A Guide to Claiming Hospital Infection Compensation

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a hospital acquired infection we can help.

The purpose of this guide is to help anyone who has suffered a hospital acquired infection and is considering a legal claim for compensation. If you are looking for medical advice, please see the NHS website.

Introduction

In recent years, there have been a number of outbreaks at UK hospitals of serious infections including MRSA, C. difficile and E. coli.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimate that, each year, around 300,000 patients are infected during their stay in hospital. In cases where infection occurred as a result of the negligence of the hospital or NHS trust, it may be possible to claim compensation for clinical negligence.

Do I have a hospital infection 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.

Causation

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 hospital infection 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.

How much compensation can I claim for hospital infection?

The amount of money you could claim for your hospital infection 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 hospital infection 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

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

Special damages are for financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident.

What can I claim for after a hospital infection? (see list)

Examples of special damages (losses you can claim for) include:

  • Lost earnings (including future earnings)
  • Medical treatment costs
  • Physiotherapy
  • Travel costs
  • Costs of care
  • Costs of adapting your home or car

What is the average injury compensation for a hospital infection 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 hospital infection will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

Your hospital infection 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.

Hospital infection compensation calculator

Calculating how much compensation you can claim for a hospital infection 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 hospital infection claim could be worth now:

Calculate compensation

How long does a hospital acquired infection claim take?

The length of time needed to settle a hospital acquired infection claim can vary considerably.

For example, a straightforward liability accepted medical negligence claim can settle in 12 to 24 months. However, if the case goes to court or there is a serious or complex ongoing injury, it could take longer. Usually, a medical negligence claim should take 12 to 36 months. See more:

How long will my claim take?

Will I still be able to claim for a hospital infection 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 hospital infection 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.

Hospitals and hygiene

Hospitals are required to have very strict controls over hygiene. Most hospital acquired infections can be prevented or contained if simple procedures, such as washing hands thoroughly with soap and water, are followed by hospital staff.

Infections can spread if the correct hygiene procedures are not followed.

Following a series of serious breaches, a 'duty of candour' is now imposed on hospital staff to report negligence they witness, including failures to observe correct hygiene procedures.

How infection occurs

Most hospital acquired infections are usually transmitted by skin to skin contact with an infected person. A person becomes infected when the bacteria enter his or her body.

Hospital patients are particularly vulnerable to infection. There are three main reasons for this:

Firstly, a patient's immune system may be weaker than that of a healthy person. This increases the risk of an infection becoming symptomatic.

Secondly, patients may have open wounds, burns, sores or their skin may have been pierced in order to insert a catheter. This makes it easier for bacteria to enter the body.

Thirdly, a hospital is a busy environment in which people move freely from one part to another. This makes it easier for infectious bacteria to spread.

Common types of hospital acquired infection

MRSA

This is the best known of all hospital acquired infections. Its symptoms can vary depending on what part of the body is affected. It is possible for someone to carry the virus but not show any of its symptoms.

Some common symptoms include:

  • The appearance of one or more painful red spots on the skin;
  • Fever
  • Chills;
  • Dizziness and confusion;
  • Pain, tenderness and swelling in the affected part of the body; and
  • A general feeling of being unwell.

If not treated, MRSA can develop into cellulitis, an infection of the deeper layers of the skin. This causes the infected person's temperature to rise and their skin to turn red and become swollen and painful. It can also lead to the following serious conditions:

  • Sepsis (blood poisoning);
  • Urinary tract infection;
  • Osteomyelitis (inflammation of bone marrow); and
  • Septic arthritis.

C.difficile

C. difficile bacteria can survive for months on objects and surfaces. This makes it very dangerous. Although C. difficile is not particularly harmful to healthy people, it is much more threatening to people with a weakened immune system.

Common symptoms include the repeated passing of watery, foul-smelling diarrhoea and abdominal pains and cramping.

C. difficile can also cause an infected person's colon to become inflamed. This condition is known as colitis and its symptoms include:

  • Frequent bouts of diarrhoea;
  • Fever;
  • Dehydration; and
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss.

E. coli

This can be caused by eating undercooked food or unpasteurised milk. It can also be passed in some circumstances by skin to skin contact with an infected person.

Symptoms can include diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.

In severe cases, it can lead to haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a serious disease which can lead to kidney failure.

No win, no fee, no risk

Under a no win, no fee agreement, your solicitor agrees that you will have no legal fees to pay whatsoever if you do not winn your claim .

Our no win, no fee guarantee

If you have been injured and someone else was to blame (even partially), our no win, no fee guarantee takes the risk out of claiming compensation for your hospital infection injury.

What do I pay if I win my hospital infection claim?

Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, after 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 hospital infection claim?

If your hospital infection claim is not successful then you do not have to pay any legal fees at all. Your solicitor may take out insurance to ensure there will be nothing to pay.

Read more about No win, no fee

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.

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:

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Hospital infection 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.

Read more about claiming on behalf of another person.

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.

Read more: Will my injury claim go to court and what if it does?

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.

Read more: Will I have to visit a solicitor's office?

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.

Read more about interim compensation payments.

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

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