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Frequently Asked Questions

Who can I make a claim against?

The law states that any medical professional or organisation who is caring for a patient owes a ‘duty of care’ to the patient. If that duty of care is breached and causes an injury them a claim can be made

What do I need to prove to win my case?

The claimant needs to show that they have suffered an injury as a result of negligent medical treatment. In order to bring a successful claim for medical negligence, you will need to prove two elements which are referred to as ‘breach of duty’ and ‘causation’.

Duty of care – it is widely accepted that a medical professional owes their patient a duty of care. To establish that there has been a breach, you will need to show that the treatment received fell below a reasonable standard. A ‘reasonable’ standard of treatment is considered to be that which you would expect to receive from a reasonably competent medical professional in the specific area of medicine concerned at the time of the care.

Causation – to establish causation you will need to show that the breach of duty directly caused you to suffer a physical or psychological injury that you would not have otherwise suffered.

It does not always automatically mean that negligence is established just because a medical professional has made a mistake. It is essential to show that the mistake has directly caused a significant injury. Causation can be a very complex issue as it may be difficult to know whether the mistake caused the injury, or whether the injury was caused by some other underlying problem and would have occurred irrespective of the mistake.

What can be achieved by bringing a claim?

Taking legal action cannot speed up any ongoing medical treatment, or make available any other types of treatment from a doctor or hospital.  The focus of a claim is to seek financial compensation for any injury or loss arising directly out of the negligence. Other beneficial consequences of a successful medical negligence claim include:

  • A formal apology form the hospital
  • Changes in the hospital’s policies and procedures
  • Re-training of particular staff.

It is important to note that these cannot be ordered by the court. Our team will work closely with you and your family to advise and achieve a satisfactory outcome. 

How will my case be funded?

If you believe your case should be investigated then we will explore all funding options with you in an open and transparent manner. There are four funding types available for medical negligence cases. These are:

  • Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs)
  • Private funding
  • Public funding (legal aid)
  • Legal Expense Insurance

Conditional fee agreement (‘No win, no fee’)

The vast majority of our cases pursued under a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA), also known as a ‘no win, no fee agreement’. This means that we would not charge you any legal fees unless you won your case, and would seek to recover our costs from your opponent in the first instance. The agreement permits a maximum deduction from your damages of 25%.

ATE insurance – When we are acting on a no win no fee basis we may also advise our clients to take out a specialist type of insurance called After the Event Insurance Policy (ATE insurance). This is to protect you in the event your claim did not succeed. Your solicitor will explain this in more detail if you instruct us.

Legal Aid funding

Legal aid or Public funding from the Legal Aid Agency is still available for some cases. However, Legal Aid is now limited to cases where a child has suffered a brain injury during pregnancy or birth, or shortly after birth, which has resulted in severe physical or mental disability. Legal Aid is means tested but it is the child’s assets who are assessed, not the parents. Consequently, virtually all new born children will be eligible for legal aid.

Before the event legal expenses insurance – also known as BTE insurance.

Many people have this type of insurance but are unaware of it. Please carefully check any insurance policies that you have, including motor and household insurance, and credit card agreements. You should also check any union membership you have as this may include a form of BTE insurance. It is important to check these things as recent changes to the law mean that ‘no win, no fee’ arrangements may result in some deductions to any compensation you recover. BTE insurance can sometimes quite restrictive in terms of who you can instruct and how they can pursue the case for you.

Private funding

If we are not able to act for you on a no win no fee basis then it may be possible to instruct us to act on a private retainer.

If you would like to discuss any of these funding methods further, you can call us on 0800 437 0322.

What are the time limits to bringing a claim?

The date by which a claim must be brought is called the “limitation date”. Calculating the limitation date in medical negligence cases is often not straightforward.

  1. The usual rule is that a patient has 3 years to bring legal proceedings (i.e. to issue a claim form at court).
  2. If the injury was not immediately apparent then the law allows a patient to bring their claim within 3 years of the date when they first had the knowledge (which they reasonably have been expected to acquire) necessary to bring a legal action. The patient has to have known (i) the key facts (ii) that the injury was serious enough to investigate and (iii) the identity of the potential Defendant. The Court will say that the patient must know (i), (ii) and (iii) before the three year period starts to commence.

Exceptions to the usual 3 year rule – children

The limitation period does not start to run for children until they reach the age of 18 years, so the limitation period for children expires on their 21st birthday.

Exceptions to the usual 3 year rule – patients without capacity 

People who lack capacity (the ability to manage their own affairs) are able to issue proceedings at any time. The law states that if a person lacks capacity then the three year period does not commence. In cases of fluctuating capacity the limitation period may start to run if mental capacity returns.

Who pays the compensation?

This will depend on who the Defendant is.

NHS Claims – The NHS is self-insuring. All compensation payments made by the NHS is paid from Government funds from a budget managed by the National Health Service Litigation Authority (NHSLA). The NHSLA employs a panel of approved solicitors who represent NHS Trusts.

Claims against private doctors – A doctor or medical professional working in the private sector is not covered by the National Health Service Litigation Authority scheme. They arrange their own insurance with specialist private insurance companies. The usual insurers are the Medical Defence Union (MDU), the Medical Protection Society (MPS) or the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS). These organisations are funded by premiums paid by their members.

Claims against General Practitioners – GPs are not covered by the National Health Service Litigation Authority scheme. They arrange their own insurance with specialist private insurance companies. The usual insurers are the Medical Defence Union (MDU), the Medical Protection Society (MPS) or the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS). These organisations are funded by premiums paid by their members.

Claims against Dentists – again, dentists are not covered by the National Health Service Litigation Authority scheme. They arrange their own insurance with specialist private insurance companies. The usual insurers that we deal with are the Dental Defence Union (DDU), Dental Protection (a subsidiary of the Medical Protection Society) the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS). These organisations are funded by premiums paid by their members.

What can I claim compensation for?

In a clinical negligence case you would be entitled to claim for two types of compensation:

General Damages: for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity caused by the injury itself.

General damages are calculated by reference to a publication called the Judicial College Guidelines (formerly the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines). These Guidelines are designed to provide a clear framework for the assessment of damages in medical negligence cases. These guidelines are well known by the Claimant and the Defendant’s solicitors and if a case goes to trial the Judge will use these guidelines to calculate the appropriate award for General Damages.  In addition, another publication called Kemp and Kemp lists many different types of cases that have settled out of court or that have been decided at trial. This textbook is several hundred pages and is constantly updated.

By reference to the JC Guidelines and Kemp the solicitors at Hodge Jones Allen can calculate the value of the General Damages Claim.

Special Damages: Special Damages are the damages awarded for any past or future financial loss. These are individually calculated for each case. There is no textbook or guide for this part of the Claim. It is entirely dependent on the circumstances of the Claimant.

Special damages claim will comprise of;

  • Loss of earnings / Loss of promotion prospects – for unpaid time off work in the past or for loss of promotion prospects in the future. If a claimant has been seriously injured and cannot return to work then a clam will be made for future loss of earnings.
  • Past Care and Future Care needs – a claim can be made for the unpaid (gratuitous) care provided by family members. We will take details of who has looked after the Claimant and calculate how many hours care has been provided. In significant cases we will obtain expert evidence on the care required. The specialist experts we employ to asses our clients are very experienced and will carefully assess the level of care an injured Claimant has needed/ will require. This is often a very substantial part of the claim in serious injury cases. In some cases over 50% of the total value of the claim might relate to future care needs.
  • Aids and equipment – if aids and equipment are required then this will be assessed by an expert Occupational Therapist that we will arrange to meet with you.
  • Future medical treatment – we will always ask our appointed medical experts if further treatment is needed as a result of the negligent injury. If treatment is required then a Claimant is entitled to claim for this on a private paying basis – injured Claimants do not have to rely on the NHS.
  • Prosthetics – amputees are entitled to claim for the costs of prosthetic in the private. It is generally accepted that it is not reasonable to expect a claimant to rely on NHS prosthetics only.
  • Pension loss – if a medical accident has forced a claimant to leave their job then it will be necessary to calculate their pension loss. This can sometimes be quite complex and may require an accountancy expert.
  • Past/Future DIY and gardening  – if a claimant’s injuries prevent them from undertaking household tasks then a claim can be made for employing people to carry out those tasks.
  • Interest – interest is also claimed on all past losses

It can be difficult to advise at the outset as to the amount of compensation you may obtain if your case is successful as this will depend on the particular circumstances of your case, and expert evidence may be required. As your case progresses your solicitor will be able to give you a more accurate estimate of what your case is likely to be worth. 

How long will my claim take to conclude? Will I need to go to court?

The length of time your case will take to conclude depends upon a number of factors. These include the extent and nature of the injury suffered, and whether your opponent denies liability.

We try to progress your case as quickly as we possible, but you should be aware that your case could take a number of years. We can give you a better idea about the timescale once we know more about your case and your opponent’s approach to it. We will ensure that you are regularly updated throughout your case.

The vast majority of cases settle through negotiation, with there being no need to take the matter to a full trial (i.e. argue your case in court, before a judge). If your case does go to trial, it will inevitably take longer to conclude than if were to settle outside of court through negotiation. Although it is rare for cases to go to trial. Statistics show that just 0.5% of all clinical negligence cases go to trial.  If they reach the trial stage then the Claimant will be called as a witness to give evidence in front of a judge. Your experts and other witnesses will also give evidence – as will the Defence witnesses. If this situation becomes applicable to you, we can advise you about it in more detail at that stage.

Can I bring a claim on behalf of my child?

Any injured person under 18 is considered to be a child.  They are considered unable to have ‘capacity’ to conduct the claim themselves and deal directly with solicitors.

A claim involving a child is therefore conducted by a litigation friend, who acts on the child’s behalf. A litigation friend is often one of the child’s parents or a guardian, however anyone that the Court deems suitable can be a litigation friend, for example a relative or family friend, a solicitor or someone who has a lasting power of attorney.

Before a Court appoints someone as a litigation friend, it will assess whether that person meets certain criteria to ensure they can do the job properly. The Court must be satisfied that the person in question:

  • does not have any conflicting interests with the child’s interests
  • can fairly and competently conduct proceedings on the child’s behalf
  • agrees to pay any costs that the child may be ordered to pay

If you wish to apply to be a child’s litigation friend, you must file and serve a certificate of suitability. This is a form which asks you to formally consent to act as a litigation friend, and sets out your suitability for the role.

If the child reaches the age of 18 during the claim, the litigation friend’s authority to act on their behalf ceases. All the parties involved in the proceedings will need to be notified, and the former child will need to sign a statement that they intend to carry on with the proceedings.

Can I bring a claim on behalf of a deceased relative?

Yes, it may possible for you to bring a claim on behalf of a deceased person.  In order to do so the family of the deceased will need to obtain a Grant of Probate. Applying for Probate is a process in which forms are submitted to the Probate Office. Only when Probate has been approved does the legal system recognise the Administrator or the Executor as being able to deal with the Deceased’s estate. The Grant of Probate is issued by the local Probate Registry. The process can take several weeks.

An ‘Administrator’ is a person who is granted Probate when there is no will in place when a person passes away. An ‘Executor’ is the person granted Probate when the deceased has made a will.

An Administrator or Executor is able to bring claims for all of the Dependants of as a patient who has passed away.

Once the Grant of Probate has been made the Executor will instruct Hodge Jones Allen to investigate the case. The Executor or Administrator is responsible for including all of the Deceased’s dependants in the claim.

Can I request a copy of my medical records?

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 everyone has the right to access their NHS and private healthcare medical records. Normally, the parents of children under 18 will be able to access their child’s medical records.

The healthcare provider disclosing the records is entitled to charge up to a maximum £50 to cover their administration fees. The records should be provided within 40 days of the request. If there has been more than one healthcare provider involved in providing treatment then separate requests will need to be made to each healthcare provider.

How do I make a complaint against a hospital?

Click here to access our quick guide on how to make a complaint, and a template complaint letter.

The NHS Complaints Procedure does not offer compensation. It can only offer an explanation of your treatment. Complaints usually have to be made within one year of the alleged negligent treatment.

If you are making a complaint against an NHS hospital they will usually have a Patient Advice Liaison Service (known as PALS). Click here to find your local PALS.

Complaints will be investigated internally by the hospital – they are not obliged to call in external investigators.

It may take some weeks for your complaint to be investigated. You may be invited to attend meeting to explain your side of the complaint. It may be that you would prefer to deal with matters just by letter or email. There is no set process that must be followed.

At the end of the investigation you will receive a letter setting out the NHS response to your complaint.

I don’t think my complaint has been properly dealt with. If you are not happy with your complaint response then you are entitled to request an Independent Review.

Independent Review by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

The independent review will be undertaken by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman ( PHSO). The PHSO will make a final decision on your complaint and will look at it afresh.  There is no charge for this service.

How do I make a complaint against my GP?

Making a complaint is sometimes a useful way to find out if you have a compensation case. Click here to access our quick guide on how to make a complaint, and a template complaint letter.

Making a formal complaint to your GP will not lead to compensation. A General Practioners’ complaint service can only offer an explanation of your treatment.

Complaints will be investigated internally by the GP practice – they are not obliged to call in external investigators.

It may take some weeks for your complaint to be investigated. You may be invited to attend meeting to explain your side of the complaint. It may be that you would prefer to deal with matters just by letter or email. There is no set process that must be followed.

At the end of the investigation you will receive a letter setting out the response to your complaint.

Alternatively, if you do not wish to complain directly to your GP then you can complain to the local Clinical Commissioning Group. A full list of all of the CCGs can be found here.

I don’t think my complaint has been properly dealt with If you are not happy with your complaint response then you are entitled to request an Independent Review.

Independent Review by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

The independent review will be undertaken by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman ( PHSO). The PHSO will make a final decision on your complaint and will look at it afresh.  There is no charge for this service.

Our Medical Negligence Solicitors are backed by four decades of experience. Our legal practice and team of London Solicitors have a strong track record of achieving favourable client outcomes. For expert legal advice use our contact form or call us on 0800 437 0322 today.

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