Millions of people in the UK receive medical treatment every year, most of which is delivered to a high standard and with no issues. Sadly, sometimes things go wrong and substandard treatment can have a seriously adverse effect on your health.
Jane Couch, personal injury solicitor at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot, outlines your rights if a mistake by a trusted medical professional has left you unwell or injured.
Types of medical negligence
Medical negligence can take many forms, and you may be entitled to make a compensation claim if you have suffered harm due to the negligence of a healthcare professional, such as a doctor, dentist, or nurse. This might include:
- missed or wrong diagnosis – where a medical professional fails to spot a serious illness or injury or mistakes it for something else;
- incorrect prescriptions – where the wrong medicine or an incorrect dosage is prescribed;
- surgical errors – where a surgeon botches an operation or performs surgery on the wrong part of the body; or
- substandard medical care while in hospital – where you may fall ill because of poor hygiene or insufficient hospital care.
To successfully claim compensation you need to prove that the person who caused your injuries was negligent. This involves being able to show that they owed you a duty of care, that they breached this duty of care and that you were injured as a result.
When assessing the appropriate standard of reasonable care in negligence cases involving healthcare professional, the test laid out in Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee (1957) applies. This states that a doctor is negligent if they fail to act in accordance with a practice that is considered acceptable by a responsible body of doctors.
Who do you sue?
You can make a compensation claim against any medical practitioner. If your claim is against the NHS, your claim will usually be handled through NHS Resolution, an independent body which deals with claims made against NHS staff. Claims against private practitioners will usually be handled by their workplace management team or their insurers.
What is the process involved in bringing a medical negligence case?
Clinical negligence claims are usually brought using the Pre-Action Protocol for the Resolution of Clinical Disputes which sets standards that parties to a claim should follow before formal court proceedings are issued.
It sets time limits for the exchange of information, encourages parties to consider alternative dispute resolution methods rather than head to court, and promotes the provision of medical or rehabilitation treatment to address your needs as soon as possible.
How a solicitor can help
You should consult a specialist personal injury solicitor before you launch your compensation claim. They will help you gather evidence needed to support your case and will refer you to a medical expert who will assess how your injury was caused and the effect it has had on your life.
They will also negotiate to secure the out of court settlement you deserve, or be with you to offer advice and speak on your behalf if your case needs to go to court.
The amount of compensation you receive will depend on the extent of your injuries and your long-term prognosis but could include damages for:
- Pain and suffering;
- The cost of medical care;
- Travel expenses related to your medical treatment;
- Loss of income;
- Adaptations to your home and other aids and equipment; and
- A home care professional.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.