What is medical negligence and how do I know if I have a case?
By definition, medical negligence (also known as clinical negligence or medical malpractice) is the improper, unskilled, or negligent treatment of a patient by a physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist or other healthcare professional.
Medical negligence can take a number of forms including:
- Incorrect treatment
- Surgical mistakes
- Prescribing inappropriate medication
- Damage to child before, during or after birth
- Not giving a person the treatment they need
- Not being told about the risks of a proposed treatment
- Delay in the provision of appropriate treatment
Thankfully, although hundreds of thousands of people are treated every day across the country for various injuries and illnesses, they are almost all treated with the utmost care and achieve the best possible outcome. However, sometimes, things can go wrong and patients can unfortunately suffer significant consequences.
If you feel that you were not treated to the high standards that a medical practitioner should adhere to, you might be able to claim compensation. However, everyone should be made aware that compensation is about recognising the suffering undergone and ensuring the victim is not financially worse off as a result of the negligence suffered. It is not in place to punish the medical practitioner or change a policy, although that may be undertaken separately by the organisation responsible.
Do I have a case?
Doctors and medical staff can sometimes get things wrong without being considered negligent. For a procedure to be negligent, the clinician must have done something, or failed to do something, that the profession would consider standard. This is why any medical negligence claim must be judged in context and with the involvement of other medical professionals.
If you are suffering from pain or secondary effects that were clearly explained to you prior to treatment, you cannot claim medical negligence. For a claim to move forward, you’ll have to prove that an unfavourable and unexpected outcome occurred.
And finally, you will also have to demonstrate that you suffered losses caused by any medical negligence. This doesn’t just mean financial losses but also the wider impact of the suffering. The value of the claim is split into general damages, the sum given for your pain and suffering, loss of amenity (the loss of ability to do things you once enjoyed) and special damages (financial losses such as loss of earnings, lost pensions, costs of required care, etc).
If you think you have suffered medical negligence, or have any questions regarding a medical treatment gone wrong, GA’s personal injury team can help.
Matthew Sheather, partner and head of personal injury
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