A Guide to Claiming Laser Eye Surgery Compensation

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by laser eye surgery negligence we can help.

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

Introduction

The number of people seeking laser eye surgery has grown significantly in recent years. It is estimated that around 120,000 Britons have the procedure each year to correct long and short-sightedness.

The number of people receiving poor treatment has risen broadly in line with the number of procedures. According to the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, almost one in 20 patients undergoing laser eye surgery suffer some sort of complication. For some clinics, the complication rate is as high as 40%.

Do I have a laser eye surgery 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 laser eye surgery 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.

What is laser eye surgery?

Laser eye surgery permanently corrects certain vision problems, removing the need to wear glasses or contact lenses. The most popular type is known as LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis). This procedure uses a laser to reshape the cornea (the transparent covering over the front of the eye). Treatment is considered non-essential and is not usually available on the NHS.

Other treatments are also available including LASEK (laser epithelial keratomileusis) and PRK (photorefractive keratectomy).

Private laser eye surgery does not have to be done by an ophthalmic surgeon or even someone with specialist laser refraction knowledge. Instead, all that is required is that the person performing the procedure is registered as a medical doctor.

What are the risks of laser eye surgery?

The majority of people who undergo laser eye surgery experience no complications other than minimal discomfort in the months following the operation.

In around 5% of cases, the safety and effectiveness of the laser eye surgery is compromised. Patients may develop complications or unacceptable outcomes including:

  • damage to tear ducts causing painfully dry eyes
  • ghosting or double vision
  • sensitivity to glare
  • chronic eye inflammation
  • scarring of the cornea
  • poor night vision
  • partial or complete blindness.

How Quittance has helped others

Every year Quittance's network of solicitors help people who have suffered complications as a result of laser eye surgery seek financial compensation and, where possible, corrective treatment.

Our network of expert medical negligence solicitors have advised clients who have suffered damage or disability as a result of:

  • surgical error
  • the suitability of the surgery not being fully determined before the procedure
  • inaccurate information about the potential risks of the surgery
  • defective laser equipment
  • poor standard of post-operative care.

Quittance's solicitors take care of the negotiations and fight hard to ensure that clients achieve maximum compensation awards for laser eye surgery negligence claims.

Who can make a claim?

If a patient was injured in the last three years as a result of laser eye surgery, he or she may be eligible to claim compensation.

To win a claim, the patient's solicitor will need to establish negligence. This is a complex area of litigation. Often, the case turns on whether the complications would not reasonably have occurred if the same laser surgery was performed by a different medical professional. The claimant's solicitor will need to show that the laser treatment received fell below acceptable standards.

The claimant's solicitor will also need to evidence that the treatment and not the underlying eye condition has caused the harm or injury for which compensation is sought.

It may be possible to claim for existing eyesight problems or conditions that have worsened as a result of the laser eye surgery. Read more about making a claim for an existing condition.

Who can you make a claim against?

Claims are brought against the medical professional who performed the laser eye surgery or their employer. In the injuries were caused by defective equipment, a Claim may be brought against the manufacturer.

In each case, it is usually the defendant's insurance company who would pay compensation.

How much compensation can I claim for laser eye surgery?

The amount of money you could claim for your laser eye surgery 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 laser eye surgery 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 laser eye surgery? (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 laser eye surgery 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 laser eye surgery will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

Your laser eye surgery 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?

Laser eye surgery compensation calculator

Calculating how much compensation you can claim for a laser eye surgery 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 laser eye surgery claim could be worth now:

Calculate compensation

How long does a laser eye surgery negligence claim take?

The length of time needed to settle a laser eye surgery negligence claim can vary significantly.

A simple uncontested medical negligence claim can settle in 12 to 24 months. However, if court proceedings are needed the process might take longer. On average a medical negligence claim takes between 12 and 36 months. For more information on how long your claim could take, see:

How long will my claim take?

Will I still be able to claim for a laser eye surgery 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 laser eye surgery 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.

What can be done to maximise the chances of a successful claim?

There are a number of things that can be done to help support a laser eye surgery negligence claim.

The claimant will first need to procure all copies of their medical and optician records and give them to their solicitor, who will study them in detail. The solicitor will then instruct a qualified ophthalmic expert to examine the medical records thoroughly and establish whether the laser eye surgery was negligent in any way and whether it caused the injury for which compensation is sought.

Claimants are advised to make a note of the conversations they had with the clinic staff, both in the time leading up to the surgery and during the post-operative recovery period. In particular, the claimant should record any warnings given about the suitability and potential risks of the surgery.

The claimant must also submit to a medical examination. This allows an independent eye expert to arrive at a correct evaluation of the compensation according to the nature and extent of the injuries.

No win, no fee

'No win, no fee' means that if you do not win your laser eye surgery claim, you will not have to pay any legal fees. Known as a 'Conditional Fee Agreement' or 'CFA', no win, no fee is a contract between you and a solicitor.

No win, no fee promise

If you have been injured and someone else was to blame (even partially), our no win, no fee guarantee takes the risk out of making a laser eye surgery injury compensation claim.

What do I pay if I win my laser eye surgery claim?

Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, after your compensation is awarded. The solicitor's success fee can be up to 25%. Your solicitor will agree a success fee with you before you start your claim.

What do I pay if I do not win my laser eye surgery claim?

If your laser eye surgery 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.

Read more about making a No win, no fee claim

Is there a catch?

The Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) sets out the terms between you and your solicitor., No Win No Fee is a regulated activity and as such there should be no nasty surprises in the agreement. Nevertheless, it is recommended that you read the agreement carefully and ask any questions if you are unsure.

Read more about making a No win, no fee claim

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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Laser eye surgery 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