Medical Negligence in the UK
Medical negligence cases in the UK are handled by The Medical Protection Society or MPS and are big business. On average claims take over five years to resolve and the number of claims looks set to continue to increase. The irony is that in many cases the costs of reaching the settlement outweigh the award itself and clearly a lot of lawyers are making money out of medical negligence cases.
Medical negligence is another term for clinical negligence and refers to all cases involving mistakes by medical professionals. Medical negligence cases can involve all medical professionals; opticians, dentists, midwives and physiotherapists as well as liable as doctors and surgeons. Claims range from small settlements resulting from misdiagnosis to large claims for major disabilities such as cerebral palsy. In some cases it can take over ten years to resolve liability and award damages.
Claimants fund cases through legal aid or ‘no win no fee’ (conditional fee agreements). As with all personal injury cases there is a limit of three years in which to bring an action and if you think you have a case then you should seek specialist legal advice. The medical profession has a ‘duty of care’ towards their patients and if they breach this and the person they are treating suffers in any way as a result then there may be valid grounds for a claim.
Judges hearing medical negligence cases will listen to the evidence and make a finding as to whether the action taken, or not taken, was reasonable in the circumstances. Establishing negligence in straightforward cases such as where the wrong medication has been given may be quite easy but other cases are much more complex. If you want to bring a medical negligence case then it is important to use a specialized lawyer as there is lots of specific terminology and medical information to master.
Your compensation solicitor may well decide it is necessary to seek expert advice in order to establish whether the medical professionals involved were negligent. Whilst involving experts of this type may be a crucial part of establishing liability it can lengthen the case timetable considerably as experts often have long waiting lists. Once the solicitor has obtained an expert report it should become clear whether your case has a chance of succeeding, and if it has, your solicitor will then contact the hospital or medical professional involved and outline the claim against them and damages sought.