When you’re in need of medical assistance, you want to be sure that the people who are helping you in your time of need make all the right decisions. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, and medical professionals can make mistakes when you need them the most. This could mean that you have been the victim of medical, or clinical, negligence.
To prove negligence you need to establish two things: firstly, that a health professional made a mistake and secondly, that you were harmed by that mistake.
These are the two most important parts of assessing a medical negligence claim, and can be hard to prove. So how can you be sure that you have fallen victim to negligence? And if you are sure, what steps do you need to take?
Breach of duty
Everyone working in healthcare has a duty to provide appropriate care to their patients. This means that they have to ensure that the patient doesn’t endure any avoidable pain or harm.
Cases where a patient’s health deteriorates as a result of the healthcare worker either acting in a way which harms the patient, or failing to act when they should have done leading to patient harm, can be classed as medical negligence.
Types of medical negligence claims
Some of the most common types of medical negligence come from:
• Hospital Negligence: Hospital negligence occurs when you are injured as a result of actions by a hospital. This could be due to, for example, failure to properly train staff, failure to take action when needed in terms of treatment, incorrect treatment, etc
• Dental Negligence: Dental negligence, as the name suggests, is harm caused by a dentist. This covers anything from removal of the wrong tooth, to faulty dental work
• GP Negligence: GP negligence occurs when a doctor or general practitioner makes an error – like an undiagnosed or undetected illness – which causes you harm
• Care Home Abuse: Care home abuse can take many forms, however it’s important to watch out for pressure ulcers, malnourishment or dehydration, failure to administer medication, bruises or signs of fearfulness
• Cosmetic Surgery Negligence: Errors can often occur in what is an under regulated area of treatment. There can be issues regarding consent and also surgical error which can amount to negligence.
• Birth Negligence: Birth negligence includes any health-related issue which happened during childbirth as a result of the medical practitioner making an error
• Accident and Emergency Claims: This can involve misdiagnosis or failure to investigate symptoms adequately, for example
• Surgical Errors: Surgical errors occur when a surgeon makes an error which results in harm to you, such as causing further avoidable injury whilst carrying out surgery or not using the correct surgical technique, for example
• Prescription Errors: Prescription errors occur when an incorrect prescription is administered and it results in harm to you such as suffering side effects which were otherwise avoidable, or causing a deterioration in your health as a result of not receiving the correct medication
• Optician Negligence: A failure to diagnose an eye problem, misdiagnosis which leads to incorrect or improper treatment, delayed treatment or complications from laser eye surgery all fall under optician negligence
• Cancer Claims: Cancer claims cover a wide range of possibilities, including x-rays and scans being misinterpreted, or late diagnosis
How the case process works:
The most important part of a medical negligence claim is having proof that you were harmed as a result of a medical professional’s negligence.
Any medical professional owes a duty of care to their patients, and it is proving that this was breached that is the key to any medical negligence claim.
Proving the negligence
In establishing whether there is a case of negligence, the medical professional’s actions will be compared against similar professionals in similar circumstances. There will then be medical experts instructed who will provide information on whether they believe the medical professional acted in a reasonably competent manner.
Proving the damage
It is not enough to prove that the medical professional acted in a manner which isn’t deemed competent – you also have to prove that you suffered additional harm or that your condition worsened as a result of it.
Quantifying the damage
A claim will be made for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity caused by the negligence and it is also possible to make a claim for any loss of earnings and out of pocket expenses incurred as a result such as medication costs, travelling expenses, etc.
Proving your side
Unlike for most cases, you only need to show that your version of the events are more likely to be true than untrue, rather than beyond reasonable doubt, which is usually the case.
Most cases are run on a “no win no fee” basis meaning you pay nothing if you lose. If your case is successful you will receive at least 75% of the compensation awarded to you.
How long do you have to make a claim?
If you’re looking to make a claim, you have three years from the date of the negligent care/treatment, or from your date of knowledge that there has been potential negligence. However, if you were under 18 years of age at the time of the negligence, you have three years from your 18th birthday.
An exception to the rule is where the claimant is a ‘protected party’. This is a person who lacks the mental capacity to make certain decisions for themselves. Where the capacity never returns, there is no time limit for bringing a claim. However, if at some point the Claimant regains capacity, there will be a time limit of three years from that date.
When Faye Walters went to her dentist for veneers, she expected to have them fitted by someone who had received training in the area. This, however, was not the case, as the dentist had never undergone any form of instruction on fitting, which led to the incorrect fitting of the veneers. Faye’s teeth gradually started to rot, which resulted in her needing over £7,000 of treatment. She was able to sue the original dentist and received £10,000 in compensation for the damage done to her teeth.
If you’d like to know more, take the next step, or just talk to somebody about your experience and what your options might be, we look forward to hearing from you.