Know Your Health Rights: A Guide To Medical Negligence

We all hope to sail through life with as little medical support as possible. However things can often surprise us when we least expect it – having been diagnosed with a chronic illness out of the blue 3 years ago I definitely know all about that. I needed urgent care and investigation, including being placed under general anaesthetic for colonoscopy. The vast majority of medical procedures in the UK are performed competently, and the outcomes are positive. But mistakes sadly can and do happen and a patient may receive a negative outcome from the care given, thanks to institutional failings.

In some cases, the failings in question might amount to hospital negligence. This can potentially entitle an affected patient to compensation. But often, the process of achieving this compensation can be daunting and stressful.

Am I entitled to make a claim?

Many patients wouldn’t even think about making a claim and that’s largely due to not understanding the criteria in the first place. For medical negligence to have occurred, several distinct criteria need to be met. Firstly, you’ll need to demonstrate that a duty of care was owed to you. Secondly, you need to demonstrate that the care provided fell below the standard which should have been provided by a competent member of the medical profession. Thirdly, and finally, you’ll need to prove that you’ve suffered harm as a result.

Unless all three of these criteria have been met, most of the time, medical negligence will not have occurred.

Contact a Solicitor

If you think you may have experienced medical negligence, it is essential to utilise the services of a solicitor and this is the next step. They will listen to your case and be able to offer their professional opinion on whether anything has occurred that is worth pursuing. It’s best to bring them in as early as you can in the process. They will have access to and be able to bring in expert witnesses to provide a perspective on whether the standard of care fell below acceptable.

Most lawyers will proceed in this case on a no-win, no-fee basis. This means that they’ll decide at the outset whether the case has merit, and then proceed accordingly which should give you assurance from a financial perspective that you can go ahead.

Evidence

You’ll need to provide evidence that you’ve suffered as a result of the potential negligence. This may be financial losses, or it might be evidence of physical disability. Receipts, payslips, invoices and bank statements will all prove useful. If you’re keeping these digitally, then collating them in such a way that a drop in income can be demonstrated will be hugely useful.

Presenting to defendant

To initiate proceedings your solicitor will write a letter to the defendant, called a letter of claim which is a legal requirement. This will notify them of the claims you’re making, and that court proceedings may be brought against them.

Court Proceedings

Only a minority of medical negligence claims eventually find their way to trial, and even fewer require the claimant to attend in person. Depending on the extent of the claims, a trial can unfold over several years but the claimant will not necessarily need to play a significant part in this process.

May I wish you all good health – it’s definitely something you miss when you no longer have it.

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