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Medical negligence

Even if you do what you can – most of the time – to keep yourself as fit and healthy as possible, some visits to your doctor or hospital are unavoidable. When you are ill or injured, it’s natural to put your faith in the medical professionals who should take care of you, but sometimes mistakes are made and your health pays the price. So, how do you decide whether you truly have been the victim of medical negligence? Here are 10 things you need to know…

  1. When you’re seen by your GP or treated in hospital, the medical staff there automatically assume a duty of care. When they fail to live up to that duty, you could be within your rights to make a claim for negligence.
  2. Medical negligence claims aren’t about cashing in on an unfortunate event. The law protects you to make sure you are compensated for a loss, be it emotional or financial. You shouldn’t be left out of pocket because you’ve suffered at the hands of a physician. So, if you’ve been unable to work for an extended period of time, for example, then you should be able to claim what you would have earned.
  3. There are two basic tests used to determine if a case of clinical negligence has occurred. First of all, did the medical professional act in a way similar to the way his peers would have done? Secondly, did the harm happen because of a doctor’s actions, or failure to take action?
  4. Obstetrics and gynaecological claims make up about a third of the compensation payouts from the NHS. When you consider how serious it is if a care failure happens, this is no surprise. If a baby is starved of oxygen at birth for example, they may then need life-long round-the-clock care. Or a delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer could mean the worst happens and you or a loved one pay the ultimate price for a mistake.
  5. The NHS sets aside a fifth of its budget in any year to deal with medical negligence claims. In the last financial year, that meant £22.7bn was taken away from front-line care to make compensation payouts.
  6. Clinical negligence can relate to all areas of treatment, not just hospital care, from your GP surgery to cosmetic clinics, care homes to dental practices.
  7. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer medical negligence claim against GPs and most claims relate to delays in diagnosis.
  8. Around 95% of claims are settled out of court. This is because health trusts neither want the adverse publicity nor the extra costs associated with a public court case.
  9. In general, there’s a three-year time limit involved in making a claim for medical negligence. There are some exceptions though. A child’s three-year time limit doesn’t begin until their 18th birthday and there are also special rules for people who can’t manage their own affairs because of mental disability.
  10. Medical negligence claims can be difficult to pursue so it’s worth getting some professional advice. Choose a solicitor who specialises in this area of the law.

While most of the time, you’ll receive the very best care your doctor, nurse or clinician can provide, mistakes happen and it’s worth making sure you know what you could be entitled to, if the care you receive doesn’t meet standards and expectations.

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