Medical Negligence Claims
In the UK, we are fortunate enough to have one of the best healthcare services around. However, sometimes the level of care provided by doctors, nurses, dentists and other medical professionals can fall short of what we expect. If you feel that you have been the victim of negligence at the hands of the NHS or a private healthcare professional, you could be entitled to make a medical negligence compensation claim.
At InjuryClaims.co.uk, we work in partnership with some of the best medical negligence solicitors from across the UK. With years of knowledge and experience in helping the victims of medical accidents, injury solicitors can help to provide you with the legal advice and support you need at what is undoubtedly a difficult time.
The first step to finding out if you have a valid claim for compensation is to contact a solicitor to arrange a free medical negligence case assessment. This confidential chat is provided with no obligation to proceed and is completely free of charge. An experienced legal adviser will talk to you about your experience to help them understand what has happened and the impact that the medical negligence has had on your life.
You can usually find out within just a few minutes if you are eligible to proceed with a personal injury claim. If you decide you would like to go ahead, your medical negligence solicitor will take your case on a No Win No Fee basis. This means there are no upfront costs, and you will never be faced with any unexpected fees.
To get started with a free consultation, simply call 0800 678 1410 or enter your details into the contact form provided and a legally trained advisor will be in touch. Alternatively, continue reading below for our comprehensive guide to medical and clinical negligence claims.
Jump to section
- What is medical negligence?
- Can I make a medical negligence claim?
- Types of medical and clinical negligence?
- Is there a time limit for making a claim?
- How much compensation will I receive?
- What is the process of making a clinical negligence claim?
- Can medical negligence claims be made on a No Win No Fee basis?
- How long will it take to process my claim?
- Can I make a claim on behalf of somebody else?
- Should I make a complaint before I start my claim?
- Medical negligence statistics
- Clinical negligence FAQs
- Examples of successful medical negligence claims
What is medical negligence?
The term medical negligence can be used to describe any accident or error made by a medical professional that results in harm being caused to a patient. Harm can be in the form of either a physical or psychological injury or illness, and in some cases can result in the death of the patient.
All medical professionals throughout the UK have a duty of care to their patients. This means that sound medical judgement must be used to ensure you receive the correct level of care at all times. This covers all interactions you may have with medical professionals, from consultations and diagnosis through to treatment, medications, and surgical procedures.
In the vast majority of cases, the standard of care provided by doctors, nurses, surgeons, dentists, physiotherapists, anaesthetists and other medical professionals is fantastic. In situations where this is not the case, and the medical profession fail to satisfy their duty of care, the consequences can be devastating. Existing injuries and illnesses can be made worse, new injuries or illnesses can be sustained and in the most severe cases, the outcome can be fatal for the patient involved.
Can I make a medical negligence claim?
If you have suffered an illness or injury through the medical negligence of a clinician or other healthcare worker, you may be eligible to make a claim for compensation.
To make a medical negligence claim, your solicitor will need to prove that the medical professional involved had failed to provide you with the duty of care required, and that this failure resulted in you suffering from a personal injury that should have been avoided.
It is important to remember that not all undesirable results from medical procedures will be due to negligence. Unfortunately, there are often known risks and potential side effects that can be suffered when undertaking various forms of medical treatment. So any case of clinical negligence will need to be closely examined to ensure there is proof of both negligence and causation.
Making a claim can feel like a daunting task, and you are likely to have many questions about the process involved. This is completely understandable and is why a solicitor will aim to make the process as easy and stress-free as possible. An experienced clinical negligence solicitor will be happy to answer your questions from start to finish and will handle your case in a professional and efficient manner at all times.
Types of medical negligence
Medical and clinical negligence covers a huge range of accidents, errors, and omissions. The injury or illness suffered by a patient can occur from the actions of a medical practitioner, or due to the failure of the practitioner to take the correct course of action.
Here are some examples of the most common issues that can result in medical negligence:
- Surgical errors – this includes any type of negligence that takes place during surgical procedures, whether by anaesthetists, surgeons, nurses or consultants. Errors made during surgery can have catastrophic consequences, including amputation of the wrong body part, perforation of organs and surgical equipment being left inside the body. After having a surgical procedure, it is also important that patients receive the correct aftercare and support needed to recover. If this is not provided, the patient may suffer from unnecessary side effects such as infections, and the recovery time can be significantly delayed.
- Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis – if an injury or illness is misdiagnosed or there is a delay in the correct diagnosis, it can lead to severe consequences. For example, a broken bone that is not diagnosed and treated could get worse and require corrective surgery. A delay in diagnosing cancer, sepsis or other serious illnesses can have lead to complications or even death.
- Prescription errors – this could include a doctor prescribing the wrong medication, the wrong dosage or medication that is not compatible with other medications or conditions that you have. An error could also be made by a pharmacy that dispenses incorrect medicine for a patient. Receiving the wrong medication or dosage doesn’t necessarily amount to clinical negligence. But if this error causes you to suffer medical complications or side effects, you may then have a valid claim for medical negligence.
- Dental negligence – many people don’t like visiting the dentist, but when you do go, you expect to receive a good standard of care. Unfortunately, sometimes dental negligence does occur and can include wrong tooth extraction, misdiagnosis and errors with cosmetic procedures such as veneers. Not only can this cause you pain and suffering, but it can also cause emotional distress and fear of visiting the dentist in the future.
- Cosmetic surgery errors – in recent years, cosmetic surgery procedures such as breast enlargements, liposuction, botox, tummy tucks and rhinoplasty have become more accessible and affordable to the general public. They are most commonly performed by private practices, but some procedures are also carried out on the NHS. Although most are performed with care and to a high standard, sometimes errors are made which can result in a successful compensation claim. Errors made during cosmetic surgery can cause visible scarring, pain, emotional trauma and may require additional corrective surgery.
- Hospital negligence and neglect – if you or a loved one has to spend time in a hospital, the last thing you expect is for you health to get worse, especially due to hospital negligence. Unfortunately, sometimes this does happen, and can include hospital contracted infections such as MRSA and C.Diff, pressure sores and injuries caused by dehydration or malnutrition to patients.
- Birth and pregnancy injuries – medical negligence during pregnancy and birth can cause serious life-changing injuries to mothers and children. This could include incorrectly used medical equipment such as forceps, midwife negligence, delays in responding to CTG changes and children that develop cerebral palsy as a result of being starved of oxygen during birth.
- Accident and Emergency errors – thousands of people visit A&E departments across the UK each week, so it is not surprising that some errors are made. Unfortunately, in emergency situations, such errors can have major consequences. Some of the most common mistakes made in A&E include examination errors, failure to check patients medical history and not conducting proper investigations following scans, X-rays and blood tests.
Since the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) was created in 1995, negligence during surgery has generated the greatest number of claims. This is followed by clinical errors and malpractice within the fields of medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, A&E and mental health.
Although surgical errors have been the reason for the highest number of cases, it is negligence within obstetrics and gynaecology departments that have resulted in the largest amount of compensation payments at £10.8bn between 1995 and 2016. This is more than double that of surgical claims, where £4.9bn was paid out in compensation during the same period.
Doctors, nurses, technicians and all other professionals associated with the healthcare service have a duty of care towards their patients. If there has been a breach of the duty of care you are owed, and you have suffered injuries or further illness as a result, you have the legal right to expect to be compensated for the pain, suffering, and financial losses caused.
Is there a time limit for making a claim?
As with most other types of personal injury claim, there is a three-year time limit within which you will need to start your claim for clinical negligence. The date that this time limit starts can vary depending on the circumstances of your case. It would normally begin on one of the following events:
- the date when you have been injured by an act of medical negligence; or
- the date when you were first made aware that your injury was a result of medical negligence. This is often referred to as the date of knowledge
In some cases it can take months or even years before a patient becomes aware that they have been injured, or that they have been a victim of medical negligence. So if this applies to your particular circumstances, it is important to remember that still have three years to claim from the date of knowledge.
For victims of medical negligence that are under the age of 18, the three-year time limit doesn’t start until their 18th birthday. A parent or guardian of a child affected by negligence can initiate a claim on their behalf before this date, with any compensation awarded being held in trust until they turn 18 years of age.
How much compensation will I receive?
How much compensation can I claim for medical negligence? Without a doubt, this is one of the most frequent questions we receive when it comes to medical negligence. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this as no two compensation claims are the same.
For this reason, it is important to evaluate the individual details of your case before offering a guideline on how much compensation you can expect to receive. If your medical negligence claim is successful, the amount of compensation you are paid is based on a number of factors, which can be broken down into general damages and special damages.
General damages for medical negligence
General damages is the award of compensation that is based purely on the injury or injuries you have suffered. It reflects the type and severity of the injury and the impact the injury has had on your day-to-day life (sometimes referred to as loss of amenity). Industry standard guidelines for general damages are produced each year by the Judicial Studies Board (JSB) for a whole host of different injury types. Although these amounts are only advisory and not a legal requirement, they are referred to by Courts, lawyers and insurers when assessing compensation for personal injury claims.
Here are some examples of the recommended amounts for various injuries:
- Blindness in one eye – £37,450 to £41,675
- Failed sterilisation of female reproductive system – Around £7,750
- Loss of leg below the knee – £74,475 to £101,075
- Severe brain damage – £214,350 to £307,000
Special damages for medical negligence
On top of your award for general damages, your medical negligence solicitor will also negotiate a settlement for special damages. The aim of this amount is to compensate you for any financial impact that the act of medical negligence has had on your life, or is going to have on your life in the future. This can take several factors into account, such as:
- Loss of earning – whether you had to take one day off work due to your injuries or you won’t be able to work again, you should not be left out of pocket due to medical negligence. Compensation can therefore be claimed for any wages you have lost or future loss of earnings due to your injury or illness.
- Financial expenses – if you have had to spend money on items or services as a result of your injuries, you should be able to recover the cost of these. This could include the cost of transport to and from hospital appointments, the cost of any medical treatment or equipment and the cost of any ongoing care requirements.
Injury solicitors will offer you a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case and determine if you have a valid claim. Based on this conversation, the solicitor will be able to use the guidelines as well as prior case experience to offer you a realistic expectation of how much compensation you could be entitled to.
What is the process of making a clinical negligence claim?
If you would like to explore your options for pursuing a claim for compensation, the first stage is to make arrangements for your free initial case assessment. This can be done by calling free on 0800 678 1410 or requesting a call back.
During your free consultation, an experienced injury lawyer will discuss with you what has happened, when it happened, the injury or illness you have suffered and the impact that this has had on your life. Based on this discussion they will be able to confirm whether you have a valid claim.
If you are eligible for compensation, you will then be provided you with some details about what happens next and an explanation of how the No Win No Fee service works. This is also a chance for you to ask any questions that you might have.
The next stage is for your solicitor to make contact with the hospital, NHS Trust or private practice that was responsible for the negligence that caused your injury. The letter sent to them will detail your case against them and ask them to confirm whether or not they accept responsibility. If they do accept liability, your solicitor will see if an interim compensation payment can be secured. This is a part payment of the final settlement award and can be used to fund any medical treatment you require or help cover some of your ongoing expenses. This can be especially useful if your injuries have resulted in a loss of earnings, which may affect your ability to pay your mortgage, rent or other household bills.
To build a strong case against those responsible, evidence will need to be gathered from various sources, which will include independent medical professionals. Medical reports will be produced which detail the standard of care received, how this fell short of what should have been expected and the implications this has had on you and your health. A medical expert will also be asked to evaluate how your injury or illness may impact you in the future, and if any long term care may be required.
The evidence gathered will be used to negotiate a compensation amount with the defendant. If an agreement cannot be reached, or if they do not accept responsibility, the case will proceed to court. This can add a considerable amount of time to the claim process, which is why solicitors will always aim to reach an out of court agreement where possible.
If your case is taken to court, an experienced solicitor will guide you throughout the process, helping to ease any concerns you have and will always keep you updated on progress. In many situations, a settlement is reached before the case goes to court, even if a trial date had already been set.
Regardless of whether your case is settled at court or not, your solicitor will always do their very best to keep the process as straightforward and short as possible so you can receive the compensation you deserve.
Can medical negligence claims be made on a No Win No Fee basis?
Being the victim of medical negligence can be an extremely stressful and emotional time, and can cause massive disruption to your life. To have the added financial worry of paying legal fees to get the justice you deserve would be completely unfair. For this reason, solicitors offer a 100% No Win No Fee service for all types of medical negligence claims.
Sometimes called a conditional fee arrangement, the no win no fee service means you will not have to pay any upfront costs to start your claim. It also guarantees that you will never be faced with any unexpected costs, and you will never be left out of pocket.
Making a medical negligence claim on a no win no fee basis is therefore entirely risk-free. If your case is taken on by a solicitor and they are not successful, you won’t pay them a penny.
If you decide to pursue a claim, the no win no fee agreement will be explained in full detail before you begin. This ensures that a clear and transparent service is provided to clients from start to finish.
How long will it take to process my claim?
Claims for medical negligence can be extremely complex in nature, and as such, they may take longer to process in comparison to many straightforward personal injury claims such as car accidents and slips and trips. However, as with compensation amounts, how long it takes to complete your claim will depend on the specific details of your case.
We would expect the majority of medical negligence claims to be settled within 12 to 18 months, but they can be concluded sooner or take much longer. The factors that will determine how long a case takes to complete include the severity of the injury sustained, whether liability is accepted or challenged and the need for expert medical witnesses and reports.
As mentioned above, if the hospital or healthcare provider does not accept liability or they challenge the amount of compensation you are entitled to, your case will take longer to complete as it may need to be decided in court.
Although your solicitor would always aim to process your claim as quickly as possible, it is also essential that care is taken to ensure a strong case is built which takes into account a full and accurate assessment of your injuries, losses and future care requirements.
Can I make a claim on behalf of somebody else?
If you have a child under the age of 18 who has been the victim of medical negligence, you are legally entitled to initiate a claim on their behalf. In these circumstances, you would be known as a ‘litigation friend’, and your child would be classed as a ‘protected party’.
As a litigation friend, you would have the responsibility for dealing with the claim and making decisions that are in the best interests of your child.
In additional to claiming on behalf of a child, it is also possible to start a claim on behalf of a loved one who is unable to do so themselves. For example, they could lack the mental capacity required to deal with the case due to mental illness or from being in a coma. As with claiming on behalf of a child, you would be their litigation friend and tasked with making decisions that are in their best interests.
If you would like to find out more about the possibility of claiming on behalf of a child or a loved one who has suffered due to clinical negligence, contact an experienced clinical injury lawyer to discuss your options.
Should I make a complaint before I start my claim?
In some cases, it can be clear that somebody has been a victim of medical negligence. But in many other situations, it can be extremely confusing, and you may be left feeling unsure as to what went wrong, how it went wrong and why.
All NHS hospitals, dentists, GP surgeries and private health care providers are required to have a formal complaints procedure. Making a complaint, particularly with the backing of a solicitor, can help to bring clarity to the situation and confirm if the standard of care you received had fallen short of the expected standard.
There are three main options for making a complaint about NHS care, and which option you take will depend on the type of complaint you have. The options are:
- NHS Complaints Procedure – this is the feedback and complaints procedure for any aspect of NHS care, service or treatment.
- General Medical Council (GMC) – the GMC provide an online form that can be used to make a complaint about a doctor. Such complaints are investigated to determine if the doctor in question could harm other patients or affect public confidence in the healthcare profession.
- Health Service Ombudsman – if your complaint has not been resolved, the Health Service Ombudsman can investigate your complaint and make a final decision.
For additional support and guidance about making a complaint and the process involved, you could speak to PALS, which is the Patient Advice and Liaison Service. PALS is available at most NHS hospitals and can help you to resolve some issues and provide advice about the best course of action to take when making a complaint.
Medical negligence statistics
Statistics published by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) show that in 2015, NHS trusts in England paid more than £1.4bn in compensation claims for medical negligence. This is a considerable increase from 2008, where the cost was £583m.
The graph below shows how the cost of medical negligence claims has grown between 2008 and 2015.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (Apil) believes that much of this increase is due to the reluctance of the NHSLA in accepting failures. By needlessly defending cases and dragging its heels, the NHSLA can often cause legal costs to increase before settling at the last minute.
Clinical Negligence FAQs
Below are some frequently asked questions relating to claims for clinical negligence and the processes involved. Further questions about the claims process and all types of accidents can be found on our personal injury FAQs page.
Is there any difference claiming from the NHS or a private healthcare provider?
Although there will be some procedural differences, the general principles of making a claim will be the same whether you are claiming against the NHS or a private healthcare provider. Doctors, nurses, consultants, dentists and other professionals will owe you a duty of care when providing you with any form of medical treatment. If they fail to meet this duty of care and you are injured as a result, you should be entitled to receive compensation. This applies whether the negligence happened within the NHS or at a private clinic.
I suffered from medical negligence abroad. Can I still make a claim?
If you have received medical treatment abroad, such as needing emergency treatment while on holiday or electing to have a cosmetic procedure in a different country, you may still be entitled to medical negligence compensation if things go wrong. If the incident took place within a country that is a member of the European Union, the medical negligence procedure is very similar to that of the UK. However, if the negligence occurred outside of the EU, the road to compensation could be bumpier. This is because the applicable laws and regulations will vary depending on the country where you received the medical treatment, and these standards could be much different to those that apply in the UK. The timescale for making a claim and the procedure you need to follow can also vary, so it is important to discuss your situation with an experienced medical negligence lawyer as soon as possible.
What is the role of the NHS Litigation Authority?
The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) was established in 1995 to deal with all negligence claims made against the NHS. When a claim is made against the NHS, it is the NHSLA that will manage the case to determine if liability exists or if they feel the claim is unjustified. Where compensation is justified, they will negotiate with the claimant's solicitors with the aim of reaching an out of court settlement where possible.
The NHS provide a free service. Is it wrong to make a claim against them?
Deciding whether or not to make a claim against the NHS is a personal choice, but it is certainly not one that you should feel guilty for making. After all, you are only entitled to receive compensation if you have a genuine case and have suffered an injury or illness as a result of NHS negligence. There is no doubt that the NHS is a fantastic institution that is cherished by the vast majority of the British public, and rightly so. But if you or a loved one have been left in pain, unable to work or with life-changing injuries which should have been avoidable, isn't is reasonable to expect the NHS to take responsibility? The compensation you receive can help to aid your recovery and ease the financial burden that may have resulted from your situation. It can also help to identify issues with the NHS and avoid other similar mistakes from occurring in the future.
Examples of successful medical negligence compensation cases
Medical and clinical negligence is a complex area and the impact on victims can be incredibly varied. To help give you an idea, here are some examples of successful medical malpractice and negligence claims that have been made in recent years:
£500,000 awarded for undiagnosed throat cancer
A 59 year old woman had to have her voice box removed, known as a laryngectomy, as a result of a consultant failing to diagnose throat cancer. After a GP referral, tests and an MRI scan were performed, but the consultant failed to spot the issue, which a competent consultant in the field should have. This resulted in a 4 month delay in treatment, which had a huge impact on the outcome. Instead of chemoradiotherapy, the patient needed drastic surgery. She was left unable to speak and can no longer eat solid foods. After a successful claim, she was awarded £500,000 in compensation which took into account her pain and suffering, loss of earnings and future care requirements.
Man awarded £25,000 for bowel surgery error
After suffering from abdominal pain, the claimant had a colonoscopy which confirmed he had a polyp in his colon. He was advised to have surgery to remove the area of the colon with the polyp, which he accepted. Although the operation seemed to go well, the claimant continued to have abdominal pain and suffered prostate problems. After a referral to a urologist, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At this stage, it was discovered that the hospital had made an error during his surgery by removing the wrong part of his colon. The cancerous growth had been left inside, which then required further surgery to remove. The hospital admitted liability and an out of court settlement of £25,000 was agreed.
£45,000 awarded for plastic surgery scarring
A 44 year old women was left scarred following a negligent facelift at a private clinic. When booking the procedure, the claimant was shown before and after photographs from previous clients, and there was no visible scarring. She was assured that the same results could be achieved for her, but this was not the case. She was left with scars above her ears and puffy eyes. Even after 13 further treatments and 4 additional operations, the claimant still had visible scarring which caused her to suffer from depression. Liability was admitted based on the failure of the surgeon to advise the patient about possible scarring, and for performing the cosmetic procedure below the expected standard. The case was settled outside of court with an agreement to pay compensation of £45,000.
Man affected by prescription error awarded £3,500
A 52 year old man with heart problems was given the wrong medication by a pharmacist. The drug given was similar to another drug he was already taking, which caused him to suffer a number of side effects. This included headaches, chest pain, dizziness and constipation. The prescription error was only discovered after he had been taken to hospital. He made a complete recovery within 7 days of the mistake being found, but continued to be anxious about future prescriptions. The claimant's solicitor negotiated a compensation payment of £3,500 with the chemist for the pain and suffering that had been caused by their error.
Pressure sore injury receives £15,000 compensation
After being admitted to hospital with a neurological condition, the 59 year old claimant developed a grade 2 pressure sore to his buttock after just two days. After a further two months in hospital, the skin had broken down and was considered to be deep tissue damage. The claimant was unable to sit, and it took approximately 6 months for the pressure sore to heal. The wrong type of adhesive dressing was also applied by staff, which caused the claimant to suffer an allergic reaction. It was agreed that the appropriate level of care had not been provided by the hospital staff, and the claimant has suffered a significant pressure sore as a consequence. Based on the injury lasting 6 months, the claimant was awarded £15,000 in an out of court settlement.
Have any questions?
We understand and appreciate that making a medical negligence claim can be a daunting and stressful prospect. You may be unsure if you have a valid claim, and will no doubt have lots of questions. The good news is that solicitors are ready to help.
Whether you want to start your claim or would just like to discuss your options, contact an experienced team of personal injury specialists today for a free consultation. Simply call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back using the contact form below.