Experiencing injury through medical negligence can be very overwhelming, and the process of seeking compensation even more so. Without knowing what to expect or how long it might take, it can be very daunting to start pursuing a claim.
Medical negligence – sometimes called clinical negligence – occurs when a healthcare provider or medical professional provides substandard care to their patient which leads to preventable harm. The results of clinical negligence can be severe; having a wide ranging impact on all different areas of a victim’s life. At OH Parsons, we are experts in handling medical negligence claims and have decades of experience in helping patients get the compensation they deserve to cover any ongoing medical costs, as well as to compensate for any pain and injury suffered.
In this blog, we’ll guide you through the medical negligence claim process so you know what you can expect if you decide to seek compensation for injuries caused by your healthcare provider.
Preparing to pursue a medical negligence claim
The first thing to be aware of when seeking compensation for injuries caused by medical negligence is that claims must be brought within 3 years of the treatment that caused the injury. If you weren’t aware that the treatment was negligent until later, the 3-year time limit starts from when you became aware of your injury. This time limit means that you should seek legal advice and begin the medical negligence claim process as soon as possible in order to ensure that court proceedings begin within this window.
When you’re ready to start pursuing compensation, the first step in beginning the claims process is to approach specialist medical negligence solicitors with details of your case. Be sure to provide all details of the treatment, the injuries suffered, and any long lasting impacts such as ongoing treatment or loss of income. They will then be able to evaluate the evidence to see if you have grounds for a claim.
If the solicitors do establish that you have grounds for a claim, the next aspect you’ll need to discuss is how you’ll fund the case. At OH Parsons, we’re proud to offer a no win, no fee service: if your claim isn’t successful, you won’t have to pay anything at all. If you do win your case, your legal fees will likely be covered by some of the compensation you receive. This means that you don’t have to worry about the financial risks involved with making a claim.
The medical negligence claim process
Once you’ve determined that you have grounds for a claim, you’ve engaged a solicitor to manage your case, and you’ve established how you’ll cover your legal fees, it then becomes a process of investigation. In most cases, the medical negligence claims process will proceed as follows:
- Obtaining your medical records
- Instructing medical experts
- Presenting your case
- Commencing court proceedings
- Determining the value of your compensation
Not all medical negligence claims will go through all stages of this process. As we will see, some defendants will accept liability without starting court proceedings and so you might not need to take this step. However, it’s important to be aware of all possible stages of the process in order to get an understanding of how long it might take before you receive compensation.
Obtaining your medical records
Having decided to pursue compensation and engaged an expert solicitor to manage your case, the next stage is to obtain the records of your medical treatment in order to identify and prove that you received substandard care that resulted in injury. There are a number of different types of medical negligence, but some common cases include misdiagnosis, mistakes during surgery, issues with medication, and disfigurement. It will be up to your solicitor to prove two key things:
- That the medical professional or healthcare provider responsible for your care provided substandard treatment; that there was a breach of duty,
- That, due to the substandard care you received, you have suffered an injury or an existing condition has persisted or gotten worse, resulting in further pain or financial loss for example.
This last point is key: in order to make a claim for compensation, your lawyer will have to prove that it was the care that you received that caused harm – also known as causation. For example, your solicitor would have to demonstrate that the postoperative infection was caused by an unhygienic working environment, or that the scarring you received should have been avoidable.
Instructing medical experts
In order to prove causation, your solicitor will instruct independent medical professionals to review your treatment and your resulting injury. These medical specialists are only experts in their specific area, so you might have a number of medical professionals that are reviewing your case. As part of this assessment, you might also be examined to determine how likely you are to recover, and how long your recovery would take.
By the end of this phase, the medical experts will have provided two reports that will demonstrate whether there was a breach of duty (and hence the healthcare provider has liability), and whether there was causation.
Presenting your case
If the evidence and medical reports support your claim both in terms of liability and causation, your solicitors will be in a position to submit a Letter of Claim to the defendant on your behalf. In short, this letter provides details of the allegations of negligence to allow the defendant to investigate your claims.
The defendant will have 4 months to do their own investigation into your allegations and respond to indicate whether they are admitting liability, or whether they will be contesting your claims. If the defendant admits liability, then your clinical negligence solicitors will start the settlement process to determine the extent of the damages and therefore the value of your claim. If they instead deny your allegations, your claim will be reassessed to see if it’s strong enough to proceed to trial.
Commencing court proceedings
There are only two instances where a clinical negligence claim will go to court: where liability is denied, or where the parties can’t agree on the value of your claim. Further, starting court proceedings doesn’t necessarily mean that your case will go all the way to trial. As a matter of fact, it’s very uncommon for medical negligence cases to result in a trial. Involving the court instead helps to support the resolution process: providing a timetable which is designed to help the parties reach an agreement and come to a settlement.
However, in some very rare cases, the claim will go to trial to determine whether the defendant was at fault. If you’re successful and the trial goes in your favour, your solicitors will seek to reach a settlement out of court. Should they not be able to reach an agreement, a second court date may be set to determine the value of the compensation.
Determining the value of your compensation
The final stage of the medical negligence claim process, whether this is a settlement or through court proceedings, is to determine the value of your compensation. Every claim is unique, and there are two categories that will make up the total value of your compensation:
- General Damages: this is compensation for the pain and suffering that your injury has caused you.
- Special Damages: this is compensation to cover any additional financial losses that you might have incurred by not being able to work or having to have further treatment.
There are many different aspects that factor into the value of your claim. Not only will your solicitors evaluate any existing financial losses or the awards of similar claimants in the past, but they’ll also consider whether you’re expected to recover from your injury and how long that recovery process will be.
How long does the medical negligence claim process take?
Medical negligence cases can be very complicated, which means that it’s difficult to suggest how long the claims process will take. If the defendant accepts liability for your injury, then your case could be settled within a year. However, if the defendant denies any wrongdoing, the process can take a lot longer. On average, most cases will be settled within 12 to 18 months.
It is important to remember that medical negligence claims shouldn’t be rushed. In many cases, victims of medical negligence might need continued treatment, modifications to their home and car, or even rehabilitation. You may also have suffered a loss of income or even found that you can’t return to work. All of these things should be thoroughly considered in order to make sure that the compensation you receive will cover any costs incurred by the healthcare providers’ mistakes. In some cases, your lawyers may be able to apply for an interim payment from your final compensation in order to cover any ongoing treatments you might be undertaking while the case is being settled.
Making a medical negligence claim with OH Parsons
If you think that you’re suffering an injury following medical negligence, our team of specialist solicitors can help. Get in touch with our team for a free initial meeting where we’ll help you to determine if you have grounds for a successful claim based on your medical record, and explain more about our no win, no fee service. We have years of experience helping countless people hold medical professionals and healthcare providers to account, and we’ll be with you every step of the way to support you while you seek compensation.