What Entitles You to a Medical Negligence Claim?

Hospitals, doctors and other healthcare professionals are expected to provide a certain standard of care but what happens when care fails to meet this standard? Or when an error is made resulting in harm or injury to a patient? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what medical negligence is and discuss some of the factors that make you eligible to make a medical negligence claim.

What is Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence is when a healthcare provider has not only failed to meet expected standards of care, but harm has occurred as a result.

Some examples of medical negligence include:

  • Being given the wrong diagnosis (or no diagnosis) leads to delays in treatment or the wrong treatment being given.
  • Undergoing surgery that is later found to have been unnecessary.
  • Being sent home from hospital too soon.
  • A doctor not ordering the right tests or investigations, not checking results, or not acting on them.
  • Being prescribed the wrong medication or dose.
  • Injuries as a result of surgery.
  • Poor nursing care results in harm or injury such as an infection or pressure sores.

What Entitles You to Make a Claim?

To make a medical negligence claim you must prove that the care or treatment you received was below the minimum standard that would be expected AND that you suffered harm as a result. It must also be proved that the injury you suffered could have been avoided (or wouldn’t have been as bad) if you’d had the correct treatment or standard of care. To be eligible for compensation, you have to legally prove both a ‘breach of duty of care’ and also ‘causation.’

A breach of duty of care means that the health care professional acted in a way that did not meet acceptable professional standards and this is tested using something called the ‘Bolam’ principle which asks whether a responsible body of health professionals would have acted in the same way. Causation means that your harm or injury must be directly linked to the medical provider’s failure to meet acceptable standards.

Medical negligence claims are also subject to time limitations, which means they must be issued within three years of the negligence happening or - if it took some time to realise there had been a problem - within three years of becoming aware of the issue. However, this doesn’t apply to medical negligence in children or those without capacity.

How Long Does it Take?

How long your claim takes will depend on several factors, including the nature of your injury and whether or not the defendant accepts they are at fault. There are several stages to making a medical negligence claim.

The first step is to contact a medical negligence lawyer and provide them will the details of what happened so they can determine whether or not you have grounds for a claim. You will also need to consider funding as legal aid is only available in very exceptional cases for medical negligence claims. You may be able to take out a ‘No Win No Fee agreement if appropriate, meaning you wouldn’t need to pay your legal fees if the case was unsuccessful.

Following this, your lawyer will need to obtain your medical records, which is critical to the success of your medical negligence claim. A medical expert will need to be instructed, who will examine your records and prepare a medical report.

Your lawyer can then submit a Letter of Claim to the care provider in question, for example, the hospital you were treated at, and they will have about four months to respond. Most medical negligence cases are settled out of court but if they deny liability or your case is particularly complex then you may need to go to court.

The amount of compensation you receive will be based on the suffering you have experienced as a result of the injury and additional factors such as travel expenses, medical bills to correct issues caused by the original injury and loss of earnings if you have been unable to work as a result of the medical negligence.