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Medical Negligence – Can you Claim?

Jun 26, 2015

The NHS in the UK offers care to everyone free of charge and in many respects it is a model that is looked upon with envy from many parts of the world.  Most of us have experiences of the care provided by the NHS which run from excellent to perhaps not so good.  However when does “not so good” move into the realms of medical negligence?

 To establish a claim for medical negligence and recover compensation it is necessary to establish that:-

  •  You are owed a duty of care
  • That the duty of care was breached
  • That you have suffered injury or loss as a result of that breach

 Clearly when you are treated within the NHS system you are owed a duty of care – if you are at your GP surgery, at a hospital or at any other point in the NHS system.  The health professionals looking after you owe you a duty of care.

 When a duty of care is breached is sometimes obvious but frequently that is a very difficult question and at this point the issue is best discussed with a Solicitor who specialises in medical negligence claims.  Often it is necessary to obtain an independent medical expert opinion on this issue.

 Assuming that you are owed a duty of care and that duty of care was breached, did you suffer loss as a result of that?  You may not have actually suffered any loss despite the breach of duty of care.  That does not mean that you are not entitled to make a complaint to the NHS who cared for you, or the appropriate authority within the NHS.  It will mean however that you will not be able to claim compensation.

 Then, although you may have suffered a loss, it may not be related to the breach of duty of care.  For example even if there had been no breach of duty you could still have suffered injury or loss as a result of the circumstances you were in.  This issue of “causation” can be very tricky and again expert legal advice should be sought and if necessary independent medical evidence obtained.

 If you are aged 18 or over you have 3 years from the date of the negligent act to bring a claim for compensation (and that means issuing court proceedings if your claim hasn’t been settled) but the 3 year period may not begin to run until a date later than when the incident took place, if you had no knowledge of the incident and could not have expected to have known until later that you had suffered loss and may be able to bring a claim in negligence.  This is another technical aspect of claims upon which you should seek expert advice.  It is not necessarily the case therefore that after 3 years you will be out of time for bringing a claim.  It is very important to obtain expert advice sooner rather than later, of course, to avoid the risk of a claim being out of time. The rules and law are complicated

 In respect of children, the 3 year time limit does not start to run until their 18th birthday.

 It is also worth remembering that our judicial system encourages settlement of claims through mediation or dispute resolution to avoid proceedings having to be issued and going to court must be viewed as a last resort.

 If you would like further information about medical negligence claims or wish to speak to someone about your particular situation, please telephone Richard Gregory on 01264 325811 or e-mail us at personalinjury@bsandi.co.uk and we will be happy to help. There is no charge for a first consultation or preliminary assessment of your claim and we can look at ways of funding it such as through legal expenses insurance or a “no win no fee" arrangement.

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