Here are nine important things to know
For most people who have a layman’s knowledge of the legal system, pursuing a medical or clinical negligence lawsuit can feel like a daunting process. But, with the right knowledge and assistance, you can ensure that you’re making the best decisions for your own future or that of a loved one. If you feel that your medical care was not adequate or have received care which has resulted in further illness or injury, you may be eligible to make a medical negligence claim against your care provider. Here are nine important things to know before making a claim.
The legal definition:
Before you go ahead and make a claim for medical negligence, it’s important to understand how these claims work. Medical or clinical negligence is when a patient decides to take their hospital or medical practitioner to court to gain compensation. In order for compensation to be received, the claimant will need to prove that the standard of care fell below that of a reasonably competent medical professional. It is important for the patient to both show that a breach of medical duty has occurred in their care, along with establishing causation; i.e. pinpointing the treatment that caused unnecessary damage or harm.
Finding the right solicitor:
Once you have determined that you have a medical negligence claim for yourself or a close relative, you will need to find and hire the right medical negligence solicitors for the job. Looking into specialist medical negligence lawyers, such as The Medical Negligence Experts UK, who offer services on a no win no fee basis, is the first course of action that you should take once you have a claim. It’s always best to find solicitors who are highly experienced in medical negligence claims since they will be more familiar with your type of case and better able to advise on you on the next best steps to take. Look at several different solicitor options and ask as many questions as you need to determine the best legal assistance for your needs. A good solicitor will take the time to listen to the specifics before letting you know if they think you have grounds for a case.
Understand the time limits:
If you’re planning to file a medical negligence UK claim, then it’s important to understand the rules and regulations surrounding the procedure. If you believe that you have been a victim of medical malpractice or are acting on the behalf of a loved one such as a family member, then you’ll need to take action as quickly as possible due to time constraints on this type of claim. Bear in mind that usually, a claim will need to be made within three years of the patient becoming aware of the problem – this is usually at the point where the negligence occurs, but in some cases can be afterwards. Some exceptions can be made in certain circumstances, for example, if the patient is suffering from a mental illness or under the age of 18 at the time.
Any health professional can be held accountable:
You don’t have to have been treated by an NHS doctor or professional in order to be eligible to file a medical negligence claim. In fact, if you have paid for treatment from a private doctor, which went wrong, you may well be entitled to more compensation to cover the cost of your treatment as well. As long as you have proof that your care was neglected, any healthcare provider can be held accountable. This includes your dentist, private clinics, optical clinics, and even plastic surgeons.
It’s unlikely you’ll go to trial:
The idea of taking your healthcare provider to court can seem like a daunting one, but the good news is that very few patients will end up going to trial after filing a claim for medical malpractice. Almost all cases of medical negligence will be settled outside of court, particularly in cases where the proof of negligence cannot be contested. In most cases, the defence will come forward with an offer of financial settlement. However, you should certainly prepare for your case to go to court, as this is still a possibility and depends on the specific issues surrounding your case. Ensure that you’re working alongside the best medical negligence solicitors who will help you facilitate a strong out-of-court settlement offer.
Funding the case:
Another important factor to consider when taking a medical negligence case to court is how you’re going to fund the proceedings. Whilst Legal Aid was once available to help with the funding of medical claims, this is no longer the case in most circumstances today. The best way to ensure that you can fund your claim stress-free is to find a solicitor that operates on a contingency basis, or a conditional fee agreement known as ‘no win, no fee’. This means that you’ll only be required to pay a fee to your legal representative in the event of winning the case.
Gathering evidence of the mistreatment and how it has affected you is an important factor to consider when filing a medical malpractice case. Bear in mind that if you have no evidence of your medical mistreatment, it’s unlikely that you are going to win the case. Because of this, it’s imperative that you keep records of absolutely everything related to the case. In some cases, keeping a personal diary or video journal of your life after medical malpractice can be useful since this can be shown in court to provide the defence with more information on exactly how your quality of life has been affected by their failure to care. You should also get second and third opinions from other expert medical professionals, who can back up your case in court.
Getting medical witnesses:
In addition to providing evidence, claimants are also sometimes required to bring medical witnesses to their case. For example, you may want to ask other health professionals who were working close by when you received the negligent treatment to come forward about anything they saw, heard, or were aware of regarding your care. However, in most cases, medical witnesses are experts who can confirm that your treatment was not up to standard and provide the court with an expert medical diagnosis or report regarding how your health has suffered as a result.
How long it takes:
Finally, you’ll need to be prepared for a trial that could last anywhere between eighteen months to three years, and in some cases, even longer. The duration of the claim is dependent upon a number of factors, including the attitude of the defendant towards liability and causation, the complexity of the complaint, and the type of injury or illness sustained as a result.
Going through a medical malpractice claim can be a difficult time, so it’s important to ensure that you are fully prepared for what is to come, giving yourself a bigger chance of gaining the compensation that you deserve. It’s important to meet with a solicitor who you trust, who will then be able to guide you through the various stages and hurdles of filing a medical malpractice claim. Remember to learn as much as possible about the process to help you make better future decisions for your claim.