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Medical Negligence

Wolferstans is one of the leading law firms in the country providing specialist legal services to victims of medical negligence (also referred to as clinical negligence) in England and Wales.

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, handling everything from low value claims worth a few thousand pounds to multi-million pound claims.

With extensive experience in handling these complex and sensitive claims and a proven track record of success, we are often able to win cases without you needing to go to Court. This means we can help you resolve your claim faster, at a lower cost to you and without the stress of attending a Court hearing in most cases.

We offer a free initial no obligation consultation during which we will be able to tell you if you have a claim that justifies further investigation.

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Our medical negligence compensation claims service

We offer a comprehensive service for all types of medical negligence claims (sometimes referred to as ‘clinical negligence claims’), which goes beyond simply helping you to claim compensation. Our excellent links to a wide range of related organisations means we can assist you with getting the support you need.

Find out more about the different types of medical negligence claims we handle.

Find out more about the process of making a clinical negligence claim.

No win, no fee medical negligence claims

In many cases, we are able to represent clinical negligence clients on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, also known as a ‘conditional fee agreement’. This means you pay no legal fees or expenses up front. You will only have to make a contribution towards your legal costs if you receive compensation.

The amount you pay will be based on a percentage of any settlement we secure, so you will have complete transparency from the outset and will always get the maximum benefit from any compensation we win for you.

We may also advise you to take out legal expenses insurance. This covers the defendant’s legal costs and your own expenses during the claim e.g. court fees and fees for obtaining medical records or experts reports if your claim is unsuccessful. You will be responsible for paying the insurance premium for this policy, if you win, however, you may be able to recover from your opponent that part of the insurance premium which relates to the risk of having to pay for experts’ reports relating to the liability issues in your claim. If your claim is unsuccessful, the insurance premium is not payable.

We will be happy to discuss the need for legal expenses insurance when you first get in touch with our team.

Find out more about funding a medical negligence claim.

Medical negligence claims time limits

In general, there is a three-year time limit to bring a claim for clinical negligence. This means you will usually need to issue Court Proceedings to pursue a claim within three years of the medical negligence occurring.

However, if you do not immediately realise that you have suffered an injury as a result of medical negligence, the three-year time limit will normally only apply from the time you became aware of the problem e.g. when later examined by another doctor or healthcare professional.

There are two main exceptions to the three-year time limit:

When the injured party is a child – The three-year time limit only comes into effect once they turn 18. They therefore have until their 21st birthday to issue Court Proceedings to pursue a claim.

When the injured party lacks mental capacity – If the person affected by the medical negligence lacks the capacity to bring a claim for themselves, e.g. if they suffered serious brain damage, there is no time limit for someone else to bring a claim on their behalf. If they later regain capacity, e.g. wake up from a coma, the normal three-year time limit will apply from the point where they regain capacity.

Our expertise in clinical negligence claims

Our team of dedicated, specialist medical negligence lawyers have decades of experience helping clients to claim compensation under even the most challenging circumstances. With a proven track record of successful claims, often achieved without the need for you to attend court, we can make claiming medical negligence compensation as simple and effective as possible.

Wolferstans is Lexcel accredited by the Law Society, reflecting the excellence of our practice management and client care. We are also accredited by the Law Society for Clinical Negligence in recognition of the particular strength of our work in this area.

Our team includes members of a wide range of organisations related to their specific expertise in the area of medical negligence, including:

  • Headway – the brain injury association
  • The Spinal Injuries Association
  • The Brain Injury Group
  • APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers)
  • AvMA (Association Against Medical Accidents)
  • Specific members of our team have been accredited by the Law Socitey, AvMA and APIL as Clinical Negligence Specialists as well as by APIL as Brain Injury Specialists.

Common questions about medical negligence claims

Medical negligence (also known as clinical negligence) is a mistake or omission made by a doctor, nurse, GP, dentist, or other health professional, which falls below a ‘reasonable standard of care’ such that no responsible body of similar health professionals would have acted in that way.

Medical negligence includes claims against NHS Trusts (providing hospital, community and mental health care), the ambulance service, GPs, dentists, pharmacists, opticians, private doctors, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, the Ministry of Defence, and therapists providing alternative/complimentary medicine.

In any medical negligence claim the Claimant (the person bringing the claim) has to prove four key elements of the case, namely: Duty of Care, Breach of that Duty, Causation and Damage.

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 recognises 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?

Damage is a term used to describe the injury that has been suffered as a consequence of negligent care and all financial losses and expenses resulting from it.

There are various types of evidence that will normally be required to show that the care you or a loved one received was negligent. This will usually include:

  • Your/your loved one’s medical records
  • Your/your loved one’s account of what occurred during treatment
  • Witness evidence from anyone else who can confirm what occurred during treatment
  • Expert evidence from independent medical professionals

Birth injuries are the only type of medical negligence claim that can still qualify for legal aid. This includes if the child has suffered a severe disability due to a neurological injury sustained during the mother’s pregnancy, the birth or the first eight weeks of the child’s life.

The criteria that needs to be met is as follows:

Clinical negligence caused a “neurological injury” to the child and as a result the child is severely disabled (meaning physical or mental disability).

The clinical negligence occurred:

  • While the child was in his or her mother’s womb; or
  • During or after the child’s birth; and
  • If the child was born before the beginning of the 37th week of pregnancy, the period of eight weeks beginning with the first day of what would have been that week; or
  • If the child was born during or after the 37th week of pregnancy, the period of eight weeks beginning with the day of the child’s birth.

We will be happy to advise you on your eligibility and the process to apply for legal aid funding.

Before choosing to pursue a claim, it is important to understand the likely time frame to reach a settlement. Typically, it can take up to a year to gather the necessary evidence for a claim and the speed with which we can achieve a resolution will then largely depend on whether the defendant is willing to accept liability and offer a suitable settlement.

Medical negligence claims commonly take around 12-18 months, but it is not unusual for a claim to take 3 years or more to resolve, depending on the circumstances.

This will depend entirely on the circumstances, including how serious the injury or injuries were and the impact on your or your loved one’s health. We will advise you of the likely settlement value at the outset so you have a realistic picture of what level of compensation we may be able to win for you.

There are two main types of damages you can normally claim for medical negligence:

General damages – These cover non-financial losses e.g. compensation for pain and suffering and changes to your lifestyle, such as having to give up a favourite hobby and future financial losses that will be incurred as a result of the injury sustained.

Special damages – These cover specific financial losses which you have already incurred up to the date of settlement e.g. treatment costs, buying special equipment and loss of earnings as a result of having to give up work.

Medical negligence claims can usually be resolved without the need for you to appear in court in most cases. Using the Ministry of Justice’s Pre-Action Protocol for the Resolution of Clinical Disputes it is normally possible to reach a settlement through negotiation and other non-confrontational dispute resolution methods. This means claims can typically be resolved faster and at a lower cost to you while allowing you to avoid the need to attend a court hearing.

In the unlikely event that your case does go to court, you will normally be required to give evidence, but this is not something you should worry about at the outset of your claim.

If the person affected by medical negligence does not have the mental capacity to bring a claim for themselves or if they are a child, you can pursue a claim on their behalf. You will need to be appointed as a ‘litigation friend’ for the person the claim is related to, giving you the legal right to make decisions about their case.

In a case that involves someone who has died as a result of medical negligence the claim can be pursued by their personal representative to recover damages on behalf of their estate and also for their dependants.

Further information about medical negligence claims

For more information about medical negligence claims, please take a look at our news, blogs and our series of helpful leaflets covering specific issues.

To arrange a free initial no obligations consultation and find out more about starting a medical negligence compensation claim, contact us.