Pursuing any claim through court is difficult – even more so when you’re trying to pursue a medical negligence claim, especially if you are suffering from an illness or trying to come to terms with an injury. Every person has the right to make a complaint if the care that they received at the hands of a medical professional or institute was sub-standard, and every person has the right to make a claim for medical negligence if that sub-standard care directly caused an illness or injury.
Making a claim for compensation can be complicated and so it’s important that you speak to a medical lawyer to guide you through the whole process. I know how tough it can be to make a claim and the process can be particularly tricky if you’ve never experienced it before. I wanted to put together a step by step guide to help people just like me make a claim, without getting confused by all the medical jargon.
Do You Actually Have a Claim?
First things first, you need to work out whether or not you actually have a claim. For a claim to be successful, you and your lawyer have to be able to prove that the illness or injury that you are suffering from was directly caused by the negligence of the medical professional or institute.
Once you’ve proven that the injury or illness was directly caused by the negligence of someone else, you have to prove that the injury or illness would not have otherwise occurred without the intervention of the medical professional or institute.
Generally, if you cannot prove that you would not have eventually gone on to suffer from that illness in the future, you will not be able to make a claim.
Talk to Your Doctor
Firstly, it’s important that you discuss your concerns with your doctor, or with the person that you believe is responsible for your illness or injuries. If you want to make an informal complaint, and if you’re not seriously injured, write a letter to the health care provider and await their response.
You should get a response in writing within a month, and in some cases, you’ll get an apology. It’s important to remember, however, that an apology does not mean that you automatically have a claim to make. An apology is not an admission of negligence; it is merely an apology for the experience that you might be going through.
Once you’ve spoken to your healthcare provider, you can then go on to make a formal complaint, if desired. A formal complaint differs depending on the medical professional you are making a complaint against, so the first step is to speak to their manager and then inquire as to who you can make a formal complaint to.
Usually, you’d make a formal complaint to the hospital trust or to a dedicated complaints manager. Again, an apology as a result of a formal complaint does not necessarily mean that you have a claim for medical negligence. Formal complaints must be made within 13 weeks of the incident.
Making the Claim
When you actually start the formal claims process and instruct a lawyer to make the claim on your behalf, the first thing they’ll want to know is your story.
Have everything clear in your mind, and write down the story from start to finish, beginning with your negligent treatment and ending with the illness or injury you’re suffering from as a result of that treatment and how that illness is impacting on your life. Include as much detail as possible, such as dates, times and exact injuries or symptoms.
The next step is to access your medical records. Everyone has the right to request their medical records, and so you can go to your GP or family doctor and ask them for a copy of your medical records. Your lawyer can also access these records on your behalf.
These records are needed so that your lawyer can take a look at your injuries or your illness and at the incident that may have caused that illness, to decide whether or not they can pursue a claim on your behalf. Your lawyer will use your story, along with your medical records to make their decision.
If they don’t think that a claim would be successful, they will usually turn down your case and explain why they don’t think you have a successful claim. You have three years from the date of the injury or the knowledge of the injury to start the claims process.
Making the Claim
Once the lawyer has decided that you have a successful claim, they will then instruct a medical expert to review your case. This medical expert should be an expert in the type of treatment that you received, and they will be able to give an unbiased opinion as to whether or not the treatment that you received was negligent, and whether or not that negligence directly caused your illness.
The expert should then make judgement as to how long they think it will take you to recover and what they think you’ll need in terms of treatment to get on the road to recovery.
Once witness statements have been gathered from both sides, including you, the individual or institute that you’re claiming against and any other individual that may be involved, such as your partner or your doctor’s manager, your lawyers will then send a Letter of Claim to the individual that you’re claiming against.
This letter will contain all of the allegations that you’re making, and the defendant – the individual or institute that you are making the claim against, will then have three months to respond. The response may involve a wish to settle out of court, or your lawyers may be able to negotiate with the defendant to settle out of court – and this is the most common outcome.
If the defendant denies the claims that you are making or is unwilling to negotiate, your case may then go to court. Once the case goes to court, your lawyer will be with you every step of the way to explain the process. Claims in court can be scary, but having an experienced medical negligence lawyer at your side will make the whole process a little easier.
This was a guest post by Richard Rhodes. I have no experience of claiming a medical negligence, nor I am aware of the procedure. Strongly advice my readers to consult lawyers before deciding on anything like this nature.