You have probably heard of the term medical negligence before, and even if not you can certainly hazard a guess as to what it refers to. The, hopefully rare, times in our lives when we have to stay in a hospital or similar healthcare facility are often some of the most difficult and vulnerable times of our lives. For the duration of a hospital stay, we expect the staff who handle our case to be professional and to provide us with the appropriate level of care.
Clearly, in an environment like a hospital, mistakes and lapses in judgement can have catastrophic repercussions for patients and their families. And yet, there will inevitably be some mistakes made at some point by doctors and other staff in their pursuit of treating patients. When mistakes do occur, they do not necessarily amount to negligence, however, in cases where it is clear that staff did not act as one would reasonably expect given their training and experience, patients may be able to make a successful medical negligence claim. If you think that you might have such a claim, then you should look into hiring medical negligence solicitors today.
What is Clinical Negligence?
Before you splash out on the best medical negligence solicitors, it will help for you to understand what medical negligence is so you can decide if it has occurred in your case or not.
In essence, clinical, or medical, negligence occurs when a person with a duty of care towards a patient fails in that duty of care and this failure results in harm to the patient. When you enter into any UK hospital as a patient, the medical staff there all have a duty of care towards you. It is not just the doctors and nurses who work directly with you that are bound by this duty of care, so too are all the technicians and other behind the scenes workers whose jobs affect your healthcare.
In order to establish that there has been a breach of duty of care it needs to be shown that the doctor, or other medical staff, behaved in a way which falls below the standard expected of a reasonably competent individual working in the relevant field. This test is known as the Bolam test and is the most significant hurdle to being awarded compensation. It is this aspect of any medical negligence claim which is the hardest to prove.
As well as showing that the medical staff have failed in providing the expected standard of care, it also needs to be established that this failure either directly caused, or significantly contributed to, the patient coming to harm. This aspect of the claim can also be very difficult to prove, even if it can be shown that the doctor’s behaviour fell below the expected standard, it is not always so easy to show that this caused harm to the patient.
What Constitutes Harm to the Patient?
In order to successfully prove a case of medical negligence on behalf of the patient, medical negligence lawyers need to show that the patient suffered harm, or damage, as a result of medical staff failing in their duty of care. This harm can come in the form of physical or psychological injury, as well as financial losses incurred because of a lapse in the quality of care that the patient received. Note that in cases of psychological damage, the injury must be in the form of a medically recognised psychiatric condition. Grief and emotional upset are not considered to qualify as psychological injury.
Bringing a Claim
Any claims for medical negligence must be filed within three years of the event occurring, or within three years of the symptoms of damage becoming apparent if there is a delayed onset of symptoms. There are certain circumstances where this three year limit will not apply, for example, in cases involving children this three years does not begin until their 18th birthday. For individuals who are rendered unable to pursue a claim themselves owing to either a psychiatric disorder or a lack of capacity then the time will not count down until they regain capacity.
Prior to commencing legal proceedings, the complainant needs to send a letter of claim, which sets out the allegations and the damages suffered, to the defendants. It is best to consult with medical negligence solicitors and have them put this document together for you.
If you think that you might have a valid case for medical negligence then you should contact a group such as The Medical Negligence Experts to discuss the merits of your case. You can easily fill in a form on their website to find out more about how much your claim may be worth and specify when you’re available to talk. A qualified medical negligence solicitor will be able to help you decide whether your claim is worth pursuing.
So, now that you have all the information you need to pursue a claim of medical negligence, there’s no reason to put it off! Conduct more research if necessary, but if you feel ready to move forward it’s time to speak to the best medical negligence solicitors you can find.