How do I know if a medical professional was negligent?
Medical or clinical negligence occurs when a medical professional makes a mistake and the patient suffers harm as a result. But how do you know that negligent treatment was the cause of your injury, and not the underlying illness or disease?
A medical professional may be negligent if the service they provide fails to meet minimum acceptable standards. This could include improper diagnosis, medication errors or failing to warn you of the risks of surgery.
However, a medical mistake does not automatically entitle you to compensation. You also need to prove that the negligent treatment caused your loss or injury.
Did the doctor breach their duty of care?
All healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, therapists, psychologists and even laboratory workers owe a duty of care to their patients. This means that they must provide a "proper" standard of care so as not to cause their patients harm.
To succeed in a medical negligence claim, you first must show that your treatment fell below the standard expected of a reasonably competent professional in that particular field of medicine. This is known as the "Bolam Test" after a landmark decision in the case of Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee (1957) 1 WLR 583.
It does not matter that an individual doctor or group of doctors might have carried out a different treatment. If the healthcare professional acted in a way that was acceptable to most other professionals in the field, your claim probably will not succeed.
Did the breach cause your injuries?
The second limb of the test is showing that the doctor's negligence (and not the underlying condition) directly caused or significantly contributed to your injuries. This is often difficult to prove. For example, a doctor might fail to diagnose a rare medical condition, but if there is no treatment available for that condition then receiving an early diagnosis would not have changed the outcome of the disease. In legal terms, there is no "causation."
Proving a claim
Proving negligence and causation means gathering lots of medical and other evidence to show that the doctor breached their duty of care and the treatment they delivered (or failed to deliver) caused you harm.
In the first instance, your legal team will thoroughly review your medical records. These will be sent to an independent medical expert who will compile a detailed report. If the report confirms that the doctor was at fault and caused you avoidable harm, then it will form the basis of your claim.
Choosing a solicitor to handle your claim
Legal aid is no longer available for most medical clinical negligence claims and cost can be a real barrier to bringing a claim.
Some solicitors will take your claim on a No Win, No Fee basis. This means that there is no risk to you. If your claim is not successful, you do not have to pay your solicitor's legal fees.
The panel of solicitors offer specialist and sympathetic clinical negligence advice with a free initial interview to assess the strength of your claim.
To find out about making a no win, no fee injury claim for medical negligence claimants, please call us on 0800 612 7456 or email us today.
Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher
About the author
Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.