What is medical negligence?
Medical negligence (also known as clinical negligence) is where health professionals fail in their duty of care to you. It covers any wrong, accidental or substandard care by medical professionals that causes a patient injury or makes an existing condition worse. This is usually by incorrect action or a failure to act.
There are many different types of medical negligence – from incorrect treatment and surgical errors to misdiagnosis and dental negligence. A medical negligence claim is different to a personal injury claim. As the claimant, you must prove two things: fault and avoidable harm caused. This means demonstrating that medical staff failed to fulfil their responsibilities to you as a patient and that this failure caused you harm that should have been avoidable.
According to NHS Resolution, the body responsible for resolving medical negligence cases, there were over 16,300 compensation claims made against the health service in 2017/18. Over 8,800 cases – that’s 54% – resulted in damages awarded, across medical specialties including A&E, orthopaedics (bones, joints, muscles and soft tissue), obstetrics (pregnancy and childbirth) and general surgery.
Sadly, clinical negligence carries the risk of life-changing consequences for patients – whether through physical injury or psychological trauma in its aftermath. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the medical treatment you’ve received, we’re here to help you get the compensation you deserve.
What is medical negligence?
Types of medical negligence
Medical negligence is a broad term that describes a wide range of experiences. Below are some examples of where we can help. It’s not an exhaustive list – so call us free on 0800 376 0150 for a chat if you’d like to find out more.
- Hospital negligence, including claims against private and NHS hospitals for illness caused by incorrectly dressed or cleaned wounds or the development of pressure sores.
- Hospice negligence, including injuries and incorrect medication.
- Dental negligence causing damage to the teeth, gums and jaw.
- Injuries during or after general surgery.
- Misdiagnosis of a medical condition which can lead to incorrect treatment.
- Medication errors where the wrong medication has been given or prescribed.
- Birth injuries including injuries to both mother and infant, whether it is during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia, maternal diabetes), during labour (brachial plexus, cerebral palsy) or after the birth (hip dysplasia).
- Care home claims involving the elderly who are particularly vulnerable.
- Claims against a negligent GP.
- Negligent or poorly framed medical advice that prevents the patient making an informed choice.
Surgical ‘Never Events’ are also known forms of medical negligence. These are elementary mistakes in surgery deemed so serious – and so avoidable – that they should never happen. They include incidents like:
- Performing the wrong operation on the right person and vice versa.
- Operating on the wrong part of the body.
- Accidentally leaving a surgical item or other foreign body inside the patient’s body.
- Avoidable post-operative infection.
- Accidental perforation of internal organs.
- Cosmetic procedures causing avoidable scarring or other disfigurement.
Medical mistakes, whether they are surgical or otherwise, can have serious and long-lasting consequences. Common cases can include spinal injuries, brain injuries, orthopaedic injuries, amputations or even misdiagnoses of cancer, so we know how important it is to help make it right when it comes to starting a claim if something has gone wrong.
Medical negligence and mental health
People’s lives can change dramatically after experiencing an injury that was someone else’s fault. They may be unable to work, relationships may suffer, and they may not be able to enjoy things that they did pre-accident. Unfortunately, this can lead to many victims experiencing mental health issues, including increased anxiety, depression and inability to sleep.
Dr Hilary Jones
If you can’t do the things that you normally do, or if your routine is upset through an injury which was no fault of your own, it can be quite devastating.
Our research revealed that a huge 72% of 1,000 people who had experienced an accidental injury had suffered mentally as a consequence. We spoke with Clinical Psychologist Dr Claire Freeman to better understand the impact no fault injuries can have on people’s mental health.
Dr Claire Freeman discusses how #mentalhealth can be affected by injuries | #MakeItRight
If you’ve suffered psychologically due to an accident that wasn’t your fault, we can help. Our friendly advisors are here to listen and talk things through. Get in touch today on 0800 376 0150.
Medical Negligence Claims FAQs
If you’ve been the victim of clinical or medical negligence, we can help you make it right with a compensation claim. Here we answer the most common medical negligence claim questions.
Just click the links below or scroll down the page to find out more.
How do I know if I have grounds for a medical negligence claim?
Medical negligence is when medical professionals breach their duty of care. It covers mistakes across diagnosis, medication, treatment, surgery and general care that cause physical injury, psychological trauma or worsens a pre-existing condition. Clinical negligence applies to all forms of public and private healthcare - from the GP’s surgery, hospital, clinic and care home across dentistry, optometry, rehabilitation and therapy.
The most common medical negligence cases involve misdiagnosis, mis-prescription, botched surgery, substandard advice and injuries in pregnancy or childbirth. In the last year, there were 16,809 cases of medical negligence registered with the Compensation Recovery Unit. If you believe medical or healthcare staff did something – or just as importantly, failed to do something – that caused you physical or psychological harm, then you may have grounds for a medical negligence claim.
How successful are medical negligence claims?
Let’s look at the health service. NHS Resolution is the body that oversees medical negligence claims against the NHS. Their figures show that there were 16,338 claims settled in 2017/18 and that damages were awarded on 8,897 occasions – that’s in 54% of cases.
Medicine is complex and so are medical negligence cases: if you think you’ve been affected, then come and talk to us. You’ll be able to chat through your circumstances with one of our expert legal support advisors - and we’ll give you the options you need to make an informed decision about what to do next.
Who pays for medical negligence claims?
It depends on whether you were affected by treatment through the NHS or while in private hands. If your negligence claim is against the NHS, then any award is settled by NHS Resolution. It’s the specialist insurer that oversees all cases brought against the NHS.
Every healthcare trust in the UK pays NHS Resolution an annual premium. This pays for the damages awarded in successful medical negligence cases. It’s different with claims made in the private medical sector where you claim against the individual rather than the establishment. All medical professionals working privately must carry their own liability insurance. Successful claims will then be settled by the medical professional’s insurance company.
What steps do I take to make a medical negligence claim?
Making a medical negligence claim at such a difficult time can often feel like the last thing you want to do, but it’s always our aim to make the process as simple and stress-free as possible. In fact, the first step is as easy as getting in contact with us for free on 0800 376 0150 to chat over your situation and explore your options.
During your call, we’ll talk about the treatment you received to get a better idea of what happened. Our friendly advisors will never pressure you into making a claim – we’re here to give you free, impartial advice that helps you, at your pace and in your own way.
Dr Claire Freeman
Even just the process of [people] being able to talk to somebody at their own pace about what’s happened without being quizzed can be quite validating for people.
If you do decide you’d like to go ahead with your claim, we’ll choose the right medical negligence lawyer for your case, and can introduce you to them, usually on the same call. They will also speak to you for free and will make sure you know exactly what to expect before they get in touch with the other party to get your claim underway.
Can I claim for medical negligence using No Win No Fee?
Yes, you can almost always arrange no win no fee in medical negligence cases. Agreeing this with one of our clinical negligence solicitors means that there are no upfront costs whatsoever and if you lose your case, you pay nothing to your lawyer.
- If your case succeeds, your medical negligence lawyer is paid via a fixed percentage of your compensation award that was agreed between you both before your claim began. This means there are no hidden financial surprises.
- On very rare occasions, our medical negligence solicitors may be unable to handle your claim on a no win no fee basis. If that’s the case, your lawyer will make your options clear right from the start.
- When operating on the basis of no win no fee, medical negligence cases have no financial risk – giving you access to justice that won’t cost you a penny.
Can I discuss a medical negligence claim on behalf of someone else?
Yes – of course you can. We can help you make a medical negligence claim on behalf of a friend or family member.
If their injuries are serious, they might not physically be able to claim on their own – or, they might not feel ready to speak to us about what they’ve been through. Either way, we can help you make it right for them by giving you free advice about the claims process.
Tragically, medical negligence can be fatal in extreme cases. We know how difficult it can be to cope with the grief of losing a loved one, and we can’t take away what you’ve been through. Losing someone close to you can also put you under financial pressure, which is why we can help you get compensation to cover things like legal costs, funeral fees and any other expenses.
What happens if my child has suffered medical negligence?
While we can’t take away what you and your child have been through, we can help you make a claim on their behalf so that they can receive the support, treatment and rehabilitation they need.
We can help you make a medical negligence claim on behalf of a child any time up until their 18th birthday. Alternatively, they can make a claim for themselves up to three years after they turn 18.
Read more about how we can help with children’s injury claims.
Will I need to attend a medical exam when I start my medical negligence claim?
No, you don’t. Typically, our specialist medical negligence solicitors will complete a Screening Report following a review of your medical records.
Can I make a medical negligence claim against the NHS?
Yes, you can. If you’ve suffered a delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis or negligence because of an NHS professional within the last three years, then it’s likely you can make a claim against the NHS.
Although it may seem daunting, our medical negligence solicitors will be able to take you through the process step-by-step and will keep things as simple and stress-free as possible. Explore more about making an NHS medical negligence claim.
Will my medical negligence claim take money directly out of the NHS budget?
The short answer is no. When you make a medical negligence claim against the NHS, it’s handled by an organisation called NHS Resolution, set up by government to handle medical negligence cases brought by patients against NHS Trusts.
NHS Resolution acts like an insurance company. Each NHS Trust in the UK pays an annual premium to NHS Resolution so that there is always a pot of money available to settle any medical negligence claims made against them.
Think of it like your car insurance. In practice, you may never need the policy because you haven’t had an accident and so no-one has claimed against you. But the law says you have to pay the premium anyway, just in case you do have an accident that’s your fault – and then someone claims against you. The same goes for all NHS Trusts: NHS Resolution is their own specialist insurer.
Medical negligence claims for private healthcare patients work differently. The General Medical Council (GMC) guidelines state that medical practitioners working in private healthcare must take out their own liability insurance to cover negligence claims as they are classed as contractors (rather than as employees like in the NHS).
Consequently, medical negligence claims brought by private patients tend to be a little more complex, may take a little longer and are more likely to go to court.
We can help you with both categories of claims. Call us free on 0800 376 0150 to find out how.
How do medical negligence solicitors prove my case?
All medical staff have a duty of care to treat you properly and avoid causing you unnecessary injury, pain or suffering. During medical negligence cases, our specialist solicitors work hard to prove that the care received was below that which the legal duty of care standards demand.
To do this, they’ll typically examine three key areas:
- Breach of duty – proving that the doctor or medical professional failed to uphold their legal duty of care to you.
- Causation – proving that the treatment you received was the cause of your injury (or caused your condition to get worse).
- Damages – giving clear evidence of the harm you have suffered as a result.
Our medical negligence solicitors will be on hand to guide you step-by-step through the claiming process, so you won’t need to worry about being confused by legal jargon. They’ll also be able to take care of most of the paperwork for you, so you can focus on your recovery.
What will happen to the medical professional who treated me if my negligence claim is successful?
Your claim is completely separate to any inquiry or disciplinary actions that a hospital or GP practice may undertake internally. In less serious medical negligence cases, it’s unlikely there will be any action against the professional concerned.
However, in severe cases, a full investigation is the standard response. Any subsequent disciplinary action will match the circumstances and level of the negligence involved.
The medical negligence lawyer representing you from our experienced panel will always seek to persuade the organisation involved both to review its procedures and to take the necessary steps to ensure the incident isn’t repeated with another patient. Additionally, they will also ask for a formal apology: it’s a principle we think is important.
Will a medical negligence claim affect my current treatment?
If you’re still being treated by the doctor or hospital responsible for the negligence you suffered, then you may understandably be worried that making a medical negligence claim could affect your treatment – or that another incident may occur.
It’s very unlikely that you’ll be treated any differently because of your claim: it’s against the law for a hospital or GP to refuse to treat you because of a complaint or an ongoing compensation claim. However, if you decide you’d like to continue your treatment somewhere different for your own peace of mind, you can ask to be transferred to another hospital or referred to a different doctor.
How long after medical negligence can you claim?
The time limit is three years (36 months) from the date of the medical negligence incident. There’s an official admin procedure our medical negligence solicitors have to follow in order to register your compensation claim: if you have 12 weeks or less until the expiry deadline, there’s very little chance of us being able to help you in time. If you’re approaching that point, then please do call us 0800 376 0150 while we still have time to help you.
There are exceptions to the three-year rule:
- Brain damage: if the claimant has suffered a serious brain injury that has so compromised their psychological functions they can’t claim personally as a result, then there are no time limits on a claim.
- Children: parents, guardians or formal ‘litigation friends’ can claim on behalf of a child or teenager any time until they’re 18. If no claim has been made by their 18th birthday, that child (who is now legally an adult) has three years until their 21st birthday to begin their own claim.
How long do medical negligence cases take?
The time it takes to settle medical negligence cases does depend on the complexity and severity of the claim. It also depends on whether the specialist solicitor we introduce you to is pursuing your claim with NHS Resolution (the government body that handles NHS claims) or with the insurance company of a medical professional working in private healthcare.
The key consideration is establishing where fault lies. Our approved medical negligence solicitors aim to settle the majority of cases within a few months, but medical claims can often be complex. It can sometimes take a couple of years or more to settle very intricate cases. The medical negligence lawyer we appoint for you will have an idea of the time it will take when they’ve assessed your claim.
Will I need to appear in court as part of my medical negligence claim?
The statistics from NHS Resolution Report for 2017/18 show 69.6% of claims were settled without needing formal court proceedings. In that same period, only 0.8% of claims – just 124 cases – went to a full trial. That means just under a third of cases went to litigation, so the chances are you won’t need to make a personal appearance in court.
However, should your medical negligence case be referred to court (usually only when negotiations have broken down), your legal team will prepare you fully so you’re confident and comfortable – and they’ll take care of all the legal heavy-lifting.
How much might I receive if I win my medical negligence claim?
After receiving negligent treatment, you may be feeling alone, frustrated and in pain. To us, it feels wrong that you should have to worry about money on top of everything else. This is especially true if you’ve had to undergo more treatment to put the problem right. You probably didn’t expect to be spending so much time in the hospital, away from loved ones and perhaps unable to work.
As with the time it takes to complete a claim, the amount you could receive will depend on the severity of the medical negligence. When you register your claim with us, the specialist solicitor we appoint for you will examine every impact you’ve suffered so that we can make sure you secure all the compensation you deserve.
Compensation naturally covers discomfort, pain and physical suffering as well as the long-term consequences – or any medical complications – caused by the incident. But clinical negligence incidents may also have a wider financial impact on your life.
Dr Hilary Jones
If you’re off work, you’re worrying about what’s happening at work when you’re not there. You’re losing your confidence; you worry about going back. You might be financially affected.
That’s why our clinical negligence solicitors will look at:
- Lost income and any time off work
- Losses to your future income and any other impacts on your ability to work
- Psychological trauma
- The post-incident care you may have had; even if it was – or still is – given freely by your family and friends
- Any revisions you’ve had (or may need in the future) to your car or home
- Any medical care costs, treatment travel or accommodation expenses as a consequence of the incident
- Any rehabilitation programmes prescribed to you by a medical professional as a result of the clinical negligence incident
- The extra daily expenses you incurred as a result of the incident
- Any negative effects on your social life or interests and hobbies you may no longer be able to enjoy
It’s only after your clinical negligence solicitor has accepted your case on a no win no fee basis and begun negotiations with the responsible party that you’ll have a rough idea of what the compensation amount may be. However, we’ve been helping people through medical negligence cases for 25 years and we’ve built that experience into our handy compensation calculator. Try it out for a ballpark figure.
Katie's medical negligence story
We can help with your medical negligence claim
We all put our absolute trust in medical professionals. When diagnosis, medication, treatment or a procedure goes wrong, the impacts carry the risk of life-changing consequences.
Whether it’s physical injury, the aggravation of an existing condition or the psychological trauma caused, making things right can feel intimidating.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to the medical treatment you’ve received, we’re here to help you get the compensation you deserve with a medical negligence claim.
We’re the UK’s leading provider of personal injury advice, services and support, and have helped recover thousands of pounds in compensation for those who have suffered from medical negligence. Last year alone we helped over 17,000 people who suffered from medical negligence, from misdiagnosis or delay to surgical complications and medication errors.
You can talk to us in absolute confidence, at your pace and in your way. It’s likely that you’ll have many questions on your mind so contact us today on 0800 376 0150 for advice you can rely on.
All our partner solicitor firms are registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the independent governing body of The Law Society that regulates the professional conduct of personal injury solicitors in England and Wales. Our legal partners north of the border are regulated by the Law Society of Scotland.