What is Clinical Negligence? How to tell if you have a claim

Published: 25th May 2022

If you have been injured as the result of medical negligence, you may be wondering what your next steps should be.

What is Clinical Negligence, or as it used to be called Medical Negligence?

Clinical negligence is a term used to describe any situation in which a patient has suffered harm as a result of the negligence of a healthcare professional. This could include hospital doctors, GP’s, nurses, dentists, or any other medical professionals whether in the NHS, or private. If you feel that you have suffered as a result of clinical negligence, it is important to speak with an experienced lawyer who can help you determine if you have a case and guide you through the process.

Clinical negligence can have a variety of consequences for the victim. Some of the most common injuries suffered as a result of medical negligence include:

  • Brain damage
  • Burns
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Birth injuries
  • Eye injury
  • Heart attack
  • Loss of a limb
  • Internal injury

These are just a few examples, and you may have suffered other types of injuries that are not listed here. No matter what type of injury you have sustained, if you believe that it was the result of  negligence, it is important to speak with a solicitor.

If you have suffered any of these injuries, or any other type of injury as a result of clinical negligence, you may be eligible to file a negligence claim.

What constitutes clinical negligence?

Every person in their job, whether they are a bus driver or a bricklayer, or a doctor has a legal responsibility to use reasonable skill and care.

But for doctors, there is an added layer of protection; If a doctor reaches the standard of a responsible body of medical opinion within their speciality, they are not negligent. So, if a doctor makes a decision which turns out to be wrong, that in itself does not make that doctor negligent. If a doctor makes a decision or gives treatment which most of the doctors would disagree with, as long as a responsible body of doctors would agree with quality of treatment, there is no negligence. If a GP decides on treatment which a specialist would disagree with, the GP is not negligent if a responsible body of GPs would agree with them.

The main exception to this rule relates to a duty on a doctor to properly inform the patient of all the reasonable options for treatment, and the risks and benefits of each, before asking the patient to consent to treatment. In that case, the doctor does not just give the options that a responsible body of doctors would but must give such information as that patient would consider material to their decision as to what treatment to have.

How to prove clinical negligence?

A judge will consider evidence from lots of different sources when deciding on whether a doctor has been clinically negligent. He will need to decide what happened, perhaps many years ago, and why it happened. The judge will look at the medical records which document what the doctors and nurses were doing at the time and why. He will also have witness statements which will say what people saw at the time. Lastly the judge will have reports from expert witnesses, who will give their opinion as to whether treatment by the doctors and nurses was negligent. Very often there will be expert witnesses with differing views and a judge will have to decide whose evidence is most likely to be correct.

Most of the time of course the clinical negligence claim is settled without going to trial. Lawyers for the claimant and defendant will show each other their evidence and then try to come to a negotiated settlement. And only if they cannot agree will the case go to trial.

How is clinical negligence compensation calculated?

When a person is injured due to clinical negligence, they are entitled to compensation. Lawyers value the injuries by looking at past reported court cases where judges have awarded compensation for similar injuries. These past cases are called precedents. Lawyers also rely upon a book called the Judicial College Guidelines, which gives a recommended bracket for the damages for most types of injury.

Of course, when somebody is injured, it can affect every part of their lives, and can cause them to lose money or have to spend money. For example, they might have taken time off work, or never be able to work again. They might need somebody to look after them whilst they get better, or perhaps for the rest of their lives. They might need private medical treatment to make them better, or to help them cope with their injury. They would expect to claim those additional losses as part of their damages.

Where a person dies because of the doctor’s negligence though, the rules for calculating damages are very different, and are dealt with in another article.

How do I know if I have a case?

In order to determine whether or not you have a case, your lawyer will need to review the facts of your situation and assess the evidence. This will involve your solicitor getting your medical records, taking witness statements, and hiring consultants to advise whether the treatment was negligent, and what injuries have been caused.

To find out more about medical negligence and how to file a claim, contact Liddy’s Solicitors today for a free consultation.