A Guide to Claiming Medication Error Compensation
If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a medication error injury we can help.
The purpose of this guide is to help anyone who has suffered a medication error injury and is considering a legal claim for compensation. If you are looking for medical advice, please see the NHS website.
Errors in the prescribing, preparing, dispensing and administering of medicine occur relatively frequently and are estimated to cost the NHS around £2.5 billion a year.
That figure includes the cost of managing adverse health outcomes for patients who have received the wrong drugs, as well as the litigation costs associated with a drug-related error.
People who are resident in hospitals and care homes are particularly at risk. In-patients depend on staff to administer the correct drugs, in the right dosage, at the right time.
Any hospital, nursing home or care home resident who has suffered injury as a result of a medication error may be eligible to make a medical negligence claim. Depending on the circumstances, the claim would be brought against the private hospital, care home or the relevant NHS Trust.
Do I have a medication error 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 medication error 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.
The amount of money you could claim for your medication error 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 medication error 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 medication error? (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 medication error 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 medication error will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.
Your medication error 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.
Can I claim for an existing medication error that has got worse?
Yes, it is possible to pursue a claim in the event that a pre-existing medical condition, illness or injury is made worse or aggravated by an accident or someone else's negligence.
Medication error compensation
Calculating how much compensation you can claim for a medication error 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 medication error claim could be worth now:
How long does a medication error claim take?
The length of time needed to secure compensation for a medication error can vary considerably.
For example, a simple uncontested medical negligence claim could be settled in 12 to 24 months. However, if the case goes to court or there is a serious or complex ongoing injury, the process might take 2 to 5 years. On average a medical negligence claim takes between 12 and 36 months. Read more:How long will my claim take?
Will I still be able to claim for a medication error 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 medication error 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 is considered to be a "medication error"?
The National Patient Safety Agency defines a medication error as any error in made in the prescribing, dispensing, preparing, administering, monitoring or providing medicine advice, regardless of whether any harm occurred.
Examples of medication error can include the following:
- Being prescribed the wrong drugs
- Receiving a too-high dosage
- Receiving the wrong strength of drug
- Time errors, where drugs are given earlier or later than planned
- Administering medication to a patient who has an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the medication
- Administering unauthorised medication
- Combining medications that should not be taken together, such that one medicine contraindicates the other
Best practice following medication errors
Hospitals and care homes are expected to have a robust medication policy in place to deal with the administering of medicine and the reporting of errors and near misses.
Procedures should give staff clear guidance on how to rectify the immediate situation and what must be done to prevent a medication error happening again.
Following appropriate procedures may result in the avoidance of serious medical consequences, or reduce the impact of adverse events on a patients long-term health. If, however, the patient has suffered some harm, whether physical or psychological, as a result of the error it is likely that a claim can still be made.
Making a claim for medication error
To make a successful claim, the injury lawyer must prove:
- That medical staff were negligent in prescribing or dispensing the medication; and
- That injury or illness occurred as a result.
Negligence usually is established where the standard of care delivered by the health care team was below that of a reasonably competent medical professional in that specific area of medicine. Arguments can be reasonably complex and usually turn on expert medical reports as well as the "best practice" system the health care facility has in place.
The second test is known as causation. It is not possible to claim compensation just because something went wrong - the claimant must demonstrate that the error has caused significant injury. A supporting independent medical opinion is usually necessary for the case to succeed.
How does no win, no fee work?
No Win, No Fee is an agreement with your solicitor (known as a Conditional Fee Agreement or CFA) that means that you can make a medication error claim with:
- no upfront legal fees
- no solicitor's fees payable if your claim is not successful
- a success fee payable only if your claim is successful
No Win, No Fee is the most common way to make a compensation claim.
No win, no fee promise
Our no win, no fee guarantee means there is absolutely no financial risk in making a medication error claim, even if you don't win your claim.
What do I pay if I win my medication error 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 medication error claim?
If your medication error claim is not successful then you do not have to pay any legal fees . Your solicitor may take out insurance to ensure there will be nothing to pay.
Can I get Legal Aid?
Legal aid is no longer available when making a personal injury claim, but a Conditional Fee Agreement (No Win, No Fee) can reduce the financial risks of making a 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:
if you can claim
to start a claim
Medication error 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