The Complexity of Medical Negligence Claims

In comparison with other types of accident claim, the process of making a medical negligence claim is not that clear. This is because other types, such as road accident claims are simpler and more quickly resolved.

Some of the reasons a patient may be able to claim compensation for medical negligence include when they are injured as a result of a medical examination being carried out inadequately, an incorrect diagnosis, incorrect treatment or a significant delay in treatment. Remember though that medical negligence claims are not the best route for everyone because they are renowned for their complexity and can be stressful for victims of injury.

For many victims of injury due to clinical negligence, the most important thing is to obtain an apology and an explanation as well as a promise that the same errors won’t befall other patients in the future. A good first step is therefore to raise your concerns informally with the doctor or nurse involved. Should your issue fail to be resolved in this way then you can go on to make a formal complaint under the NHS complaints procedure. Formal complaints are investigated by the hospital and you should receive a response within 25 working days. However, you must make a complaint within six months of the error about which you are complaining, or within six months of you becoming aware of it if it was not immediately obvious.

If you are still not satisfied with the response you receive then your next two options are approaching the Healthcare Commission for a review or the independent Health Service Ombudsman.

After all of these options, if you are still dissatisfied then you should approach a solicitor. Be sure to approach a solicitor who is experienced in medical negligence claims because this area of the law is notoriously complex. Your solicitor will need a copy of your medical records. The Data Protection Act permits you to have a copy but you may be asked to pay for it.

The lawyer will show your medical records to an impartial medical expert who will compile a report on whether negligence occurred and whether you have reason to claim. If there are grounds for a claim then the solicitor will begin by writing a letter of claim to the doctor or hospital concerned. The doctor or hospital then has three months to write back, accepting or denying liability, with reasons.

Should they deny liability then your solicitor will begin legal proceedings for you. Very few cases actually end up in a trial, so try not to be overly daunted at this prospect. The vast majority are settled out of court. However, it is not unusual for these cases to take a number of years to be settled.

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