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What Is “Clinical Negligence”?
Breach of a duty of care
Every year, hundreds of millions of people receive medical treatment and the majority of them are treated to a very high standard.
But sometimes things can go wrong, and when they do the consequences on your health can be very serious. If the treatment you received was below the standard you’d expect, and this led to you becoming injured or ill, then you may be able to make a clinical negligence 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.
Winning a clinical negligence claim means proving the treatment you received was negligent, and that this negligence led to your injury or illness.
Although this is the same for most personal injury claims, clinical negligence cases are some of the most complex claims, because they often involve around two sets of experts giving different opinions of complicated medical matters.
NHS or private clinical negligence claims
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 points of difference are 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.
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 – from nurses and doctors to surgeons and dentists – and may involve misdiagnosis, mistakes made during surgery, failure to diagnose an illness or incorrectly prescribed medication.
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.
When to make a claim
In all clinical negligence claims, your case is more likely to be successful if you start your claim as quickly as possible after the negligence.
The NHSLA tries to settle claims within 12 months, but the it can sometimes take much longer, especially if the member of staff involved denies negligence.
In some cases, 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.
Another advantage of starting a claim quickly is that the details of your treatment and the expenses caused by your injury are more likely to be fresh in your mind.