22 Mar 2022
When someone is let down by a healthcare professional they felt they could trust and has suffered harm as a result, it can have a significant physical, emotional, and financial impact on them for years to come. In some cases, it even determines the course of their whole life from that point onwards.
Medical negligence solicitors, like those here at Harding Evans Solicitors, understand how devastating and disruptive it can be to be let down in this way. We make every effort to support our clients on the long, complex, and often emotional journey of proving that medical negligence took place. Your experienced solicitor will be well-equipped to ensure that your medical negligence claim is appropriately investigated and pursued and that you secure the outcome you deserve.
If you’ve been the victim of medical negligence or malpractice, keep reading to find out more about how a specialist medical negligence solicitor can help you.
The term ‘medical negligence’ refers to substandard care which directly results in injury, disability, and/or losses. This could be due to a failure to correctly diagnose a condition, surgical error, or being given the wrong treatment. It can also include cases where the correct treatment is given but is delivered at a substandard level or where aftercare practices were not satisfactory.
Medical negligence covers any negligence which occurs in a healthcare setting or where a medical professional or institution is to blame. This includes nurses, GPs, hospital staff, cosmetic surgeons, and more. It doesn’t matter whether the negligence occurred in the care of the NHS or a private practice.
Medical malpractice is a different issue, so these terms should not be used interchangeably. While medical negligence refers to actions that are unintentionally negligent, medical malpractice is where a medical professional or institution intentionally or knowingly acts negligently.
In order for your claim to be successful, it must make it through the three stages of the claims process, as explained below. If your case fails to meet the requirements of any of these stages, the claim will fail.
If you make a medical negligence claim, your case will need to show that the defendant (the negligent medical practitioner) breached their duty of care – i.e. their responsibility to keep you safe from harm as far as is reasonably possible – and that this then led to negligent medical treatment.
Your solicitor will need to prove that the healthcare professional did not exercise a reasonable standard of care or skill when treating you, which can be difficult given the sheer number of factors at play. The standard of your treatment should be judged in the context of what you were being treated for and when.
The healthcare professional in question must have done or failed to do something that their colleagues would say wasn’t of an acceptable standard. Essentially, unless another medical expert says there has been negligence, you won’t be able to bring a claim.
In order for your claim to be successful, you must also demonstrate causation – in other words, you must prove that the harm you’ve suffered was caused by the negligent treatment.
The court will not accept any outcomes that might have been expected, for instance, if the risks of the procedure were made clear to you prior to treatment and/or the pain or suffering you’ve experienced was inevitable. You can only claim for extra, unexpected suffering or pain that was caused by negligence, rather than just being a normal part of the treatment you received.
In order to make a compensation claim, you must be able to demonstrate that you’ve suffered losses. This is usually divided into general damages, the appropriate sum for your pain and suffering, what is known as loss of amenity (i.e. the loss of ability to do things you were once able to do), and special damages (your quantifiable financial losses).
Special damages can include things like loss of past and/or future earnings, loss of pension, costs of care or further medical treatment (e.g. physiotherapy, surgery, etc.), mobility-related adaptations to your property, equipment, and any other financial losses that can be attributed to the negligence.
The court will calculate the amount of compensation you are due as part of its ruling. This is known as the value of your claim and is usually what the opponent agrees to pay or what the court decides if no agreement is possible.
There will be some cases where the claimant may lack the capacity to bring a claim themselves, either because of the negligence or a pre-existing condition. They will, therefore, require somebody to make decisions on their behalf, including bringing the claim for them.
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 states that someone lacks capacity if they are “unable to make a decision for [themselves] in relation to the matter because of an impairment of, or a disturbance in the functioning of, the mind or brain”.
Generally, if a person is deemed to lack capacity, they are considered not to have the legal competence to make informed decisions that would be in their best interest. In these cases, somebody can be instructed to represent the injured person when bringing a medical negligence claim, as well as with regards to their personal affairs.
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that can be granted to the appointed person (usually a family member or close friend) and allows them to make decisions on behalf of the person lacking capacity. In medical negligence cases, this person will be given the role of the claimant and will be able to make decisions regarding the case on behalf of the injured person.
If a person does not have any Power of Attorney documents entitling others to act on their behalf but is deemed to lack capacity in a GP assessment, solicitors can appoint a litigation friend to act on their behalf in respect of their medical negligence claim.
It isn’t essential that you enlist the help of a specialist medical negligence solicitor when making a claim, in the same way that it isn’t absolutely necessary to hire an accredited contractor to work on your house extension. However, as with an accredited contractor, you are likely to get a far better result and it is likely to be a much smoother process if you do get a specialist medical negligence solicitor. Your case is also likely to proceed faster because it will be handled more efficiently and effectively.
If you do use a medical negligence solicitor, your case will benefit from having the expertise and experience that only solicitors who deal with medical negligence cases regularly can offer. Medical negligence solicitors will thoroughly investigate and analyse all of the available evidence and draw all of that information together into a compelling and effective claim. This is a complex and difficult task at the best of times, let alone if you attempt to do it yourself or with a non-specialist solicitor.
Failing to spot certain details can be enough to make your claim fail altogether. It is far less likely that the intricate details of your case, or the negligence itself, will be overlooked if you have someone who knows exactly what to look for on your side. Even if your claim does proceed to the next stage of the process, you could lose out on some part of your compensation if certain details are overlooked.
Therefore, it is clear why the experience of solicitors specialising in medical negligence is so valuable. An expert in the field of medical negligence claims will be committed to ensuring that no stone is left unturned.
They will also be best placed to advise you on things like:
How can you ensure that your chosen medical negligence solicitor is the best one for you? Here are a few important qualities to look out for when choosing your medical negligence solicitor:
Based in Newport, Harding Evans Solicitors is a firm of exceptional solicitors specialising in medical negligence cases, as well as a range of other areas of law. Our team of legal experts have a wealth of knowledge and experience that is sure to get you the best outcome possible. Whether you need probate services, want to make a Lasting Power of Attorney, or require advice about your medical negligence claim, we’ll be glad to help. Contact us today for all your legal needs.