In the UK, most medical care is provided competently, and without any undesirable consequences. But in the minority of cases where care falls below the accepted standard, a claim of medical negligence might be warranted. Claims of this sort don’t just have to be taken against medical professions; in some cases, it’s an entire facility or institution that can be at systemic fault.
But how should you pursue a claim when you believe that you’re a victim of medical negligence? The process, from the point of view of the claimant, can actually be quite straightforward.
How long do I have?
In the UK, you must start your legal claim within three years of having been made aware of the problem. If you’re under eighteen, then the clock doesn’t start ticking until your eighteenth birthday.
Get a competent solicitor
Medical negligence is actually quite a specialised area of law, and so it makes sense to look for representation with a proven track record for success. They’ll be able to draw upon resources that others might lack.
For example, they might draw in specialised expert witnesses from a range of medical fields. This can be critical, since demonstrating fault in a case of this sort means proving that a competent professional would have acted differently than the negligent one – which in turn means bringing in competent professionals to testify.
Your solicitor will help you to determine liability, and to actually launch the claim on your behalf.
Don’t expect to pay
Most solicitors who specialise in this kind of law will proceed on a no-win, no-fee (or conditional fee arrangement) basis. This means that they’ll assume the risk that the case might fail at the outset. If the solicitor tells you that the case has no merit, then it might be time to reconsider.
Once a claim has been lodged, the defendant must decide whether or not to accept it.
Don’t expect to end up in court
Many of the patients who hesitate before taking action do so because they fear having to put up with a lengthy ordeal in a courtroom. But the reality is that most medical negligence cases are settled well before they reach this stage, with only marginal decisions requiring that the patient attend in person. Even if the defendant rejects the claim, your solicitor will in most cases be able to fight the case without your being there.