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What is Clinical Negligence?

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Clinical negligence is a legal term which refers to an injury resulting from medical treatment.

This can be a ‘medical accident’ or an ‘adverse incident’. It might entail the failure to diagnose a condition or a wrong diagnosis; birth injuries; surgical errors; the administration of incorrect drugs or dosages; or the failure to obtain consent or warn about the risks of a particular treatment.

Where actual harm has been caused to a patient from improper medical treatment they may be entitled to compensation.

What Should I Do If I Have Suffered Injury from Medical Treatment?

Anyone who suspects that they have been injured due to medical negligence is entitled to a full explanation which might be achieved by talking to the medical practitioner involved.

For more serious concerns, there are formal complaints procedures in the NHS. Complaints about a GP start with the practice manager; those about a hospital or its staff go to the Complaints Manager.

If these avenues fail, then legal action can be considered which is outside the NHS complaints process. However, it may be costly, lengthy and very stressful if handled incorrectly.

What Does the Law Say About Clinical Negligence?

The law in England and Wales only provides for the “recovery of compensation” if it can be shown “on the balance of probability” that a treatment was carried out negligently and directly caused the injury.

The claimant must prove that the clinical practitioner has been negligent and is liable, which may be difficult to achieve since medical opinion often differs over treatments. Also it must be proved that the breach of duty or negligence directly resulted in the injury and was not an inevitable outcome of the condition being treated.

A case for negligence will involve detailed medical evidence with independent experts and specialists arguing for each side.

Claiming Compensation for Injuries Resulting from Medical Negligence

You can claim compensation for any injuries or losses suffered which were a direct result of the negligent treatment, including pain and suffering; on-going treatment; no longer being able to do certain activities; loss of earnings; cost of any extra care or equipment; cost of home adaptation; and psychiatric or psychological injuries.

Compensation can be claimed for a relative who died as a result of clinical negligence; for loss of dependency or on behalf of a deceased’s estate.

A claim must commence within three years of the data of the incident; children have until they are 21 before making a claim and there is no time limit for claims on behalf of anyone with a mental disability.

Seek Specialist Advice

Claimants are strongly advised to see a specialist medical negligence solicitor because claims can be very complex and the clinical practitioner or NHS authority involved will be defended by experts.

Solicitors assess the strength of the case and what it might be worth in terms of compensation based on as much information as possible including: all relevant records; any correspondence from the complaints procedure and records of any costs or loss of earnings incurred.

Legal claims are generally self funded; legal aid is only available for those on a low income. Other sources of financial help include trade unions for their members; insurance policies or a Conditional Fee Agreement (No-Win-No-Fee) with solicitors. Most clinical negligence claims are settled out of court by insurance companies.

If you need more information about making a clinical negligence claim, contact Peter Gourri today by email or telephone 0207 611 4848.

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