When you visit a doctor or go for treatment or surgery in a hospital, you expect that you’ll always be in safe hands. Unfortunately, although rare, medical negligence cases do sometimes happen. Medical professionals are only human at the end of the day, so mistakes do happen. Being on the receiving end of one of these mistakes is a horrible situation to be in for anyone, and while making a medical negligence claim can’t fix what went wrong, you are more than entitled to claim compensation for any additional support and long-term rehabilitation that you may require as a result of the mistake.

However, before you head down the daunting road of pursuing a medical negligence claim it’s wise to read up on some vital things that you need to know.

What is a medical negligence claim?

Also known as a clinical negligence claim, the legal definition of a medical negligence claim is a person taking a medical practitioner (or even an entire hospital) to court to gain compensation for an act or acts of negligence that the person incurred under the medical care of the aforementioned medical practitioners.

A person can’t just claim medical negligence and hope that the court will believe them. They obviously need to have proof of said negligence in order to proceed with the case.

What are some examples of medical negligence?

Some examples of medical negligence include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A mistake was made during a procedure or operation
  • The wrong drug was diagnosed
  • A condition wasn’t diagnosed or wasn’t diagnosed correctly
  • Informed consent was not given for a treatment
  • The risks of a particular treatment weren’t communicated

You can’t always claim in the event of a ‘medical accident’ as it doesn’t mean that treatment was necessarily negligent. In the event of this, compensation can only be claimed if it can be shown ‘on the balance of probability’ that the treatment fell below medically acceptable standards and it directly caused the injury.

How long do I have to make a medical negligence claim?

A claim must be started within 3 years from when the incident happened or when the injury is first realised. However, if the patient is under 18 or lacks mental capacity, the 3-year limit doesn’t apply. In these cases, a claim can be made on their behalf by a parent or person who is close to them.

Do I need to see a solicitor and what proof do I require?

It’s vital that you find a solicitor that is skilled in medical negligence claims. The solicitor will examine your case to make a decision on whether the case is strong enough to pursue. Due to this, it’s vital that you present them with as much proof as possible.

You need to keep physical evidence, such as keeping records of everything to do with the case, even if it doesn’t seem that important to you. This includes records, paperwork, notes, correspondence and expert medical witnesses (these professional opinions will be used to back up your claim of negligence). It’s also worth keeping a record of any expenses and any loss of earnings caused by the issues.

Your solicitor will also contact the medical practitioners involved to acquire a copy of your medical records and any notes relevant to your case.

How long will it take?

It totally depends on the specifics of your case such as its complexity, the injury sustained and the defendant’s response to your claim. It can take anywhere from eighteen months to three years, so don’t expect it to be over quickly. However, it’s unlikely that your case will end up in court and it’s more likely that the defence will come forward with a financial settlement before it reaches that stage. But you still need to be prepared just in case it does end up in court.