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Medical negligence – also called clinical negligence – is the area of law that lets you claim compensation for injury or loss suffered as a result of poor medical treatment, i.e. a doctor failing to diagnose your condition or mistakes made in surgery or during a procedure.
If you’ve suffered serious injury as a result of medical negligence, you need a specialist solicitor with expertise in your type of claim. Our experienced team provides legal advice to clinical negligence clients throughout the UK.
Our expertise speaks for itself. We’re the only Bristol firm to be awarded a band 1 ranking by Chambers – the highest ranking available – for our medical negligence practice.
We’re also one of only four medical negligence departments in the South West region to receive a top tier ranking from Legal 500.
Our experienced medical negligence claims team is headed up by panel members of Action Against Medical Accidents, the charity for patient safety and justice, and the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Accreditation Scheme.
We can provide advice and support with a range of medical negligence issues including:
We represent the majority of our clients on a no win, no fee basis (also known as a ‘conditional fee agreement’), which provides them with some protection against financial risk when starting a claim.
If your claim is successful, the majority of your legal fees will usually be recovered from the defendant, while any non-recoverable costs, such as our success fee and your insurance premium can be paid from the damages won. Our success fee will be based on a percentage of the compensation secured.
There are several other options for funding a medical negligence claim, including legal expenses insurance, trade union funding, legal aid (for some cases involving children) and private funding. The important thing is that, no matter your financial circumstances, we will help you find the right funding option so you can pursue your claim.
Read more about ways to fund a medical negligence claim.
When considering making a claim for medical negligence (also sometimes referred to as ‘clinical negligence’) it is vital to realise that there are strict time limits for bringing a claim. If you miss the window to start a claim, you are very unlikely to be able to pursue compensation, no matter how justified your claim.
In general, you will have three years from the time when the medical negligence occurs to start a claim. However, if you only become aware later that negligence may have occurred or that you were injured as a result, the three year time limit may be counted from the time you became aware of the issue (your ‘date of knowledge’), rather than when it occurred.
It is important to bear in mind also that in order to get to the stage where a claim can be brought, you will need to instruct your solicitor to carry out some preliminary investigations on your behalf, such as requesting your medical records and instructing independent medical experts. This can take time and as such it’s advisable to speak to a solicitor sooner rather than later if you think you have a claim.
If the claim relates to a child injured as a result of medical negligence, you will have until their 18th birthday to bring a claim on their behalf. The child will then have a further three years to bring a claim on their own behalf if you have not already done so – giving them until their 21st birthday to start a claim.
Where the person injured as a result of medical negligence does not have the mental capacity to bring a claim, e.g. because they have been left in a coma, there is no time limit for you to bring a claim on their behalf. This will only change if they later regain capacity e.g. they awake from a coma. In this case, they will then have 3 years from the time when they regain mental capacity to bring a claim.
One thing many people find reassuring is that the majority of medical negligence claims can be resolved without the need for you to go to court. This is because many claims are resolved via a pre-trial settlement. This means you can usually secure compensation faster, at lower cost and with significantly less stress.
Our clinical negligence solicitors can guide you through every step of the claims process, ensuring that wherever there is an opportunity to successfully conclude your claim at an early stage without compromising your interests, we will do so. However, where your claim does go to court, we have the expertise and experience to ensure you have the very best possible representation to help you achieve a fair outcome.
The following is a brief overview of what to expect during the clinical negligence claims process:
Your initial contact with our team – When you first speak to our team, we will talk through the negligence you believe occurred and the impact on your/your loved one’s health. We will then give an honest appraisal of whether we think your claim merits further investigation, as well as discussing the various options for funding your claim.
Building your case – This typically involves various steps, such as obtaining medical records from the NHS Trust or other healthcare provider involved, gathering witness testimony and consulting with independent medical experts.
Our goal will be to clearly establish the facts of the case, including exactly what happened, how this negatively impacted your/your loved one’s health and the full consequences for your/your loved one’s life.
Sending a letter of claim – Once we are satisfied that your case is as strong as possible, we will send a letter to the defendant setting out the details of your claim and, in broad terms, the likely compensation you are seeking to resolve the matter.
The defendant’s response – The defendant is required to respond to your claim within four months, although there are occasions when their investigations take longer than this. Where necessary, we will take action to ensure they respond in a timely fashion to keep your claim on track.
At this point, the defendant will usually either admit full or partial liability for the negligence and its consequences, or deny responsibility for any wrongdoing. If they admit liability, they will normally offer some level of settlement.
Considering the defendant’s response – Whatever response the defendant gives, we will talk you through your options. Where we feel any settlement offered is fair, we will tell you so, however if no settlement is offered, or we feel the settlement offered is too low, we will advise you of your other options. This could include attempting to negotiate a more favourable settlement or taking court action.
Issuing court proceedings – If you decide you want to take further action, we will start court proceedings by issuing your claim and submitting ‘Particulars of Claim’ setting out the details of your case to the court.
The defendant will then have 28 days to respond after which point the court will set the timetable for the litigation including a Trial date for a Judge to hear your case. This is typically around 18 months from when the defendant responds to your claim.
It is important to note, however, that even claims that reach this stage rarely make it to court as they can usually be resolved earlier through pre-trial negotiations.
Pre-trial negotiations – In the period before your hearing date, we will work with you, the defendant and their legal team to try to agree an out of court settlement. This may involve direct negotiations, as well as alternate dispute resolution methods, such as mediation.
In most cases this approach is highly successful and we have a very strong track record of achieving positive outcomes during pre-trial negotiations, saving our clients time, money and the stress of attending a hearing.
Trial by judge – In the unlikely event we are not able to reach a satisfactory settlement before a case reaches court, we will ensure you have the very best possible representation for your hearing. With our experience and expertise in court hearings, we can ensure your case is effectively built and presented and that no potential angle is overlooked.
We will also instruct at least one specialist clinical negligence barrister who will advise on strategy for the hearing and will present your case on the day. For particularly complex cases we generally recommend a senior barrister (often a QC – a Queen’s Counsel) as well as a leading junior advocate to provide additional support.
Medical negligence claim hearings are heard in front of a judge without a jury and give both sides an opportunity to present their arguments and supporting evidence. The judge will then make a final decision.
If you’ve suffered from negligent medical treatment, our solicitors are here to help. We work with clients all over the UK from our offices in Bristol and we regularly travel to see our clients.