Are you considering whether you should pursue a medical negligence case? You may have suffered due to an error by a medical professional and be looking for an apology or compensation. This article looks at some of the steps to take towards deciding if you have a case for legal action and pursuing a medical negligence case.
Do you have a case worth pursuing?
The first and most important thing to establish is whether your case is worth pursuing; if there is a likelihood of you succeeding should you take it forward. You need to take the emotions out of it if you can. You may be upset and angry if you have not received the medical treatment you hoped for, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there has been an act of negligence. Try to look at the facts and ask yourself the following questions:
Was a medical practitioner to blame?
If so, did they act unprofessionally?
Did they act against regulations or standards?
If the answer to these is yes, then you may have a case.
For a medical negligence case to be successful four elements must be satisfied.
- A duty was owed; a medical practitioner or healthcare provider was responsible for your care
- A duty was breached; a medical practitioner or healthcare provider didn’t conform to standards
- The breach caused an injury; the duty that was breached resulted in injury or illness
- Damage was done; damage has been done due to the injury caused
The four elements above must be proven for a medical negligence claim to be successful. If you don’t believe these can be satisfied then pursuing the case is likely to end in disappointment.
Examples of medical negligence
Below are the most common examples of medical negligence:
- A doctor failed to diagnose a condition
- The wrong medicine was prescribed
- A mistake was made during a procedure, such as an operation
- A patient has been treated without their consent or the consent of their family where consent is required
- A patient has suffered from side effects of treatment or medication that they were not warned about
If you have suffered due to one of the above then it may be worth carrying a case forward, but there are also other types of cases where negligence may have occurred.
Initial legal advice
If having thought through your situation and having considered the facts you think you might have a case then the next step is to seek some professional advice. You should consult a legal expert before making a final decision to pursue a case. You want to speak to someone who will tell you what they think based on the facts and their professional opinion, and not just tell you what they think you want to hear.
Hiring a solicitor
After having consulted a legal expert you should know for certain whether to continue with your quest for justice. This is when it is time to seek a solicitor to act on your behalf. It is important that you hire someone who specialises in medical negligence, as their experience will be invaluable. It is even better if it is someone with experience in dealing with cases similar to your own. If you have suffered due to a botched operation, for example, then a solicitor who has successfully gained compensation for a client who suffered similarly would be ideal.
You should start by researching a number of solicitors, not just one. Take on board any recommendations from people you know and search for opinions online to gauge the experiences of past clients. If you can find a solicitor who appears to be a particular authority in medical negligence law then that is a good sign of someone likely to do a good job in representing you.
From your research you should draw up a list of several medical negligence solicitors before trying to narrow them down. You will want to meet a few if you can. When you meet a solicitor you should discuss their experience as well as your case and their thoughts on it. You shouldn’t forget to talk about cost either. While costs can’t usually be specified to an exact figure, they should be able to give you some idea. Their expectations of your case should also be discussed but it is important not to automatically choose the solicitor who gives you the best news.
Preparing the evidence
You should document everything related to the case right from the start. This should include any thoughts you have as to what happened, anything that could act as evidence, and anything your doctor or another medical practitioners tells you. Obtaining your medical records is important as it can be the most important piece of evidence of all. Making sure you record your version of events is key as your memory could fade over time (this can always be amended if necessary). Note any pain or suffering that you experience that may have been caused by the incident, even if you are unsure.
Your solicitor needs to obtain statements from anyone key in your medical treatment or anything that led to what you perceived to be negligence. He/she should also gather the opinions of independent experts, as they will be able to give an authoritative view of what happened. They can back you up with a professional argument.
The above are some of the key steps in carrying forward a medical negligence case, something that can be a long and stressful process. Eventually your case might lead to an out-of-court settlement or in it going through the courts. Ultimately, the aim is to gain compensation for your suffering so you can move on with your life. It is crucial that you receive the right professional advice, both prior to deciding whether to pursue a case, and throughout any legal proceeding.