If you believe you are the victim of clinical negligence and have suffered injury as a result, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible as there are strict time limits for making a claim.
We will usually advise you to speak to the doctor or medical practitioner in charge of your care in order to obtain an explanation of what happened. It is clearly important that any concerns, complaints or claims arising from the treatment are resolved as quickly, efficiently and professionally as possible. Sometimes there may have been a genuine misunderstanding that can be resolved without the need for a formal complaint or a claim.
If the issue cannot be resolved by discussion the next step would be to make a formal complaint by writing to the complaints manager at the hospital or to the practice manager at a GP surgery. This is designed to provide patients with an explanation of what happened and an apology if appropriate. However, it is not designed to provide compensation for cases of negligence.
If your solicitor believes that you have grounds for pursuing a claim for compensation for clinical negligence one of the first steps taken would be to obtain copies of the relevant medical records. The records should be provided by the GP or hospital within 40 days of the request failing which an application can be made to the Court for an order for pre-action disclosure.
The records will then need to be carefully considered and analysed by the solicitor and by an independent medical expert to decide whether there are grounds for pursuing the claim. For a claim to succeed it will be necessary to prove that the health care provider was negligent and that the patient suffered injury or loss as a result.
If there are grounds for pursuing a claim then a letter of claim will be sent to the hospital or the GP setting out the basis of the claim. The letter will contain a clear summary of the facts on which the claim is based including the alleged adverse outcome and the main allegations of negligence. It will also provide brief details of the Client’s injuries, treatment, progress, current condition and prognosis with an outline of the financial losses and expenses that have been incurred. The letter of claim must provide sufficient information to enable the Defendant to commence investigations and to put an initial valuation on the claim.
A Defendant should acknowledge the letter of claim within 14 days of receipt and should identify who will be dealing with the claim on its behalf.
Within 4 months of the letter of claim the Defendant should provide a reasoned answer stating whether the claim or any part of the claim is admitted. If the claim is denied the Defendant should include specific comments on the allegations of negligence and the events and facts which are in dispute.
If the parties are able to reach an agreement on liability but time is needed to resolve the value of the claim they should aim to agree a reasonable period for the claim to progress.
If the Defendant issues a full denial of liability then it may be necessary to issue court proceedings. However, proceedings should not be issued until 4 months from the letter of claim unless there is a limitation problem or there is a good reason why proceedings should be issued early.