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When Should I Seek A Second Legal Opinion In A Clinical Negligence Matter?

Delay in diagnosis of meningococcal sepsis resulting in amputations leads to multi million pound award in damages.

Bringing a medical negligence claim (also known as clinical negligence) can be a complex and challenging process, and requires specialist legal expertise.

There is certainly no guarantee of success when you embark on investigating a clinical negligence claim, and it is important to understand this. Key to success is always obtaining supportive expert evidence from the right experts, as without this you will not succeed.

What should you do if your solicitor tells you that the prospects of success with your claim have fallen below the level where they will continue to act for you?

You are always entitled to seek a second opinion from an alternative solicitor. However, you should be upfront and honest about previously instructed solicitors and any medical reports obtained. As the case summary* below shows, the fact that you have received previous negative advice does not necessarily mean another solicitor will refuse to help you. Bear in mind that it is very unlikely that you would be able to conceal this information from newly instructed solicitors, and you may have obligations to the body which funded your case previously. It also helps in building up a relationship of trust between you and any new solicitor who agrees to take investigations further.

*Case summary

We were approached by a father about a potential delay in diagnosis of meningococcal septicaemia in his young toddler, resulting in significant life changing injuries (involving four limb amputations to varying degrees). The case appeared to be worthy of investigation, but when medical records were obtained it became clear that previous solicitors had been instructed. When the file was obtained from the previous solicitors we noted an unsupportive medical report and negative advice from Counsel (a barrister) on the prospects of successfully bringing the case to a conclusion.

Despite this we were not convinced that the expert had the necessary expertise to comment on both breach of duty (ie whether the care given was substandard) and causation (in this case what would have happened had the child been treated appropriately with antibiotics). We therefore persuaded our client’s insurers to allow us to obtain two further medical reports from appropriate experts.

When these reports were supportive we were able to send a Letter of Claim setting out the allegations of both breach of duty and causation. In response we obtained early and full admissions of liability, meaning we could then proceed to quantify (value) the claim. Although this was not straightforward (involving multiple experts), the case eventually settled before trial at a meeting between the parties, with life changing damages negotiated on the child’s behalf (a lump sum for £8.5 million and additional annual payments for the rest of his life towards his care: total capitalised value of £16 million).

Our client was represented by Emma Wray, a Partner in our Medical Negligence team. As a former Nursing Sister in Coronary Care Emma has twelve years’ experience of working in healthcare. Her practice encompasses a wide range of cases from high value complex cases (including child brain injury and spinal injury) to cases of more modest value across the whole range of medical negligence practice.

To speak to Emma Wray or one of our medical negligence experts please call 0330 822 3451 or request a callback online. 

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