When you are treated by a medical professional, you trust them to safeguard your health at all times. If they make an error, it can have devastating consequences for your physical and mental wellbeing, leaving you and your loved ones dealing with a number of long-term problems that can have a major impact on your quality of life.
If you or a loved one have been harmed as a result of medical negligence, claiming compensation is often the only way to ensure you have the support you need to deal with the consequences. Having the right legal support can give you the best chance of achieving a fair outcome as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, so you can get on with rebuilding your life.
Devonalds’ highly experienced medical negligence solicitor work from offices across South Wales, including in Bridgend and throughout Rhondda Cynon Taff. We work with clients pursing claims against a wide range of medical professionals, including doctors, dentists, nurses and cosmetic surgeons.
We can assist you will all types of medical negligence claims, including:
- Birth injury claims
- Brain injury claims
- GP negligence claims
- Hospital negligence claims
- Misdiagnosis and late diagnosis claims
- Claims for surgical errors
- Dental accident claims
- Cosmetic surgery claims
We understand how daunting the prospect of pursuing a medical negligence compensation claims can be, so aim to make the process as easy and straightforward as possible. We promise to deal with your case as swiftly and cost-effectively as possible and, most importantly, to treat you with the dignity you deserve.
With more than 30 years’ experience in medical negligence claims, we have the skills and specialist legal knowledge you need to achieve the best result possible for you. In most cases, we can resolve medical negligence compensation claims without the need for court action, making the process faster, less expensive and less stressful for you.
How medical negligence claims work
Claims are generally now resolved using the Ministry of Justice’s Pre-Action Protocol for the Resolution of Clinical Disputes. This is designed to allow claims to be dealt with faster and at lower cost to both claimant and defendant by avoiding the need for court action in most cases.
The Pre-Action Protocol involves various steps and our medical negligence claims team can guide you through them all effectively to give you the best chance of a fair outcome.
Building your case – This typically involves obtaining your medical records, speaking to witnesses and examinations by independent medical experts to clearly establish the facts of the case.
Issuing a claim – Once we have a clear picture of what happened and the impact on your/your loved one’s health, we will issue a letter of claim to the defendant (usually an NHS Trust or other organisation, rather than an individual). This will lay out all the details of your claim and how much compensation you are seeking.
The defendant’s response – The defendant is required to reply within 4 months, either accepting full of partial liability for the negligence or denying responsibility. If they accept some degree of liability, they are likely to make an offer of compensation at this time. It will be up to you to decide whether to accept any compensation offered.
Issuing court proceedings – If the defendant denies liability or you cannot agree a satisfactory settlement, we will then issue court proceedings, requesting a court hearing where a judge will resolve the matter. You will be issued with a hearing date which will often be around 18 months from the time proceedings are issued.
Pre-trial settlement negotiations – While we wait for your hearing date, we will attempt to negotiate a pre-trial settlement with the defendant wherever possible. This can involve a number of approaches, including alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods, such as mediation and arbitration. In most cases, we are able to resolve claims at this stage, allowing you to avoid the need to attend a hearing.
Court hearing – If we cannot agree a pre-trial settlement, the matter will normally need to be resolved in a court hearing with the final decision being in the hands of a judge. We will ensure you have the best possible support and representation during any court hearing that takes place, giving you the strongest chance of a fair result.
No win, no fee medical negligence claims
In many cases, we are able to represent our medical negligence clients on a no win, no fee basis, also known as a ‘conditional fee arrangement’. This means that you only pay us if we win a settlement for you, with our fees being based on a percentage of that settlement. That way, you never end up out of pocket.
Alternatively, you may be able to fund your claim through a pre-existing insurance policy, if you have a policy that covers legal expenses. This is sometimes included as an optional extra with some home insurance policies, so is worth checking if this is part of your policy when considering making a claim.
Common questions about medical negligence claims
What is the legal definition of medical negligence?
Medical negligence means more than simply a healthcare professional making a mistake with your care. For their care to be negligent, you need to be able to show that it fell below acceptable medical standards. This means that any competent medical professional under the same circumstances would not have behaved in the same way.
To make a successful claim for medical negligence, you will also need to show that the error or errors made directly contributed to your ongoing health issues.
What is the difference between medical negligence and clinical negligence?
Medical negligence and clinical negligence both mean the same thing. In general, official bodies such as the courts and the Ministry of Justice tend to prefer the term ‘clinical negligence’ while, in our experience, most ordinary members of the public tend to use the term ‘medical negligence’.
How much compensation can you get for medical negligence?
Exactly how much you can claim will depend on a number of things, including:
- The seriousness of the error
- The impact on your health
- Whether the defendant offers a pre-trial settlement that you are willing to accept
There are two main types of compensation you can pursue:
Special damages – To cover financial losses e.g. cost of treatment, travel, specialist equipment, lost earnings etc.
General damages – To cover non-financial losses e.g. compensation for pain and suffering and/or changes to your lifestyle such as having to give up a favourite hobby.
How long do you have to make a medical negligence claim?
There is normally a 3-year time limit for bringing a medical negligence compensation claim. This 3-year window will either be counted from the time the negligence occurred or the time you because aware of it, is this happens later (for example, if a problem is only found when you are examined by another doctor).
However, if the negligence occurred during the treatment of a child, the 3-year time limit only comes into effect once they turn 18. They therefore have until their 21st birthday to start a claim.
If a loved one has been left without the capacity to bring a claim by themselves e.g. due to serious brain damage, you can bring a claim on their behalf. In such circumstances, there is no time limit for bringing a claim, unless the patient later regains capacity. If this happens, e.g. they wake up from a coma, the 3-year time limit will be counted from the time they regain capacity.
How do you prove medical negligence?
Proving medical negligence can be complicated and usually relies on various types of evidence, including:
- Medical records
- Your testimony and testimony of other witnesses, including medical staff
- Testimony from independent medical experts
How much does it cost to make a medical negligence claim?
There are two main costs for making a medical negligence compensation claim:
- Legal fees – for your solicitors (and barrister if required)
- Legal expenses insurance – covering you against the risk of having to pay the defendants legal fees if you lose your claim
We will clearly explain these costs at the outset and ensure you have a full picture of how much your claim is likely to cost before deciding to proceed.
Can you get legal aid for clinical negligence claims?
Legal aid for most types of medical negligence claims was abolished in April 2013, meaning you will normally have to fund the cost of your claim yourself. The exception is for some types of birth injury claims, so please discuss this with us if you believe you may be eligible.
Why choose Devonalds’ medical negligence claims solicitors?
Our medical negligence claims solicitors in South Wales have decades of experience helping our clients to successfully secure compensation for a wide range of issues under even the most complex and difficult of circumstances.
We offer a friendly, practical approach to make this often worrying and potentially stressful process as easy and supportive as possible. With our strong focus on non-confrontational dispute resolution, we are usually able to find a solution without the need for court proceedings, allowing our clients to avoid a court hearing in most cases.
When you choose us to handle your medical negligence compensation claim, we will provide a clear indication of the strength of your claim and the likely timeframe and costs involved up front, giving you complete clarity over what to expect. We will ensure everything is explained in plain English and that you are kept full up-to-date at all times, allowing you to have complete confidence in our service and the results we achieve.