A Guide to Claiming Medical Negligence Compensation
If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by medical negligence we can help.
The purpose of this guide is to help anyone who has suffered medical negligence and is considering a legal claim for compensation. If you are looking for medical advice, please see the NHS website.
What is clinical negligence?
Clinical negligence (often referred to as 'medical negligence') is when there has been a 'breach of duty' on the part of a healthcare professional.
A breach of duty means that the standard of care you received was below the standard that could reasonably be expected of a competent healthcare professional.
How does the NHS define clinical negligence?
'a breach of duty of care by members of the health care professions employed by NHS bodies or by others consequent on decisions or judgements made by members of those professions acting in their professional capacity in the course of their employment, and which are admitted as negligent by the employer or are determined as such through the legal process' (source: nhsla.com)
Do I have a medical negligence claim?
Medical negligence claims differ from personal injury claims as the following will need to be established:
- there was a breach of duty ("negligence" or "fault"); and
- the breach of duty was the cause of your injury, damage or loss ("causation" or "avoidable harm").
Breach of Duty
A breach of duty means that the standard of care you received was below the standard that could reasonably be expected of a competent healthcare professional.
To establish causation, it will need to be demonstrated that the injury you suffered resulted from the negligent care rather than the underlying condition.
Get an impartial opinion
To get impartial advice on whether you have a claim, speak to a medical negligence claim expert on 0800 612 7456.
A brief phone consultation will tell you exactly where you stand. There is no obligation to start a claim.
You can also find out if you have a claim with our Online Claim Checker.
Is compensation always payable?
If an error occurred during treatment and the patient was harmed as a result, this may be referred to as an "undesirable outcome".
Not all treatment that results in an undesirable outcome will result in the payment of compensation.
Sometimes an undesirable outcome is due to a known risk associated with the treatment, or due to a mistake that a doctor could reasonably have made in the circumstances.
How long do I have to start a claim?
If your injury is apparent immediately after medical treatment, you will have 3 years to start a claim.
It may be that the negligent procedure happened more than 3 years ago, but your injury was only diagnosed recently, within the last 3 years. If so, you may still be able to make a claim.
What if your injury was diagnosed months or years after treatment?
You may not be immediately aware of your injury. In some cases, months and even years can pass before symptoms appear.
The law allows you to make a medical negligence claim up to three years after the 'date of knowledge' (when you first learned of the injury).
It is recommended that you start a claim as soon as possible, as medical negligence cases can be complex. Starting your claim sooner will give your solicitor more time to gather medical evidence, assess the extent of your injury and to negotiate interim payments and your final compensation amount.
Should you make a complaint before starting a claim?
You may be unsure if you have been a victim of medical negligence.
Using the formal complaints procedure of the hospital or healthcare provider will help you and your solicitor to understand more about the circumstances surrounding your injury.
You do not need to make a complaint on your own. Your solicitor will assist you with the formal complaints procedure for the NHS or private healthcare provider.
See contact details for formal healthcare complaints:
- National Health Service (NHS) - The official channel for complaints about NHS GP's, dentists, hospitals or pharmacists.
- General Medical Council (GMC) - Handles serious complaints about hospital doctors and GPs.
- Health Service Ombudsman - Investigate the NHS and health authorities if the formal complaints process has not resolved the complaint
What if the healthcare provider agrees there has been negligence?
Your solicitor may arrange for you to see an independent medical expert to assess the medical facts. You would not be expected to pay for the medical, as the cost would be covered by your 'No Win No Fee' agreement.
Your solicitor will work with the medical experts to establish what level of compensation will be required to cover the pain and suffering you have experienced.
Your solicitor will also calculate the cost of care and treatment you may require as well as any other costs or losses you have incurred.
Should I use NHS Resolution?
Some claimants choose to use the independent mediation service known as NHS Resolution (formerly NHS Litigation Authority). This service can offer an alternative route to legal action. Approaching NHS Resolution does not prevent you from subsequently taking legal action, if you are unhappy with the outcome.
How can a medical negligence solicitor help you?
Your solicitor will handle your case from initial free consultation through to settlement. Your solicitor will deal with the NHS trust, GP or private hospital responsible for your injury.
In addition to getting you the compensation you need, a solicitor can help you:
- get interim payments in advance of your final compensation settlement
- secure funding for your treatment and other costs
- obtain financial support while you are unable to work.
- access treatments and therapies not always available on the NHS
- co-ordinate with rehabilitation providers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists
- access personal injury trust, tax and welfare benefits advice
Read more about specific types of clinical negligence:
Accident and Emergency (A&E)
Common A&E errors include not checking medical history and examination errors - both of which can lead to a failure to admit the patient to a hospital. You may also be able to claim if you have been harmed as the result of investigation failures following scans, blood tests and X-rays.
If you have experienced A&E negligence, a compensation claim may be possible.
Birth injuries affecting children - Claims may be possible in cases of cerebral palsy resulting from cardiotocography (TCG) errors, errors or delays in using items meant to assist in childbirth such as forceps or ventouse, and delays in performing caesarean sections.
Fractures to legs, arms, shoulders, collarbone and the skull as well as brain injuries, cuts and scars from incorrectly used medical implements can also lead to claims.
Birth injuries affecting mothers - Badly managed pre-eclampsia, caesarean and anaesthesia complications and injury to internal organs can all lead to a claim. Claims can also be made in regard to negligently-treated perineal tears, fissures, mistakes made in suturing and wrongly-performed episiotomies.
Cosmetic and plastic surgery
Negligence claims are increasingly common for:
- breast enhancement or reduction
- rhinoplasty ('nose jobs')
- liposuction and fat transfer operations
- tummy tucks
- face, neck lifts and brow lifts
- ear corrections
- eyelid surgery
- Botox injections
You may be able to claim if a GP has negligently failed to refer you for further tests (in particular cancer diagnosis), or made out an incorrect prescription.
Typical hospital neglect claims include where a patient has been dehydrated or malnourished, or has been injured as the result of an untreated blood clot or pressure sore.
Claims can also arise in cases of hospital-contracted infections such as MRSA.
If you have been harmed as the result of a negligent misdiagnosis, a compensation claim may be possible. You may also claim compensation if symptoms or injuries have worsened as the result of a misdiagnosis.
If a doctor has failed to recommend necessary surgery following a fracture or broken bone, or misinterpreted an X-ray leading to incorrect treatment, you may be able to claim compensation.
You could also claim for injuries arising from hip or knee replacements, surgery to the arms and hands, or surgery to the legs and feet.
You may be able to claim following a negligent prescription error that causes a harmful reaction, allergic response, or other adverse effects.
Negligence during surgery involving surgeons, anaesthetists or other medical professionals can lead to a claim.
The amount of money you could claim for your medical negligence will depend on:
- the extent of your injury, and
- any financial losses or costs you have incurred.
At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your medical negligence has affected your life. Your solicitor will take all of these effects into account to calculate the correct compensation award for you.
This calculation will factor in 'general damages' and 'special damages'.
General damages are awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA).
Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.
Special damages are for financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident.
What can I claim for after a medical negligence? (see list)
Examples of special damages (losses you can claim for) include:
- Lost earnings (including future earnings)
- Medical treatment costs
- Travel costs
- Costs of care
- Costs of adapting your home or car
What is the average injury compensation for a medical negligence claim?
The Judicial College injury tables give a approximate idea of the ranges awarded for different injuries.
However, the money you would receive following a medical negligence will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.
Your medical negligence compensation will be calculated based on the unique impact your injuries have had on your life, your ability to work, and the actual financial losses you have incurred as a result of your injuries.
See the injury table above for some examples.
Will a clinical negligence claim affect my benefits?
It may. The receipt of a compensation award could affect the calculation of any means-tested benefits. One approach to protecting your benefits, would be to set up a "Personal Injury Trust" or "PI Trust". Read more: Should I set up a personal injury trust?
Medical negligence compensation calculator
Calculating how much compensation you can claim for a medical negligence injury can be complicated.
Our injury compensation calculator tells you if you may have a claim, how much compensation you could claim, and what you can claim for.
Find out what your medical negligence claim could be worth now:
How long does a clinical and medical negligence claim take?
The length of time needed to secure compensation for a clinical and medical negligence can vary considerably.
For example, a straightforward liability accepted medical negligence claim could be settled in 12 to 24 months. If liability is denied, however, it could take considerably longer. Usually, a medical negligence claim should take 12 to 36 months. To read more about how long your claim could take, see:How long will my claim take?
Will I still be able to claim for a medical negligence after the law changes in April 2020?
The law relating to personal injury claims is changing in April 2020.
You will no longer be able to claim no win, no fee compensation using a solicitor for lower value claims (under £5,000).
In addition, compensation for whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries will be reduced.
Caring and sensitive support
Your solicitor will handle your medical negligence claim from the initial consultation through to the financial settlement. In addition, your solicitor will work with other specialists to help you with:
- Financial support: interim payments while you are unable to work.
- Advice: on personal injury trusts, tax and welfare benefits.
- Coordination: with rehabilitation providers and therapists.
- Access: to treatment and therapies not always available on the NHS.
No win, no fee, no risk
'No win, no fee' means that if you do not win your medical negligence claim, you won't have to pay any legal fees. Known as a 'Conditional Fee Agreement' or 'CFA', no win, no fee is a contract between you and your solicitor.
No win, no fee promise
If you have been injured and it wasn't your fault, our no win, no fee guarantee takes the risk out of claiming compensation for your medical negligence injury.
What do I pay if I win my medical negligence claim?
Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, once your claim is settled. The solicitor's success fee can be up to 25%. You and your solicitor can agree the success fee before you start your claim.
What do I pay if I do not win my medical negligence claim?
If your medical negligence claim is not successful then you will not have to pay any fees. Your solicitor may take out insurance to ensure there will be nothing to pay.
What is Legal Aid available for?
In 2000, the government abolished the right to legal aid in medical negligence cases. Depending on an individual's circumstances, Legal Aid may be available for discrimination cases, criminal cases, family mediation and court or tribunal representation.
Is there a penalty if I withdraw?
Under a No Win, No Fee Agreement (CFA), fees may apply if a claimant refuses to cooperate, or abandons their claim after the legal work has started, or if the claim is fraudulent.
How can Quittance help?
Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning medical negligence claims.
If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee claim, we are open 8am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm on Saturday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday.
Call us FREE 0800 612 7456 or arrange a callback:
if you can claim
to start a claim
Medical negligence FAQ's
Can I claim for someone else?
Yes. In certain circumstances, it is possible to claim compensation on behalf of another person in the capacity of a 'litigation friend'.
If an injured person is either too young or vulnerable, too injured or otherwise unable to claim on their own behalf, their litigation friend can handle the claim process on behalf of the injured person.
The litigation friend will be responsible for communicating with the solicitors, and for making decisions in respect of the claim.
Will I have to go to court?
Highly unlikely. The vast majority of claims that are settled by the solicitor panel are settled out of court.
Only a very small percentage (approx. 5%) of personal injury claims go to court. Generally, only very complex cases, or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court.
Cases that do ultimately go to court are held in front of a judge, not a jury.
Will I have to go to a solicitor's office?
No. You will not need visit a solicitor's office. As with most professional services, it is no longer necessary to meet face to face with your solicitor. Personal injury claims are dealt with via email, post and telephone.
Should you need to have a medical, this will be arranged at a medical centre near you or at your GP's surgery.
Can I get an early compensation payment?
If you suffer financial hardship as a result of an injury, you may be able to claim an interim compensation payment.
An interim payment is a partial settlement of your claim which is paid before your claim is concluded. The amount you receive in interim payments would then be deducted from your final compensation settlement or award.
About the author
Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.
Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert