If surgical negligence has set you back, we'll help you move forward
Surgical procedures are often necessary for the treatment of serious medical conditions, but surgery also comes with a certain level of risk. Unfortunately, avoidable mistakes can happen during surgery, and the consequences can be severe for patients and their families.
Surgical negligence occurs when a healthcare professional deviates from the expected standard of care and causes harm to a patient as a result.
If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a surgical error, we can help. If your injuries were caused by the negligence of a doctor, nurse, midwife or other medical professional, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and other losses.
We understand the emotional and physical toll that surgical errors can take on victims and their families. We are dedicated to helping our clients navigate the complex process of pursuing a surgical negligence compensation claim. You can make a surgical negligence compensation claim with the help and support of a specialist clinical negligence solicitor.
In this article
You are not alone
Any surgical operation presents risks. Even the most routine procedure involves a patient entrusting their health, and life, to a team of doctors.
When a surgical procedure goes wrong due to an avoidable surgical error, however, the effects can have an unplanned-for and life-altering impact, both physically and psychologically.
Personal injury law exists to compensate you for the unnecessary pain, suffering and losses you experience following the surgical negligence.
Am I entitled to make a surgical negligence claim?
You have the right to claim compensation if the care you received did not meet the appropriate standard of care, and you were injured by this negligent treatment.
Find out online if you can claim with our injury claim calculator. Or you can call 0800 376 1001 to speak to a specialist advisor. Find out in minutes if you have a claim.
How long do I have to make a surgical negligence claim?
You usually have 3 years to make a surgical negligence claim. The timelimit starts from the date you discovered you were injured by negligent care (the date of knowledge).
For injured children, a claim can be started by a parent or guardian at any time before the child turns 18. Thereafter, the injured individual has until their 21st birthday to make a claim on their own.
Get an impartial opinion
To get impartial advice on whether you have a claim, speak to an injury claim expert on 0800 376 1001.
A brief phone consultation will tell you exactly where you stand. There is no obligation to start a claim.
How much compensation can I claim for surgical negligence?
The amount of money you could claim for your injury will depend on:
- the seriousness 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 injuries have affected your life. Your solicitor will take these considerations into account to calculate the correct compensation award.
Get an accurate compensation estimate (including for multiple injuries), confirm your legal position, and check if you have a No Win, No Fee claim.
Updated December 2023
Compensation Calculator v3.04
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 is compensation for quantifiable financial losses you've incurred as a result of your surgical injury. Compensation can include lost wages and business losses (if you're self-employed), and any additional expenses directly related to your injury.
These damages will also cover any medical or treatment bills, such as corrective surgery and psychological support.
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.
Surgical negligence claim case study
A 68 year old man was awarded £70,000 compensation for complications arising from unnecessary surgery.The treatment was carried out as a result of a medical misdiagnosis of a biopsy. In 2013, the claimant was referred to hospital following a health check at his GP practice. His PSA level had been raised, a possible indicator of prostate cancer.
Biopsy tests suggested prostate cancer as a diagnosis. A bone scan performed three weeks later showed no symptoms of cancer present. An MRI scan four days later showed no obvious tumour but a slight abnormality in the prostate itself.
A diagnosis was made based on the initial biopsy results and a note of the MRI scan result was made. A recommendation of either radiotherapy or surgery was made.
Six weeks after the MRI scan the claimant had laparoscopic surgery to remove his prostate.
One week after the surgery the original biopsies were reviewed at the hospital laboratory. It was discovered that the original test results were wrong and there was no evidence of cancer.
The original biopsy sample had been labelled incorrectly in the laboratory. The claimant did not have cancer and the operation had been entirely unnecessary.
As a result of the surgery, the claimant was left impotent and incontinent. The incontinence gradually improved and would continue to improve over time with a medical exercise regime.
NHS surgical negligence
The hospital failed to provide treatment at a competent level. It was alleged the hospital was negligent in inaccurately labelling the biopsy tests.
Cancer diagnosis was made on the basis of the laboratory tests. The hospital failed to consider the bone scan and MRI test results appropriately.
As a result the hospital recommended unnecessary surgery to remove the claimant's prostate.
The surgery left permanent serious symptoms. The claimant's quality of life would be seriously affected.
Surgical negligence compensation settlement
Liability was admitted and the matter was settled without progressing to Court. £70,000 compensation was accepted by way of an out of Court settlement. The sum of £63,000 was awarded for "pain, suffering and loss of amenity." £6,000 of the damages was awarded for past and future care needed. The remaining £1,000 related to travel, equipment and other costs.
How can compensation help people affected by surgical errors?
Compensation can also provide a means of ensuring full expert medical care is received where errors have resulted in longer-term conditions. A compensation award can also cover more practical costs, such as wages lost through inability to work.
Surgical error claims can be difficult to pursue as proving negligence can be complex. Seeking expert legal advice before deciding whether to proceed is highly recommended.
How common is surgical error?
Every year there are approximately 4.6 million hospital admissions to the NHS is England that require surgery. This does not take into account surgical operations in private hospitals and clinics.
Surgery is a heavily regulated practice. The level of regulation recognises the inherent risk involved in surgery, but attempts to significantly reduce the impact of avoidable errors in surgical procedures.
Compensation has been claims for a very wide range of unexpected outcomes, including damage to internal organs and infection caused by poor hygiene, to insufficient anaesthesia and unacceptable levels of scarring.
NHS Never Events
Categorised as ‘never events' by the NHS, because they should never happen, some of the most extreme examples of surgical errors include:
- The wrong operation being performed
- Surgery performed on the wrong part
- Foreign objects left in the
- Wrong implants/prosthesis
- Misplaced feeding tubes
According to NHS Resolution, ‘orthopaedic surgery' (surgery of the musculoskeletal system) accounts for 15% of all clinical negligence claims received, and ‘general surgery' for 11%'.
What is the claims process for surgical errors?
The main difficulty in making a claim for a surgical error involves proving that a qualified medical practitioner has behaved in a manner which dropped below reasonably expected standards.
The arguments will often be highly technical, revolving around the details of a complex surgical procedure.
Avoiding long delays
Another difficulty is that cases of surgical error can take years to reach the Courts, or take a long time to settle, as large amounts of evidence will be available on both sides.
In addition, expert testimonies from medical professionals may be required to present a strong case.
The Quittance team of experienced clinical negligence solicitors offer free, confidential consultations and will advise on the key issues surrounding your case.
These issues include what steps can be taken to either conclude the claim sooner, or to arrange interim payments to cover immediate financial needs such as treatment costs and mortgage payments.
Clinical negligence claims
Surgical negligence injuries are usually categorised as clinical negligence. Click on the icon below for more information.
How we can help you with your medical negligence claim
Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, and the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning medical negligence claims.
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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.