Much has been said about the expanding compensation ‘culture’ in the UK over recent years, shedding light on liability in incidents of accident or injury across all facets of life, including workplace injuries and road traffic accidents, and medical negligence, which has recently been brought to the forefront of compensation discussions. Last week, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a review into the issue of ‘dividing lines between gross negligence manslaughter and human error in medical practice’, following the deregistration of a number of doctors involved in such cases. This move signals the possibility of a massive overhaul of court handling of medical negligence cases, and the subsequent compensation claims filed. Here is a breakdown of medical negligence compensation claims, what you need to know when evaluating your own personal experience and also what may change in the near future.

The Numbers

In recent years, a number of studies have independently verified that compensation claims relating to cases of medical negligence are on the rise. From 2008 to 2013, there was a huge 80% increase in the number of medical negligence cases that prompted claims for compensation – and within this period, there was a 20% surge from 2012 to 2013 alone, indicating that claims were on the exponential rise.

More recently, the NHS Litigation Authority addressed a worrying rise in claims, with the 2015-2016 period seeing a record £1.4 billion worth of compensation awards, a sharp rise from £1 billion in the previous year.

The Causes

The individual circumstances of one medical negligence claim differs entirely from another, and the range of conditions and issues that ‘medical negligence’ is quite extensive. However, these are some of the most prominent causes of medical negligence claims:

  • Brain Damage – from mild to severe, often caused by errors in surgery or drug administration
  • Childbirth Injuries – to either the mother or child(ren), resulting from errors made during the process of childbirth, or in the administration of drugs
  • Neck and Spine Injuries – from mild to severe, often caused by errors during surgery or in the administration of medication, as well as mishandling that causes a patient to fall or be dropped
  • Surgical Complications – injuries or illness caused by errors during surgery or wrongly prescribed surgical or medical procedures
  • Anaesthesia Mistakes – injuries caused by errors in the administration of anaesthesia
  • Misdiagnosed Cancer – negative health implications caused by misdiagnosed or undiagnosed cancers
  • General Misdiagnosis – the incorrect diagnosis of a condition, leading to further issues
  • Cosmetic Procedure Errors – injuries caused by errors during cosmetic procedures or aftercare
  • Care Negligence – injuries or illness sustained from badly administered care in a nursing home

Different Kinds of Negligence

There are a number of different kinds of negligence which can be considered when making a complaint about the care you received. When your case is being examined by legal experts in order to determine whether or not your case has cause for compensation, medical negligence is categorised in one of four ways.

  • Contributory Negligence – the injured party is deemed responsible for the results of their compensation claim, and are not awarded any compensation
  • Comparative Negligence – the victim is partially responsible for their injuries, and a court will determine to what extent both the victim and medical professional are liable
  • Vicarious Liability – liability is attributed to the organisation managing the medical professional whose work caused injury, for example, the hospital employing a surgeon whose procedure caused injury to a patient
  • Gross Negligence – injuries sustained due to flagrant disregard for the wellbeing of the victim on the part of a medical professional, where the duty to prioritise the health of a patient has been neglected. Cases often lead to the revocation of medical licenses, and are deemed to be the most serious form of negligence

Basis for a Claim

Compensation claims, particularly those carrying the severity of medical negligence, can lead to prolonged investigations in order to accurately assign liability for injuries sustained, with the average compensation claim taking between 12 and 18 months to be settled. Of course, for the duration of a claim, legal fees will accumulate, and this can be costly, but shouldn’t deter people who have been the victims of negligence from pursuing compensation.

Many legal experts who offer compensation claim services operate on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, meaning that if your claim is eventually dismissed or rejected, you will not owe any legal fees to your solicitor. If your claim is successful, your lawyer’s fees will be deducted from the total amount awarded to you.

How to Make a Claim

If you have sustained injuries or other conditions due to the treatment you received from a medical practitioner and believe you could be entitled to compensation, your first step should be to contact a legal professional, who can examine the validity of your case and help you make a claim for medical negligence compensation. Make sure to explore your options and go to a law firm that has a good reputation for cases of medical negligence – if possible, it can be beneficial to speak to people who have filed claims and get referrals from them.

Collecting as much evidence of your treatment and injury as possible will make sure that any court cases is as strong as it can be and that your side of the situation is represented accurately. Any paperwork, forms or letters received from the medical professional, as well as details of the practitioner(s) who treated you and you believe are responsible for your injuries. Evidence of the ways in which your condition or injuries have impacted your life since is also important, including bills for any expenses you have encountered, photographs, test results and reports or other documents from other medical practitioners you have turned to since the initial negligence.

Medical negligence can have catastrophic, and often long-term consequences, and dealing with these consequences can be expensive and difficult to handle. If you find yourself affected by medical negligence, make sure to seek immediate legal advice and see what can be done to make the aftermath of your injuries as supported and trouble-free as possible.

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