Clinical negligence, also known as medical negligence compensation is when a patient has suffered pain, injury or discomfort as a direct result of a medical professional’s mistake. They can take a long time to complete, often up to a few years. This is largely down to a number of medical and legal protocols.
Your claim could be against an NHS organisation, a private clinic, a GP or surgeon. Examples include incorrect treatment, an error during surgery or a failure to diagnose a condition.
Cases vary in complexity and therefore length of time; the more involved a case is then the more time-consuming it will be. The dependency on third parties, like medical experts, also plays a large part in adding extra time to a case.
First things first
To ensure your claim is as swift as possible, it may be an idea to make a complaint, your lawyer may be able to help you with it.
The below timeline outlines the necessary stages that personal injury lawyers have to take you through to ensure your claim is dealt with properly. Its purpose is to demonstrate the reasons for the length of time of a medical negligence claim. Use it as a rule of thumb as cases can vary significantly.
First and foremost it must be established that the medical practitioner or medical body is to blame for your pain/injury or suffering. You will need to have an in-depth discussion with your personal injury lawyer where you will discuss the validity of the claim. Details of the injury/pain sustained and how it was the fault of a third party will be fully examined and considered by your specialist medical negligence lawyer.
There are several ways in which your claim can be funded. Your lawyer can discuss these options with you. At Jefferies we work on a no win no fee* basis.
Once your case has been taken on by a personal injury lawyer the following must be carried out:
- Medical records – these sometimes hefty documents, will need to obtained from your GP or hospital. Due to the Data Protection Act, these can be sent up to 40 days following a request.
- Medical expert – your solicitor will get in touch with a medical expert and supply him with your statement and the medical records. Using this evidence, the expert will then write a report which will decide whether or not and to what extent medical negligence has occurred. It is important that medical experts have up to date clinical knowledge and will often be working within the NHS. They may be heavily sought after for their opinion by others and therefore their reports may take some time to complete.
On completion of the report by the medical expert, his/her findings will be discussed with you.
Once a report on whether there has been a breach of duty has been carried out it is normally necessary to get a second report from an expert to show the breach of duty has caused you some injury, only after reports are obtained both in relation to breach and what is called causation – a report linking the breach to the cause of the injury, will a report on quantum or (‘how much’) be obtained. Details of your income will have to be provided and further exploration into your injuries will need to be done.
Your solicitor will send a formal letter to the defendant explaining the claim made against them. Their reply will state whether or not they accept blame and the defendant has 4 months within which to return a response to the claim. Often cases are vehemently fought by defendants.
If your claim is defended by the medical body or professional then your solicitor may be able to take your claim of negligence to court, depending on the evidence. This in itself can be time consuming (it’s possible it may take years) as several expert witnesses with demanding schedules will need to be brought together.
Your medical condition
The medical condition of the claimant is often instrumental in the time it takes for a claim to progress. For example, some complex conditions are reliant on the availabilty of specialist surgeons to carry out important operations which will then allow patients to recover and their condition stabilise.
Stable medical conditions are required to assess a case fairly. A medical report confirming the exact condition of the patient is usually not given until a condition is ‘stable’ or has reached a point whereby there is likely to be no improvement. You have up to 3 years to make your medical negligence claim starting from the time you received the poor quality treatment. It is possible to legally protect the claim if your situation has still not stabilised after 3 years. Your solicitor will advise you on this process.
A final compensation amount can be awarded following either negotiations between your solicitor and the defendant or when a Court rules in your favour and awards you compensation after a hearing.
Your medical negligence claim
Do not be put off by the length of time your claim may take, many people succeed in medical negligence claims. If you do think that you have a claim then contact Jefferies solicitors today either by calling 0800 342 3206 or completing our initial online claim form.
*Please note – In limited circumstances, fees may be charged when your compensation claim is not successful. These limited circumstances are explained in our No Win No Fee* Agreement. In addition, if you fail to attend a medical appointment arranged for you, the doctor may charge a non-attendance fee.