Medical Negligence Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How do I choose the right solicitor for clinical negligence?

It is essential that a potential clinical negligence claim is investigated by a clinical negligence specialist.  To assist you in choosing the right specialist look for a solicitor with an appropriate accreditation to a specialist clinical negligence scheme such as the Law Society Clinical Negligence Accreditation Scheme or the AvMA panel. Solicitors who have gained accreditation in this way have demonstrated their expertise over a significant period of time.  Our team consists of members who have been accredited for some years.  We receive a significant number of referrals as a result of recommendations made by former clients and other solicitors who are aware of our experience and good record in this area of work.

2. What is needed to succeed with a clinical negligence case?

Unless admissions by the treating Hospital Trust or Doctor have been made it will be necessary to prove, either through exchanges of documents or through a court process, that those treating you who owed a duty to provide a reasonable standard of care fell below that reasonable standard and that in falling below the reasonable standard of care you have suffered some form of injury and/or loss.

The person bringing the claim carries the burden of proving it and in order to do so specialist solicitors instructed will arrange to obtain copies of medical records to review the care that has been provided and in almost all cases will arrange for specialist medical experts to provide advice and opinion on the standard of care that was received and how that has had an impact on a patient’s outcome.  Our solicitors will advise you every step of the way on the information being gathered and how that will have an impact on the likely outcome of pursuing the case.

3. I believe I may have a case of clinical negligence but I am concerned about costs.

The provision of Legal Aid to investigate a clinical negligence claim is now limited to claims arising at or shortly after birth which have resulted in a neurological form of injury.  We carry a Legal Aid contract to undertake such specialist work and can make applications for Legal Aid funding in the appropriate cases.

In the alternative to Legal Aid funding it may be the case that a client has a legal expenses policy in place with an insurance company attached to their home, buildings and contents insurance which will pay for the costs of investigating and pursuing a clinical negligence claim subject to any restrictions imposed by the insurance company.  We can make applications on behalf of clients for funding under their existing insurance policies.

The majority of clinical negligence cases however are currently funded through a conditional fee agreement otherwise known as a no win no fee agreement.  These agreements are supported by after the event insurance policies which can cover the expenses incurred in pursuing a claim such as medical expert fees and court fees.  The benefit to the client is set out in the description of these agreements in that if there is no success in recovery of compensation then the client does not pay his/her solicitors’ fees. Again, this is a form of funding that we are readily in a position to consider with clients with new enquiries.

4. How much compensation will I recover?

When making a claim it is important to understand that the only possible result is compensation.  The court cannot ask for an apology, it cannot order a change in procedure and it cannot authorise disciplinary proceedings.  If these are your objectives making a complaint might be a more suitable path for you.

If your case is successful you may be awarded compensation in different forms:

  • An award for pain and suffering that you have experienced as a result of the medical negligence.
  • An award for loss of earnings could be made if you have not been able to receive an income as a result of the negligence. In serious cases this could include a loss of future earnings.
  • Other financial expense might also be covered if required in assisting you with your recovery from the injury/damage. This could include specific medical treatment and care costs.  This may well include past expenditure that you have already incurred.

Each case is different and detailed assessment and investigation will be undertaken on each case to establish the extent of compensation that can be claimed.

We have a wealth of experience in assessing both low level and extremely high level claims for compensation arising out of medical negligence.

5. How long will my case take?

The period of time to conclude a case will vary depending upon the issues involved.  There are occasions when only one medical specialism is involved throughout a case which can reduce the time taken to investigate.  Once investigation is complete and attempts at settlement have not been successful then a court action can be brought.  Following the issue of a court action the conclusion of a claim will usually arrive around 12-18 months later.

The more complex cases involving numerous medical specialisms will extend the time taken during the first period of investigation and may have a lesser impact on the overall time taken should it be necessary to bring a court action.

At the outset of cases that we have agreed to investigate our clients are provided with a detailed timetable of the steps that we will take and this is kept up to date as the claim progresses.

6. How long do I have to bring my claim?

Most legal claims have attached to them strict time limits set out in legislation.  In most medical negligence cases the cut off point for bringing a claim is 3 years from the date the injury arose.

The 3 year time limit does not apply to children under the age of 18 as the time limit set out in the legislation does not begin to run until the child’s 18th birthday.  In other words, a child injured as a result of medical negligence will usually have until their 21st birthday in order to bring the claim.

One further exception to the 3 year rule is clients who do not hold the necessary legal capacity to bring a claim.  Subject to medical evidence of a person not being in a position to demonstrate legal capacity (manage their own affairs) no time limit to a medical negligence claim is set. 

Within medical negligence, in particular, it can also be the case that the time for bringing a claim is longer than 3 years from the date of the injury.  In circumstances where the client could not have known that injury had been suffered as a result of negligence then the period for bringing the claim is extended to 3 years from the date when the person ought to have known that they had suffered some injury as a result of possible medical negligence. If you are unsure whether your claim would be within the time limit please contact a specialist in medical negligence who will be able to advise you.