Common Fallacies About Medical Negligence Claims
- It is impossible to get one doctor to speak out against another - they all stick together
This is no longer true. A large number of doctors now appreciate the benefits for the medical profession through holding those doctors persistently below standard, accountable. Through our experience we have made contacts with doctors in many fields of practice who are prepared to provide independent expert advice on our cases. In all but the most specialized areas, this concern no longer exists
- All medical negligence claims go to trial
This is certainly not true. It is true that medical insurers may sometimes take a position of principle rather than commercial realism in cases where they consider the claim is misconceived. In circumstances in which support for the claim is obtained from a reputable independent medical specialist, this should not occur. Our experience is that less than 10% of cases we handle go to trial. Of this 10%, the majority of clients obtain a settlement offer and so ultimately have a choice whether to take their case to trial or not
- Legal costs in medical negligence claims are prohibitive
As explained in our summary concerning costs, this is not true. Certainly it is true that legal costs are a factor which must in almost all cases be borne in mind in deciding what position to take when an offer of settlement is made.
- All lawyers are the same - you don’t need a specialist to handle your medical negligence claim
Medicine is a complex area, where opinions often differ, and therefore giving plenty of scope for argument on both sides. For this reason it is essential you use a lawyer who is experienced in this type of case. They will be used to the complexities of the issues involved, the terminology, the procedures and will have the relevant medical and legal knowledge and contacts to ensure your case is thoroughly investigated and pursued. We have found time and time again that whether or not a case can be established and successfully pursued depends upon the way in which the issues are explored with the independent medical specialist. By identifying the critical “right” questions, we believe we can get to the crux of whether your claim is likely to succeed at an early stage. There is considerable skill involved in identifying these issues. Apart from this, by using a firm experienced in this area of the law, you can “tap in” to our experience through the cases we have handled in the past. This is of enormous benefit with understanding the applicable medicine, familiarity with medical experts in the area and the use of our past case knowledge. All of this results in a faster and fairer result for you, at lesser cost.
- Medical Negligence Claims take years to get through the system
This is not true. The main cause for delay in medical negligence claims is the necessary delay while waiting for your medical condition to fully stabilise after the adverse outcome or complication. Because compensation is assessed to cover both the past and future consequences of negligent care, it is necessary that we can accurately predict what the future is likely to hold for you. Our experience is that claims can generally be concluded within a period of 12 - 18 months from our first contact with our client. If necessary, this can be substantially shortened (we have conducted cases which were finalised in less than 3 months of our first acting for a client, when necessary).
Time + Claims
- Time Limits to Bring a Claim?
Health Care after Nov 2005
For health care provided after 15 November 2005, a 3 year time limit applies within which claim should be brought.
If the care is provided to an infant (anyone under 18 years old) this period is 6 years.
There is some uncertainty as to when the 3 years starts from (or 6 years if an infant). This can be difficult to determine in complex cases and is something you should seek specific advice about. To be on the safe side, it is best to seek such advice before 3 years from when the relevant care was provided.
There is some (limited) capacity for an extension beyond the 3 year time limit to be sought. Whether an extension may be available in your specific circumstances is something you will need to get advice upon, we suggest as soon as possible....
Health Care Before November 2005
For health care provided before Nov 2005, different time limits are likely to apply.
In most (but not all...) situations, a 6 year time limit is set. In the case of children, this period is usually (but again, not always..) longer.
There are various unfair aspects to time limits for care prior to Nov 2005, which is a reason the law was changed at that time.
The changes in the Law in 2005 do in some respects (in my view at least..), apply to claims relating to health care provided prior to it coming into force. Once again, if this may be important to you, seek advice concerning your specific circumstances
- Usual Time to Complete Claims?
This is a question we are often asked. Unfortunately, there is no easy or certain answer.
The time your claim will take depends, among other things, on how easily we can source an appropriate expert prepared to review your case and comment on your medical care and the reasons for your poor outcome. It also depends on how serious your health problems resulting from the negligent care are. In some cases, birth injury cases in particular, it is commonly a period of years before the full consequences of medical negligence can be assessed and so appropriate compensation evaluated. Finally, in the small minority of cases that proceed to trial, there is always extra time required waiting for such a trial to occur, for the Judge to deliver their decision and for any appeal to occur.
All of this being said, in a reasonably straightforward case, we aim to resolve the matter and generally find we can do so, within an overall period of about 12 - 18 months from first starting to investigate the claim. This assumes your case (as with most) is resolved by a negotiated settlement at a pre-trial conference.
In exceptional circumstances, we can and have expedited claims through this process far more quickly than this. For example in tragic cases involving delay in diagnosis of cancer, now progressed to a terminal stage we have, on several occasions handled claims from start to finish in a matter of weeks.
Common Fallacies About Medical Negligence Claims
- Our Code of Conduct
- We will only act in relation to genuine, non-trivial claims.
- We will not act for persons seeking to bring medical negligence claims for reasons/purposes other than appropriate recovery of compensation for the consequences of negligent medical care.
- In investigating your claim we will seek advice from independent medical specialists who we genuinely believe to be appropriately qualified to comment on the particular area of medicine relevant to your case.
- We will only pursue a claim on your behalf if we obtain an opinion from such independent medical specialist confirming the quality of medical care leading to your adverse outcome, was below an acceptable standard.
- We acknowledge:
- the desirability generally of maintaining the integrity of the medical profession.
- the distress and harm that a claim can in some cases bring to otherwise competent and caring doctors or other health professionals.
- Recognising this and without in any way compromising your best interests, we will:
- give the relevant doctor or other health professional the opportunity to enter into discussions to facilitate early resolution of your claim through negotiation.
- a reasonable opportunity to nominate a solicitor for the service of process outside their place of work.
- endeavour where possible to see that the matter is not publicised in a manner which may unfairly or unreasonably reflect upon the doctor or other health professional.