their cases. This makes it vital for negligence victims to seek the services of reputable medical solicitors as soon as they are able.
There are, however, several exceptions to these time limits. For instance, if the victim is under the age of 18 at the time of the event, there is no time limitation that must be adhered to until the child reaches the age of 18. At the age of 18, however, the three year time limit will begin.
Those with mental illnesses at the time of their treatment-related injuries will have three years to bring their cases, but this will start at the time of recovery. The court also retains the right to determine whether or not cases that have “run out of time” are acceptable to proceed. Thus, even if three years have passed and patients are not exceptions to the limitation rule, there may still be an opportunity to seek medical compensation. An experienced negligence solicitor can assess dated cases and determine whether it is feasible to pursue them.
Funding a Claim
Before bringing a claim, a person must consider how this claim will be funded. The method of funding will need to be detailed in the claimant’s letter of claim that is sent as part of the Pre-Action Protocol. It can be very costly to investigate and pursue clinical negligence claims. Some patients have medical insurance policies that will assist with the costs of investigating and pursing clinical claims. Without this coverage, however, it is also possible to handle these matters under a Conditional Fee Agreement, also known as a “no win no fee” agreement which you can read about here. With these, claimants are not required to pay their expert medical lawyers until medical compensation is awarded. Solicitor fees will be paid from these settlements.
2. What Is Medical Negligence?
Before seeking the services of medical solicitors, it is first important to develop a clear understanding of exactly what a medically negligent case is and how it is determined and these differ to work place accidents (more on that here) if you are already an employee of the medical institution. The definition can be a confusing one, given that it entails the study of a number of complex issues. When patients respond adversely to medical care they have received in a professional treatment environment, this can be due to a number of factors. In instances in which the provider’s own actions or inaction are responsible for causing death, disability or harm, however, this may be medically negligent and as such could result in a case for claims being made.
Adverse effects to medical treatment are not always the basis of medically related negligence claims. Some adverse reactions to care lie outside of the provider’s own control and may be unavoidable. Medically negligent claims call the performance of the medical professional and the standard of care that has been provided into question and assert that loss of life or harm could have been avoided if other, more appropriate actions had been taken or if treatments had been performed according to the known standard of care. Thus, these cases do not call the patient’s response to care into question, but rather the standard of care that has been offered. The goal of these cases is to show that this standard did not meet what is expected of a licensed and trained provider.
To succeed in these cases, patients or their loved ones will need to do more than simply prove that substandard care was received. They will also need to show that unacceptable professional treatment is responsible for any negative response to care and any physical damages or loss of life that was incurred. The accepted standard of care is in compliance with principles and codes that have been put in place by the General Medical Council, the BMA and any other recognised medical association. In instances in which the standards issued by these associations are met by providers, malpractice does not exist.
It is important to note that instances of medical, gross and minor, negligence is often termed clinical (negligence) given that it covers more than core medical professionals. Beyond doctors, these claims can be filed for treatments that have been received from dentists, physiotherapists, psychologists and others. Thus, this form of negligence does not have to occur in a traditional hospital setting in order for the victim to qualify for medical compensation.
Breach of Duty
When patients are provided with a substandard level of care, this is known as breach of duty. Breach of duty is assessed by the standards of medical care that are in place at the time of care. If these standards have changed shortly after an event has occurred, these changes will not be reflected in the breach of duty judgment.
It is important to note that pursuing claims, especially in the event of loss of life, can have a significant impact on the medical community at large and the expected standards of care. Thus, when a legitimate cause for a claim exists, it could be seen as an ethical duty to take appropriate legal action on behalf of the patient and to the benefit of all future patients.
Breach of duty is not sufficient for establishing negligence. The provision of substandard care must be shown to be the cause of patient injuries. This is commonly referred to causation. It is the job of the medically knowledgable solicitor to show how the actions of the provider has resulted in loss of life or harm to the patient. This is often the most challenging aspect of these cases, but it is also the most important. Causation requires clinical negligence solicitors to rule out all other possible causes for a patient’s death, disability or other harm.
3. Medical Negligence Claims
Submitting these claims is a lengthy endeavour and there are a number of factors these cases involve that solicitors are unable to control. Among these are the likely court timetable, the availability of expert witnesses for filing and presenting reports and where a trial will be held. Concluding an action in negligence is inappropriate before an accurate prognosis is received and the long-term needs of the patient have been determined. These factors can delay cases as well. Attributes such as empathy can be invaluable during the formative stages of the claims process given that this part of the investigative process can be emotional and challenging for patients, family members and caregivers.
During the early stages of the claims process, solicitors will work to ascertain whether or not there is a real prospect of success. Before a claim, solicitors will often request that their clients file formal complaints with the medical facility at which treatment was received or through one of the governing bodies that determine the standards for medical care. Solicitors will also request release of all the patient’s medical records in order for these to be used as the basis of the case. Last, the opinion or testimony of a medical expert will be sought.
Checklist of Questions A Solicitor Might Ask During The Initial Interview:
- What type of harm has the patient sustained?
- Were there pre-existing conditions that may have contributed to this person’s harm?
- Do you feel as though medical providers offered substandard care?
- In what way did substandard care cause harm to the patient?
- Are there ways that you feel the provider could have prevented damages?
- Are you prepared for a lengthy investigative process?
The Ministry of Justice has established Pre-Action Protocol as part of the clinical negligence claims process. After the basis of a case has been determined, the defendant will need to receive a letter of claim that details the patient’s injury, the amount of compensation being sought and notification of how the claim is being funded.
The defendant can take up to four months to issue a response to the letter of claim and can either deny or accept liability for the related damages. When liability is denied, court proceedings will be issued. When medical professionals choose to accept liability, there can always be disagreement over the compensation amount or “quantum” at which time court proceedings will need to be issued by the solicitor.
Once court proceedings have been issued, the likelihood of having a case go before a judge remains unlikely. Approximately 2% of claims ever make it to court. In most instances, these are settled outside of court. When settlement offers are made, solicitors can advise their clients on which actions to take. If the case is presented to a judge, the clinical negligence solicitor will act as special barrister and advocate on behalf of the defendant.
Compensation or Quantum
Medical compensation for clinical claims falls under two categories: general damages and special damages. Special damages are typically representative of expenses that you have incurred due to your injury and any future expenses that you will have to pay as the result of this same event. These can include loss of wages, special care, medical equipment and treatment, travel and the costs of adapting existing accommodation or the costs of new accommodation. General damages include non-financial losses, such as compensation for pain and suffering. There are limited awards for pain in suffering in the UK.
Condition and Prognosis Reports
Those with injuries caused as a result of medical malpractice will need to be examined by clinical experts in order for their current conditions to be determined. This expert evidence will detail the extent and nature of the claimant’s injury in a report know as a Condition and Prognosis report. It could be necessary to have several Condition and Prognosis reports created, especially when there are multiple aspects to the individual’s injury.
Medical experts can also recommend that the claimant receive further treatment before the final report is compiled. This report will be used in both the determination of compensation and as evidence in court.
Medical Lawyers will usually need to secure quantum reports in order to assign monetary values to claims or the victim’s financial losses. This collection of reports can include reports on occupational care, physiotherapy, accommodation and nursing care.
It will also be necessary for the victim to supply receipts for all losses incurred prior to the filing of the claim and its settlement such as receipts for items purchased, services page for and wage slips that denote loss of wages.
Clinical negligence solicitors use these and other details to draw up Schedule of Loss forms. These show all of the financial losses that defendants are able to claim. It will often take a while before these can be drawn up, given that condition and prognosis reports must be completed first.
Maximum Medical Compensation Amounts for Specific Damages
There are many types of clinical based negligence that can occur and each case can be different from the next. Compensations amounts will be primarily determined by the type of injury that a person has sustained. General damages or compensation for pain and suffering will be factored in as will special damages or the costs of future treatment and care. Settlements will also include legal fees and interests paid on general and special damages.
|Injury Description||Compensation Amount|
|Loss of kidney||£32,000|
|Minor post-traumatic stress||£6,000|
|Dental error and loss of front tooth||£2,800|
|Failed sterilisaton resulting in conception||£7,500|
|Severe brain damage||£290,000|
Medical Malpractice Cases
Pursuing legitimate claims helps patients to obtain the funds they need to receive treatment for all related injuries and harm along with compensation for pain and suffering or general damages. This can be seen in the 2014 case of Maisha Najeeb, who at 13 has been awarded £24 million in compensation for damaged that were caused by providers at Great Ormond Street Hospital.At the age of 10, Najeeb received treatment for Arterio-Venous Malformation (AVM), which is a condition that involves the tangling of the veins and arteries, but which allowed Najeeb to live an otherwise normal and relatively high quality of life. AVM can be serious, however, if the tangling leads to a bleed. Unfortunately, the accidental injection of glue in Najeeb’s brain at the time of treatment for a bleed left her severely brain damaged.
During prior treatments for bleeds, no difficulties were encountered. These treatments require the injection of a contrast or dye to know more about blood flow in the brain area along with the injection of an embolic agent or glue to block the bleed. There was no system in place for distinguishing between syringes containing the contrast and the glue, which, in turn, lead to a tragic mix-up.
The Royal Courts of Justice in London approved a lump sum payment of £2.8 million with an additional £383,000 annually until the patient’s 19 birthday. This annual payment will then be £423,000 annually, throughout the remainder of the patient’s life. According to an expert hired by Najeeb’s family, the patient is expected to live until approximately the age of 64, which would make the total damages for this case close to £24 million.
In addition to botched treatments, however, it is also possible for victims to receive compensation due to delayed treatments. This can be seen in the 2014 case of a profoundly disabled 12 year old boy who suffered brain damaged due to errors on the part of medical teams at St. Mary’s Hospital in Portsmouth when he was 4 years old.
Failure to identify a serious condition resulted in delayed treatment and insufficient treatment. The hospital delayed in performing a chest x-ray which would have determined that the child had congenital diaphragmatic hernia. This is a failure of the diaphragm that allows the organs to move into the chest cavity. His solicitors and expert witness submit that there were also delays in summoning specialists when the patient went into cardiac arrest and inserting naso-gastric tube that would have decompressed the stomach.
The patient is currently incapable of voluntary movements and can only communicate through eye contact and eye movements. He is wholly reliant on skilled care and specialist technology. His settlement of over £6.7m includes an upfront lump sum payment of £3.2m, with yearly payments of £265,000 until he reaches the age of 18 and then yearly payments of £305,000 for the rest of his live. These monies will cover the costs of the specialist care that is required.
The Dual Rewards of Seeking Compensation
Although the sense of loss can be both complex and profound when dealing with injuries that are sustained due to medical provider negligence, there are essentially two primary reasons to seek compensation. Foremost among these is to obtain adequate funds for covering the ongoing costs of any specialist care and all other injury-related expenses that must be paid. The second reason for pursuing these cases is to permanently impact the quality of care that is supplied by the professional, groups of professionals or medical facility that is responsible for these damages.
In the case of Maisha Najeeb, the financial awards of the claim are only one benefit that has been gained by pursuing legal action after such an unfortunate event. The way in which syringes containing medical contrasts and glues are labeled will likely change forever. This event could mean that no other patient undergoing similar treatments in this hospital will be subject to the same form of harm. In the case of the 12 year old who received substandard care in Portsmouth, pursuing this case and the resulting compensation will likely result in faster response times and more urgent efforts to take action when dealing with severe juvenile illnesses.