Because clinical negligence is a very specialist field, it is important that you choose a solicitor with detailed knowledge of the field and a history of success. An expert medico-legal lawyer will be able to fully investigate all aspects your claim, and help you secure the best possible compensation.
In addition to our clinical negligence and personal injury work, we also undertake Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority claims for those who have suffered as a consequence of non-accidental injuries. Michelmores also offers specialist advice, working together with industry experts, on how to protect compensation awards.
What is a Medical Negligence Claim?
The law of negligence aims to put the victim back, insofar as possible, in the position they were in before the damage occurred. This is done through financial compensation, with 'damages' awards calculated to reflect the extent of the person's loss.
Of course, some things cannot be completely put right by money, particularly in fatal or disabling accidents. However, in many cases compensation can provide the means to begin rebuilding life after injury, both for victims of negligence and their families. Through the claims process, further answers often emerge about the treatment and the circumstances surrounding it.
Making a Claim
If you have not already done so, we usually suggest that you make a formal complaint to the people you think are responsible. If this is a hospital trust, for instance, there may be a specific procedure in place for this, but complaints can simply be made in a formal letter which sets out the details of your grievance. The response to a complaint can be a useful way of gauging the hospital's stance on your injury and, if you do go on to make a claim, the Court will expect you to have made use of the complaints system.
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When you come to make a claim, you are referred to as the 'Claimant.' The person you are claiming against is the 'Defendant.' Before a claim begins, your solicitor will gather evidence to show to that the Defendant was responsible for your injury. This will include your medical records, witness statements from you and your family, and reports from expert medical witnesses. Defendants will, in the majority of cases, prepare their own evidence.
Although Court proceedings will usually be initiated, the majority of medical claims never actually end in a full trial - this means that you may not have to give evidence in person before the Court. The legal procedure rules encourage people to resolve claims without going to court, as this should be quicker and would therefore keep costs down on both sides. Both the Claimant and the Defendant can make offers to settle the claim at any point in the process, and the vast majority of claims will conclude like this, usually after some negotiation over the value of the claim.
It can be difficult to predict how long a claim will take to reach a conclusion, especially where complex medical and legal issues are involved. Some smaller cases may be settled in a matter of months, whereas others can take several years.
The general rule is that a medical claim must be brought within three years of the date of the negligent act. However, there are exceptions to this rule. In some situations, the time limits are extended: this can apply to injuries to children or those without mental capacity, and injuries of which the victim was not aware until later.
If your injury occurred more than three years ago, you can speak to a member of our team for guidance. To avoid running into problems with time limits, it is advisable to approach a solicitor as early as possible.
Inquests and Inquiries
Where someone has died in unusual or suspicious circumstances, the death may be reported to the coroner for further investigation. An inquest or inquiry is a process that seeks to establish the factual circumstances surrounding the death, and these findings can be used as evidence in a clinical negligence claim.
You can read more about Coroner's Inquests in our introductory guide