Dear Doctor clarifies the complexities of clinical negligence with five key facts that everybody should know
1. Who can take legal action?
If you have suffered an injury as a result of a treatment, this is commonly referred to as a medical accident. The difference between this and clinical negligence is that the latter involves care that would not have met medically acceptable standards; therefore meaning that the injury was preventable. This could involve claiming for:
- Psychological damage
- Loss of earnings
- Having to pay for ongoing treatment
- The cost of adapting your home
- Being unable to carry out activities or hobbies like you once did
- Extra care or equipment
Certain circumstances may even allow you to take legal action for somebody else if they don’t have the capacity to claim themselves or have died due to negligence.
2. How can you proceed?
You can explore two avenues, either using the NHS complaints procedure or by pursuing your own legal action independently. It may be advisable to use the NHS claims procedure to gain a more thorough understanding of what has happened. If you do decide on legal action, it is vital that you promptly gain expert advice on the matter.
3. What is the result?
It’s important to understand that making a medical negligence claim is solely about the right to compensation. The court cannot make the healthcare professionals involved apologise. Likewise, the decision taken by the court will not be able to change or dictate how the medical practitioner works—nor will it necessarily lead to them being disciplined.
4. What are the time constraints?
There is a time limit to making complaints, therefore they should be made as soon as negligence has been identified. Legal claims should normally be made no more than three years after the date of the event. There are circumstances where the window for complaint can be extended—for instance, if it was difficult to complain earlier due to ongoing trauma.
5. Are there other options?
Compensation schemes are in place for specific injuries and losses. These provide a quick route to compensation without having to attend court. Particular circumstances have their own scheme available. For example, those who have suffered medical problems as a result of a routine vaccination are able to claim via the Vaccine Damage Payment Unit. Visit gov.uk for more details on similar schemes.