Wolferstans is recognised as one of the leading firms in the country providing specialist legal services to the victims of medical negligence.
The medical negligence team at Wolferstans is made up of specialist lawyers who act exclusively for patients who have been injured in the course of their medical treatment. Every year we recover millions of pounds in compensation on behalf of our injured clients.
Our extensive experience in handling these complex and sensitive claims and our proven track record will often enable us to win cases without ever going to Court and we will always try to negotiate or mediate a settlement of your claim, in the first instance.
We offer a free initial no obligation consultation during which we will be able to tell you if you have a claim that may be pursued. To arrange your consultation please contact Kady Kirk on 01752 292360 or send an email by clicking here.
To read some of the success stories and testimonials from our clients, please click here.
Finding the Right Option for you
It will not cost you anything to contact us for initial advice. We are happy to have a confidential discussion with you to advise you whether you have a claim.
If we advise you to make a claim, and you wish to instruct us, we will review all the funding options with you and tell you which one is most appropriate.
Options for Funding your Claim
There are various ways of funding your claim. The most common are:-
- Conditional Fee Agreement - Known as a “No Win, No Fee” agreement.
- Legal Expenses Insurance – Many people have what is known as “Before the Event (BTE)” insurance as part of their motor, home contents or other policy. This may be described as Legal Expenses Insurance or Family Legal Protection or similar. We will check with you whether you have any such cover and, if you do so, will contact the Insurance Company on your behalf, to see whether there is any advantage to you in using that insurance to fund the cost of your case.
- Trade Union – If you are a member of a Trade Union, they may provide some help with legal issues.
If the “No Win, No Fee” option is available, it may be the best option for you.
Legal Aid is now only available in medical negligence cases for children with brain injuries resulting in severe disability which were caused during pregnancy, at the time of birth or in the first 8 weeks after birth.
We can apply for Legal Aid for you, on behalf of your child, in appropriate cases.
You can be confident that if we believe you have a good claim, we will find a way of funding it.
What do I have to prove?
In any medical negligence claim the Claimant has to prove the four key elements of his or her case, namely: Duty of Care, Breach of that Duty, Causation and Injury.
Establishing a duty of care is straightforward in medical negligence cases as there will always be a duty owed by a treating doctor (or midwife, dentist or other similar practitioner) towards the patient, that duty being to take reasonable care of the patient.
Next the Claimant has to prove that there has been a breach of the duty of care, known as “negligence”. To do this it must be proven that the doctor has treated the patient in a manner that no responsible doctor would have done. The law recognizes that there may be a number of treatment options available in any particular case, and a doctor will not be considered negligent unless he or she treats the patient outside the range of reasonable treatment.
Causation is often the single most complicated feature of a medical negligence case. In essence the Claimant must prove that the negligent care has resulted in a worse outcome. This is often difficult as it requires a theoretical assessment of how the Claimant would have been had he or she received proper care. By way of example, it may be possible to prove that there has been a delay in the diagnosis of a fracture – but would an earlier diagnosis have made any difference to the treatment which would have been given and so the outcome?
Injury is a term used to describe all loss and damage which has been suffered as a consequence of negligent care. This can include pain and suffering and financial losses, see the “Process a Claim” section for a fuller explanation.
Every year thousands of people are injured as a result of medical accidents. If you have suffered an injury as a result of negligence from a hospital, GP, dentist or at the hands of any medical practitioner you may be entitled to compensation.
Some of the types of medical negligence compensation claims that our solictors are experienced in handling are listed below.
The loss of one or more limbs is a devastating and life changing event.
Often the need for amputation follows an accident, but within clinical negligence practice we frequently see clients requiring amputations as a result of failure to treat an underlying chronic health condition such as diabetes, or gangrene.
Complications can arise from the amputation itself including heart problems, infection or further, more radical surgery being required.
Patients who suffer an amputation have to deal not only with the loss of a limb but can have associated problems such as phantom limb pain, contractures and psychological problems.
Such clients will need specialist care and assistance, and will likely benefit from intensive therapies and specialist equipment. Such equipment might well include prosthetic limbs which are artificial arms and legs designed to restore some of the function of the amputated limb. There have been spectacular advances in this area over the last few years and we regularly work with one of the top prosthetics clinics in the country.
Please call us for a no obligation discussion of your concerns.
Anaesthesia means "loss of sensation" and the drugs that cause anaesthesia are called anaesthetics.
They are used to stop pain during tests or operations so that you do not feel any pain or pressure and they work by blocking the signals that pass along your nerves to your brain. This allows procedures to be carried out without you feeling anything. When the anaesthetic wears off, the signals will work again and your sensation will come back.
There are lots of different types of anaesthesia, and the majority of them do not make you unconscious, but they stop you feeling pain in a particular area of your body.
Local anaesthetic is mainly used for small procedures to numb the area where the operation is taking place. You will stay awake during a local anaesthetic but you should not feel any pain.
Another type of local anaesthetic, called regional anesthesia, is used for some larger procedures and involves giving an injection into a nerve to stop you feeling pain although you will stay awake. Types of regional anaesthesia are epidural anaesthetic which is used to numb the lower half of your body, during childbirth for example, and spinal anaesthesia used to numb your spinal nerves so that surgery can be carried out painlessly in this area.
A general anaesthetic is used for bigger operations when you need to be unconscious. The anaesthetic stops your brain recognising any signals from your nerves, so you cannot feel anything.
Finally, sedation is given for some minor procedures to make you feel sleepy and to help you to relax.
All anaesthetics are capable of giving side effects and some of the more common side effects are sickness, vomiting, faintness, shivering and feeling cold.
However, there are also some more serious risks and complications which sometimes happen such as permanent nerve damage (causing paralysis or numbness), a serious allergic reaction to the anaesthetic drugs, and death.
For the majority of patients receiving an anaesthetic, there are no complications or side effects, and if there are, they are quickly recognized and dealt with. However, cases of medical negligence do arise in situations where the wrong anaesthetic drugs are given in the wrong dosage, or if patients are not monitored properly. In a small number of tragic cases, this leads to avoidable permanent injury or even death due to an anaesthetic mistake.
If you believe that you, a relative or friend have suffered as a result of an anaesthetic mistake, please contact us and we will do our best to find answers for you. If we can prove that you have been the victim of medical negligence, we will seek to recover compensation for you. We have extensive experience of cases of this type, and our team of experienced clinical negligence lawyers and extensive network of independent expert medical witnesses will work with you to bring your claim to a successful conclusion.
Bowel injuries may be caused in a variety of ways during routine medical treatment.
Although there are undoubtedly significant benefits from laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery compared with open surgery, we frequently see cases where a bowel has been perforated during such procedures. The leaking bowel can rapidly lead to peritonitis, which can have devastating – and occasionally fatal- consequences.
In many cases no negligence attaches to the causing of the perforation itself, although there may be occasions when to perforate would represent substandard care. More usually the focus of the investigation is upon the failure of the doctors to realise that a perforation has occurred, or when the patient is readmitted to consider a perforation as an explanation for their acute illness.
Wolferstans medical negligence team has successfully pursued many such cases including a number of cases where the compensation was over £400,000. If you believe you have suffered an injury as a result please contact us for an initial discussion about your case.
There are many different types of cancer. Cancer is a group of conditions where the body's cells begin to grow and reproduce in an uncontrollable way.
These cells can then invade and destroy healthy tissue, including organs. Cancer sometimes begins in one part of the body before spreading to other parts. This process is known as metastasis.
Unfortunately, cancer is a common condition. Around 298,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK. More than one in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. Treatment for cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy (drug treatment) and radiotherapy.
Treatment for cancer can be highly successful, but much depends on when the diagnosis is made, and how quickly the correct treatment is started and the follow-up and monitoring arrangements afterwards.
Mistakes are sometimes made by medical practitioners resulting in a delay in referring the patient for a specialist hospital appointment, or delays in reaching the correct diagnosis or starting treatment and this can have a serious impact on the overall success rate of treatment.
If you believe that you, a relative or friend have suffered as a result of a medical mistake in cancer care, please contact us and we will do our best to find answers for you. If we can prove that you have been the victim of medical negligence, we will seek to recover compensation for you. We have extensive experience of cases of this type, and our team of experienced clinical negligence lawyers and extensive network of independent expert medical witnesses will work with you to bring your claim to a successful conclusion.
Every year we speak to many people who have concerns about the treatment they receive for heart related conditions.
These may include ischaemic heart disease, angina or they may have suffered a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or have an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia).
Concerns may be raised about the misdiagnosis or failure to recognise an underlying heart problem, by inadequate testing or perhaps the incorrect interpretation of evidence given for example on an ECG (electrocardiogram which records and measures electrical activity within the heart).
Many people will have surgical treatment for their heart condition which may take the form of the insertion of one or more stents or coronary arterial bypass grafting (CABG). Whilst the majority of cardiac surgery will provide a significant benefit surgical complications can occur including heart-attack or stroke. Very rarely surgery can lead to catastrophic and life-threatening complications such as:
- Cardiac tamponade (where the pericardium fills with blood and prevents proper heart function)
- Tension pneumothorax
- Endocarditis (infection of the heart muscle) and
- Severe brain injury
If you believe that you, a relative or friend have suffered as a result of a medical mistake in cardiac care, please contact us and we will do our best to find answers for you. If we can prove that you have been the victim of medical negligence, we will seek to recover compensation for you. We have extensive experience of cases of this type, and our team of experienced clinical negligence lawyers and extensive network of independent expert medical witnesses will work with you to bring your claim to a successful conclusion.
The Cauda Equina gets its name from the latin for “horse’s tail” which it resembles. It is a bundle of nerves at the lower end of the spinal cord and contains the nerve roots from L1-5 and S1-5.
Cauda Equina Syndrome(CES) arises from a compression of the nerves and frequently will develop very quickly, usually, but not always, as a result of a slipped/prolapsed disc. It is a medical emergency and if it is not diagnosed and treated quickly, can result in permanent neurological injury.
Typically the first signs of a developing Cauda Equina are pain in the back, buttocks, saddle, genitals and into the thighs and legs often associated with a tingling or numbness in these areas. This may also include a weakness in the legs, and bladder, bowel or sexual dysfunction.
A change in urinary or bowel function, for example difficulty in passing urine, a lack of the sensation of urinary urgency, or the loss of continence of the bladder or bowel can all be red flag signs which demand emergency medical review.
Cauda Equina is usually diagnosed by MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and will require surgery for decompression. If this is done speedily, then function can often be preserved, but delayed surgery will likely lead to permanent neurological injury. The medical and scientific evidence suggests that early surgery is required to prevent a progression of the condition: in 2000 Ahn et al identified a significant advantage in treating patients within 48 hours of them developing Cauda Equina Syndrome, however Cohles et al in 2004 concluded that there were additional benefits in treating patients within 24 hours of the development of symptoms.
CES is a devastating and life-changing condition which can interfere with many aspects of life. The client may have residual muscle weakness which restricts their mobility, and may suffer problems with bladder and bowel continence, and sexual function which are embarrassing and distressing in their personal and professional lives. Additionally, many suffer chronic neurogenic pain which can lead to depression.
Most legal cases we deal with centre on the failure of a GP or junior hospital doctor to recognize the red flag signs and symptoms, as a consequence of which the CES develops and permanent, intrusive injury is caused. Our team, particularly Barry Bayley, has significant experience in Cauda Equina cases, and would be happy to discuss your concerns regarding you care.
We can help you if your child suffered a birth related injury.
Two children in every 1000 in the UK suffer with a condition known as cerebral palsy. It is caused by damage to the brain before, during or immediately after birth. There are many causes, such as a lack of oxygen, jaundice or infection and the underlying brain damage is permanent. Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disorder of movement.
Approximately 10% of cerebral palsy claims are as a result of complications that happen at birth. In some of those cases it is possible to prove that different management of the birth may have avoided this type of injury happening. In plain, if we can help prove that that there was an avoidable event during childbirth and it caused your child to suffer with a birth injury that resulted in them being diagnosed with cerebral palsy then a claim for damages may be possible.
At Wolferstans we are renowned for our understanding of the issues affecting you and your family due to injuries arising from pregnancy and childbirth, and we know what positive action to take to make a difference to your child’s life.
Our lawyers offer the highest level of professionalism and expertise, combined with dedication and sensitivity.
If you believe that you or your child have suffered an injury during pregnancy, childbirth our specialist solicitors could help you not only to make a claim for compensation but also to cope with your new circumstances.
In severe cases of dental negligence, nerve damage can lead to difficulties with speech and even an altered physical appearance which can have devastating effects which can be permanent.
We will seek the answers to the questions you have about why your dental treatment went wrong, and how a routine root canal treatment, tooth extraction, cosmetic treatment or filling resulted in unwanted and unexpected complications.
Our clinical negligence lawyers have experience and a track record in investigating and claiming compensation for all types of dental claims and we will help you through every stage of the process in a professional and understanding way.
To find out how we can help you, call us now.
There are two important exceptions to the 3 year rule. The first is that if the Claimant is under a disability, the 3 year period only starts to run once that disability has ended. This may, for example be relevant in the case of a person with mental health issues who is unable to manage their affairs, but the category of Claimant most usually affected by this is children. A child does not have capacity to manage his or her affairs until the age of 18, and so in a case brought by a child, the Limitation Act will not apply until their 21st birthday (i.e. 3 years from the date when they ceased to be under a disability).
The second exception is the Claimant’s Date of Knowledge. If a Claimant does not know at the date of the negligence, then his date of knowledge will be later, when he first knew that he suffered a significant injury as a result of the negligence of a particular doctor. The 3 year period will run from that date of knowledge, although sometimes this date can be controversial.
As always, the best course is to CALL US to advise you on this issue.
The department is headed by Elizabeth Smith who is a member of the Law Society specialist medical negligence panel. Many of the team are members of the specialist medical negligence panels operated by the Law Society, the charity AvMA (Action Against Medical Accidents) and APIL (the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers).
The team continue to develop their expertise in particular areas of medicine, see their individual profiles in the ” Our People” section.
£105,000 in compensation awarded for failure to diagnose cervical cancer
Wolferstans pursued a claim on behalf of Mrs X who asked us to investigate a claim concerning a delay in diagnosing cervical cancer.
In June 2004 Mrs X attended her GP surgery for a cervical smear. This was sent to a local Hospital. The slide was reported as negative but it was noted that there was an appearance of cervicitis and it was recommended that a repeat smear be undertaken in 12 months.
Mrs X subsequently attended her GP surgery and underwent a further cervical smear in June 2005 which was again sent to the same local hospital. The slide was again reported as negative and a further smear was recommended in 12 month’s time because of the previous borderline test.
Mrs X underwent a further smear in May 2006 which was reported as negative and as a result returned to three yearly screening tests.
In September 2009 Mrs X underwent a further cervical smear which was again reported as negative.
In 2012 Mrs X fell pregnant and as a result her routine smear test was delayed until May 2013.This slide was reported as showing abnormal cells and Mrs X subsequently underwent a colposcopy. A biopsy was undertaken at the same time and Mrs X was informed she had an invasive cancer of the cervix for which she underwent a hysterectomy. Fortunately Mrs X made a full recovery following the surgery.
Mrs X instructed Wolferstans to investigate a claim as she was concerned that the cancer was so extensive at the time of diagnosis. Wolferstans obtained copies of all of the previous smear tests and it was apparent that these had been reported incorrectly and that Mrs X should have undergone further investigation after each of the smear tests that had been performed. Had the smears been correctly reported in 2005, 2006, or 2009 and referral for colposcopy made on any of these three occasions it would have been possible to treat Mrs X’s cancer with less invasive treatment and she would have avoided the hysterectomy.
Wolferstans undertook investigations into this claim following which we sent a Letter of Claim to the Defendant setting out our allegations of negligence. The Defendant made a full admission and we were able to agree a settlement of £105,000.00.
£80,000 compensation for kidney damage
Mrs B was admitted to the University Hospital in North Durham as an emergency admission via the out of hours GP in May 2008 with renal colic (abdominal pain commonly caused by kidney stones). At this time an ultrasound scan revealed a 5mm stone in her left kidney and she was discharged soon after with a plan to be reviewed by the urology team.
Between May and August 2008 Mrs B presented to her GP on a number of occasions complaining of urinary tract infections and pains and spasms. She eventually attended an appointment at the urology clinic in September. Tests revealed that the stone had probably fallen into the renal pelvis and an urgent ultrasound scan was performed. The scan was undertaken a week later and revealed a small amount of fluid around the stone and Mrs B was transferred to the Defendant Hospital, as her condition was suitable for a lithotripsy, a procedure which uses shock waves to break up stones in the kidney.
Mrs B was admitted to the lithotripsy unit at the Freeman Hospital for shockwave lithotripsy to her kidney stones in December 2008. Prior to her admission she had been told that a urine sample would be tested for infection and an x-ray performed in light of the fact that Mrs B had recently suffered from a recurrent urinary tract infection. This however did not happen and the lithotripsy was performed.
Mrs B was discharged the same day and was subsequently seen by her out of hours GP with pain on the side of her stomach. She was admitted to the accident and emergency department at the Sunderland Royal Hospital where she was diagnosed with an acutely obstructed left kidney and she urgently required a stent to be inserted. Surgery was performed that day and a large amount of pus with multiple stone fragments were found in the ureter. It was clear that the lithrotripsy had only partially disintegrated the stone and the fragment had blocked the ureter.
Mrs B became very unwell with e-coli in her urine and sepsis and she was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit in late December before being discharged home in early January 2009.
Mrs B suffered permanent scarring to her left kidney and continued to experience fatigue post operatively preventing her from returning to work full time.
Wolferstans investigated this claim and alleged that the Defendant was negligent in failing to undertake an x ray and/or failing to test Mrs B’s urine prior to the lithrotripsy procedure. Further it was alleged that the failure to insert a stent at the time of the lithrotripsy caused a blockage and sepsis. The Defendant made some admissions and we were able to agree a settlement of £80,000.00 for the injury sustained.
£5,000 for forefoot amputation
Mr B began to experience problems with his left foot in December 2012. Mr B had been experiencing pain in his foot along with a tingling sensation and after a few weeks decided to see his GP. Mr B was advised that he had athletes foot and was prescribed with a cream to apply. This did not work and the pain was ever increasing so Mr B went back to his GP. Mr B explained that he was still having pain in his foot and that the cream had not worked. He explained that he had shooting pains when walking and a throbbing sensation in his foot. Mr B explained that when he took weight off of his foot the shooting pain would stop but the throbbing would remain.
Mr B was advised to continue using the cream. Mr B had to return to his GP surgery several times over the Christmas period and each time the pain would be worse and he noticed that his toes had started to change colour. The middle toe was a very dark purple and the other toes were a pinkish purple. Mr B was advised that he had an infection and was given antibiotics. Mr B was referred for a Doppler scan to check the blood flow but the appointment was not made urgently.
Mr B was also sent for an X-ray because of the pain that he was in, but this came back as normal. By 17 January 2013 Mr B returned to his GP as his toes were black. H was told that the Doppler results were normal but an urgent referral was then made to the hospital as a vascular problem was suspected.
Mr B attended the hospital on 21 January 2013 and he was told that he would need a graft in his foot as the blood was not circulating properly. Sadly the graft did not work and Mr B had to undergo a forefoot amputation on 28 January 2013.
Mr B had to leave his job as he was unable to operate his vehicle with his amputation. Mr B’s quality of life was dramatically affected and he required the use of a wheelchair as it was still incredibly painful for him to work. Mr B also experienced phantom pain which is when you can feel the part of the limb that use to be there, even though it is not.
Wolferstans settled Mr B’s claim in January 2015 for £5,000.
£50,000 in damages recovered for pressure sores sustained in hospital
Mrs A suffers from MS and is wheelchair dependant. In September 2008 Mrs A was admitted to the Defendant Hospital for treatment of a bladder infection.
The day after her admission Mrs A’s husband visited to find she was still fully clothed from the day before. Staff were unable to locate the appropriate equipment to mobilise Mrs A and as a result she remained in bed for three days during which time she developed pressure sores on her ankles.
Mrs A was then transferred to another ward where staff on this occasion moved her from her bed to a wheelchair using a hoist. However, due to the staff being concerned that they would be unable to get the hoist sling back on if they removed it from underneath her they left it there whilst she was sat in the wheelchair.
Mrs A subsequently developed a pressure sore on her leg, caused by the webbing strap on the sling.
Following discharge two days later, Mrs A required daily dressing of the sores by district nurses and was unable to wear shoes for the eight months during which it took the pressure sores to heal on her ankles.
Despite treatment the pressure sore on her thigh deteriorated and Mrs A also required surgery to repair the same leaving her with a 29 inch scar.
Wolferstans investigated this matter and alleged that the Defendant Hospital was negligent in failing to prepare a comprehensive mobility care plan specific to wheelchair users, failing to undertake preventative measures following a test which revealed Mrs A was at a high risk of developing a pressure sore and for failing to comply with the NICE guidance (guidelines which set the standards for high quality healthcare).
Wewere able to agree a settlement for the client of £50,000 following an admission from the Defendant Hospital that they were in breach of their duty of care towards Mrs A and that as a result of this breach, Mrs A sustained pressure sores.