What is Medical Negligence?
This article regarding negligence as a consequence of medical care does not concern the majority of people who have had good experiences with their medical carers and were well looked after to the best of their carers abilities.
This article instead is for people who have been injured arising from, for example, not being diagnosed appropriately, or treated within a baseline standard of care, and who feel what transpired in the course of the care was wrong, and that negligence has arisen.
Clearly when things go wrong in terms of medical care, they go very wrong, and life changing consequences for the injured person and their families can be the result.
Hospital negligence is defined as the failure or omission by a medical practitioner to act in a manner that is expected of them by the medical profession. Such omissions arise when the medical practitioner veers off the set medical standards when dealing with patients.
A hospital negligence claim is initiated only when the practitioner’s negligent actions end up causing harm and injury to their patient.
Many people who seek legal assistance with complaints of this nature are left bereft as to why the event happened in the first place. They want answers and they do not want to see others have to go through the same event.
Common Causes of Hospital Negligence
Hospital negligence can take many forms, including unintentional failure to diagnose, failure to administer treatment, surgical errors, wrongful prescriptions, misdiagnosis, anesthesia error or lack of treatment etc.
Specific Examples :
- Injuries caused to a mother or a child during childbirth due to negligence.
- Damage of the nerves during a spinal fusion surgery due to negligence.
- Failing to diagnose early and treat sepsis.
- Surgery-related errors.
What is the process of making a Hospital Negligence Claim?
If you are seeking the assistance of a solicitor, the first step is to sit down with your solicitor to discuss the facts and history of events.
This is a detailed task and attention to detail and the ability to listen is critical. If you have a diary or written record of events, it would be useful to bring that to a meeting with your solicitor.
The finer detail is very important in these matters. For example, what specific symptoms did the injured party communicate to hospital staff ?. What is the persons medical history etc.
What then was the medical care undertaken needs to be assessed. Medical records will need to sought and reviewed by your solicitor.
The next stage is to proceed to get a Medical Report from an appropriate expert for that medical issue in question.
This is a very important stage of the pre-litigation process which one could call the investigation stage.
A persons solicitor will assist the person with this aspect of the process.
Commonly, Medical Reports will have to be obtained from doctors in respect of medical negligence matters in the U.K. Your solicitor should have their own data base of a panel of appropriate experts for the various medical disciplines who can examine the facts and prepare a medical report.
Hospital negligence claims are not dealt with or assessed by the Injuries Board ( which is a no-fault finding process).
In essence negligence must be proven to have arisen in court.
After a liability report from a medical expert is obtained and if it is clear and appropriate, proceedings can be issued then to move on with the claim, after the other side is put on notice of same.
How long do I have to make a hospital negligence claim?
You can make a hospital negligence claim within two years after suffering an injury.
This timeline may seem lengthy, but it is not, as much time is needed to investigate the facts, get medical records from under resourced hospitals and obtain reports etc.
There are certain illnesses which do not manifest immediately and only come to light over time, such as a cancer.
A separate legal rule to initiate such claims is two years from the date of knowledge.
How long does a case Hospital Negligence Claim take?
This is difficult to answer with any precision as there are many variables here, and there isn’t a one size fits all in terms of having a defined answer.
The first point to consider is what is the attitude in terms of the defendant ? ie is liability admitted or not ?.
Evidently if liability is defended this increases the duration of the case and the court must ultimately give judgement.
Another point to consider is what are the injuries of the person taking the case ? ie are they ongoing or not.
For example, lets say you have a fracture. This is a clearly defined injury with normally a clearly defined duration of recovery.
A court wants to know the diagnosis, prognosis, duration of recovery, nature of treatment etc. ie in order to have the full picture.
If a person requires further medical care, the persons doctor has not concluded the treatment required, and will therefore not be clear on all eventualities to describe to a court.
Another point to consider is how complex is the matter or not.
Some cases are complex, but a lot of cases are not complex and it is likely your solicitor has seen a case of similar features before.
We humans love complexity over simplicity.
Once proceedings are issued and if injuries are not ongoing, you can move your case on with relative speed to have it concluded at the earliest opportunity.
Can I take a case on behalf of my injured child?
Yes. You have the right to file a hospital negligence claim on behalf of your child before his/her 18th birthday.
If the claim is made after the child has reached age 18, the child then is not a child any more in the eyes of the law, and it is necessary for the former child now adult to proceed to take the case on their own.
The now 18 year old injured party has 2 years from their 18th birthday to initiate legal proceedings by issuing a summons or the claim will be out of date and be what is termed as statute barred.
How can I succeed in a claim for hospital negligence?
It is your solicitors task to assist you to prove negligence and hence succeed in your claim.
The court ultimately makes the decision, but one should have a solicitor who works in this area, who you get on with, that knows the appropriate experts in this area and sets about your case by building a solid foundation for advancement.
Ask your solicitor for their track record or do your own research in this regard. The only way to know if your solicitor is right for you, is to meet with them and make the decision then after this.
Please be advised that the above-mentioned material is intended as an overview and as a broad out-line of the topic discussed. It should not be considered as complete and comprehensive legal advice, nor act as an appropriate substitute.
Due care has been taken in the publication of this article and we do not accept legal liability as a result of reliance on any material covered in the above article.