What is clinical negligence?

Clinical negligence, sometimes also known as medical negligence, might happen when you’re receiving treatment from a healthcare professional.

While most times medical procedures happen with no problems, occasionally a mistake might be made by someone responsible for your care which might cause you harm. For example, some types of negligent medical care that might happen are:

Whilst these mistakes are unlikely to have happened on purpose, they can still have a huge impact on your quality of life, and you can claim compensation for it. You can talk to us for free advice on 0800 234 6438 or you can fill in this online claims form to arrange for us to call you back.

NHS and private clinical negligence claims

Whether you’re making a claim against an NHS practitioner or one working in private practice, the facts are the same; mistakes were made, you’ve suffered as a result and you shouldn’t be left paying the costs. Clinical negligence claims can be made against most types of medical professional:

If your treatment was given by a team of medical staff, the cause of the negligence can be harder to pin down, and your injury might actually have been caused by wider processes instead of the actions of one person. If this applies to your case, your solicitor might make your claim against a wider body, such as a hospital management team or NHS trust.

In all cases, the medical practitioner will be covered by ‘indemnity insurance’ against claims, as set out in legislation in The Health Care and Associated Professions (Indemnity Arrangements) Order 2014.

Although clinical negligence claims are basically the same whether the treatment was provided by the NHS or privately, there are a few differences in practice.The main point of difference is that the NHS has its own Litigation Authority (NHSLA), an independent body which deals with any claims made against it.

The health service is also covered by a written constitution which outlines the right of any patient to complain, to have their complaint dealt with efficiently, to be told about the findings of any investigation into their complaint and to receive compensation if they’ve been treated negligently.

Evidence for clinical negligence claims

While your solicitor will put your case together to prove that clinical negligence happened, there are several pieces of evidence that you can give to them to help prove your case:

For your solicitor to put together a clinical negligence claim, they will need to help you prove the following.

Breach of duty of care

Winning a clinical negligence claim means proving the treatment breached the duty of care, and that this negligence led to your injury or illness. If you’ve received any medical treatment from a qualified professional, then the chances are that they owe you a duty of care by default.

The clinical negligence caused you harm

You’ll need to be examined by an expert medical professional to assess you and produce an official report on the extent of the injury and the amount of damage it caused. This will help to understand how much you might receive in compensation if you win your case. Your solicitor will help to arrange this for you and talk you through the process, so there’s no need to worry.

DID YOU KNOW: 96% of the cases handled by the NHS Litigation Authority are settled without the need for a court case.

Making a complaint to the NHS for clinical negligence

If you think you may have suffered negligent treatment whilst under the care of a medical professional, we’re sorry. It can be really hard to process that someone who you have essentially trusted with your life has let you down; and because of the size of the NHS, it can feel like there’s nothing you can do about it – but that’s not the case.

The NHS has its own complaints procedure set out by the NHSLA (NHS Litigation Authority), an independent body which deals with any claims made against the NHS. The NHSLA tries to settle claims within 12 months, but it can sometimes take much longer, especially if the member of staff involved denies negligence.

Asking the NHS to review your negligent treatment can be a useful way of unearthing what happened, to give you stronger evidence to bring a clinical negligence case.

What happens if the medical professional denies liability?

This is where the expert medical reports become important. Your clinical negligence solicitor will ensure you are examined by a medical expert who will assess your injuries and if they decide on the balance of probabilities that the medical professional in question was responsible for the harm you suffered, you’ll be free to continue your compensation claim.

Claiming compensation isn’t a case of ‘punishing’ the medical practitioner. It’s a way of giving recognition to the suffering you’ve had to go through and making sure you don’t end up financially worse off.

In some cases whilst the dispute is being settled, you might be able to receive an interim payment, so that you can start to rebuild your life while the rest of your compensation is being negotiated for you.

Will I need to go to court for a clinical negligence claim?

It’s unlikely that you’ll need to go to court for your case, but you might if the standards set by Pre-Action Protocol for the Resolution of Clinical Disputes are not followed. It sets time limits for the exchange of information and promotes medical or rehabilitation treatment to help the person affected by negligent medical treatment at the earliest opportunity. It also encourages all parties involved in the clinical negligence claim to find alternatives to going to court, such as settling early out of court.

About the Author
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

Lucy Trevelyan LLB

Find Lucy on LinkedIn

Lucy is a NCTJ trained journalist who studied law at the University of Greenwich. She is a legal journalist and editor with more than 20 years’ experience writing about the law.

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