Knowledge of what clinical negligence is can guide help you make an informed decision if you are considering pursuing a compensation claim. Almost every medical procedure carries a certain amount of risk, from complicated processes like open-heart surgery to those as simple as applying a plaster to a cut or abrasion. This means that not every unfortunate outcome following a medical procedure is a result of clinical negligence.
Clinical negligence occurs when the medical professionals responsible for your care fails to put adequate measures in place to minimize risks, leaving you with injuries that can be life-changing. While most medical processes go on without any issues, mistakes can be made by those responsible for patient care on occasion.
In order to successfully make a clinical negligence claim, you must be able to prove that:
- The health professional owed the claimant a duty of care to protect their health.
- That duty of care was breached.
- The breach of duty resulted in harm to the patient. This is known as causation.
- The patient incurred losses as a result of that harm.
Now let us discuss these four elements of clinical negligence in more detail:
- Duty of Care
Medical professionals owe their patients a duty of care to provide treatment that meets the standard expected of a professional with the same skill-set and under similar or the same circumstances. “Circumstances” here refer to the physician’s specialty, acceptable practices of the profession, medical equipment available at the time and the medical procedure used to provide treatment. Medical duty of care applies to all healthcare professionals, including doctors, surgeons, nurses, dentists, laboratory workers and therapists.
- Breach of Duty
It is important that you establish that your doctor’s actions or inactions fell below the reasonably expected standard of a professional in that medical field. The “Bolam test” is used to establish clinical negligence; a reasonable body of other medical professionals who possess the same skill-set will determine whether your healthcare provider acted negligently when discharging their duty. This medical opinion is crucial and, for breach of duty to be established, the body of medical professionals must be logical and reasonable.
In addition to establishing that your healthcare provider breached their duty of care towards you, it is important to prove that this breach directly caused you harm or contributed to it. Proving this element of personal injury and clinical negligence is often difficult; while it may be easy to prove that your doctor failed to provide the right level of care, this does not necessarily mean that their actions caused you harm. This is because it is not always the case that damage occurs after a clear breach of duty.
Even when a medical professional admits that they acted negligently, this does not automatically mean that they are under obligation to pay damages. To establish liability, you must show that the breach of duty/negligent treatment caused damage.
After establishing breach of duty and causation, you need to show that you suffered damage as a result. Damage includes injury – physical and psychological – as well as financial losses (such as loss of income). In cases of psychological injury, it must be a recognized injury such as anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Compensation awarded for physical or psychological injury will consider the pain and suffering you endured – known as “general damages”. You will also be awarded compensation for any financial losses incurred as a result of the negligent treatment, including lost income, cost of care and cost of aids; this is known as special damages.
What Constitutes Clinical Negligence?
Regardless of the nature and type of injury, a claimant can pursue medical negligence claims against either an individual health professional such as a doctor, surgeon, nurse or GP; or against an organization such as the NHS Trust or a private body. Here are some of the most common forms of clinical negligence:
Pregnancy and childbirth are usually one of the most fulfilling experiences for an expectant mother. Sadly, the happy and exciting expectations it brings can be cut short if a birth injury due to clinical negligence occurs. Clinical negligence can occur at any stage during the pregnancy and childbirth process, but the time of delivery is one of the most vulnerable, as negligent treatment at this time can result in conditions such as cerebral palsy. It can be even more distressing to know that the injury was avoidable.
Despite recent advances in medical science for cancer treatment, diagnosis of the condition remains the most crucial. For instance, cancer diagnosis could be made late and treatment delayed as a result; a medical staff may also misread a diagnostic scan or misinterpret a test result. When this happens due to clinical negligence, the impact can be devastating and you may be entitled to a claim.
For many families in the UK, they have known their GP for most part of their lives. As a result, they have complete trust in their abilities and experience. Unfortunately, GPs make mistakes on occasion, including incorrect diagnosis or failing to refer a patient to a specialist.
Mistakes can happen during surgery, resulting in an injury. Some of the most common forms of surgical errors include nerve damage, surgical instruments retained in patient’s body and unreasonable delay for surgical procedure.
- Never Events
This refers to a number of adverse events due to medical errors that should never happen. Some of the most common never events include performing surgery on the wrong site, incorrect placement of naso-gastric tubes, and retaining foreign objects inside a patient’s body.
Difference Between Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence
In personal injury claims, a person can sue an individual or institution for an accident suffered while carrying out day-to-day activities. This could be a slip or fall or a vehicle accident with you as passenger. Personal injuries can happen anywhere and does not relate to losses within a medical environment.
On the other hand, clinical negligence refers to injuries suffered in a medical setting. In this case, the victim has suffered harm as a result of negligent treatment, relating to physical or psychological damage (or both).
With both personal injury and clinical negligence claims, you are under obligation to prove that the other party was responsible for the injury you suffered. Personal injury claims are pretty straightforward, while clinical negligence claims can be complex. This is why you need the right medical negligence solicitor for your case.
With the right solicitor, your case will likely be resolved before it gets to the courts. However, even if it goes to trial, a medical negligence solicitor can still help you prove that your health professional was negligent and ensure you get the best possible compensation award for your injury.
Clinical Negligence Claims Time Limits
In general, the time limit for starting clinical negligence claims is three years from the date of the actual incident or the date you first became aware that you had suffered injury due to substandard care.
At Medical Negligence Direct, our medical negligence solicitors have recorded huge success in helping medical negligence victims make claims for compensation. Whether this is an NHS clinical negligence claim or a claim against a private institution, we provide discrete and professional legal support to help you make a claim within the time limit.
Clinical negligence claims can be very complex, but we pride ourselves in our track record of excellence when it comes to supporting claimants through the claims process. The panel of solicitors we work will do everything they can to understand every detail of your case to help you get the best possible outcome. We understand how sensitive clinical negligence compensation claims can be; this is why our approach is friendly, yet professional.
No Win No Fee Clinical Negligence Claims
The vast majority of our claims are managed via a No Win No Fee agreement. This arrangement makes it possible for anyone who needs access to quality legal support to be able to get it without any financial risks. A No Win No Fee agreement, also known as a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) eliminates the need to pay upfront legal fees at the start of your claim. If your claim is unsuccessful, you do not pay any fees.
If your claim is successful, an agreed percentage of your compensation award will be paid to your solicitor. This amount – known as success fee – covers the legal costs of making a claim and may be recovered from the negligent party.