Medical malpractice is a dramatic term that you may hear bandied around in the media, often relating to catastrophic and severe cases when the injuries caused have been life-threatening.
Although this can certainly happen, the vast majority of claims for medical negligence, as it’s often referred to, are far less sensational although the effects on the individual should not be under-estimated.
If your doctor has delayed treatment, made a preventable error in diagnosing you, given you the wrong treatment or made some other kind of mistake while treating you that could have been avoided you could have a claim for compensation.
Here’s what to expect if you do make a claim.
Will I have to go to court?
If you make a claim for medical negligence there’s always the possibility that the case will end up in court, but in reality very few cases ever make it that far.
Your lawyer will act on your behalf and do all the liaising with the other party but it will ultimately be your decision whether to accept any offers they make to you.
Once the matter of accepting liability is resolved, the two sides must agree on what is an acceptable and reasonable level of compensation, taking all factors into account. It’s rare to go to court as in the vast majority of cases a mutually acceptable figure can be agreed upon.
As you can imagine, the process for assessing a medical negligence claim is not rapid as it involves the detailed assessment of complex information by both parties.
In the first instance your lawyer will obtain copies of your medical records; this shows exactly what happened and what treatment was administered. After receiving this information your lawyer will have a much clearer idea about whether you have a valid claim for compensation.
In a nutshell, they will need to be able to establish whether the treatment you received was worse than what you could have reasonably expected and whether you suffered as a result. This can be particularly difficult to establish because of the underlying illness or condition. Nevertheless, your lawyer must attempt to ascertain whether the complications you suffered were as a direct result of the negligence by your doctor, or whether you would have suffered them anyway.
Because of this complex position, it’s highly advisable to only use lawyers who have experience in dealing with claims for medical malpractice.
In addition to obtaining your medical records, you may be required to attend an examination with an expert doctor. This may be at the request of either your own legal experts or by the other side. Regardless of who commissions the report, the doctor who examines you has a legal duty to be honest and describe the facts as they see them. Even if their report has been requested by the other party, the doctor cannot be untruthful about your condition.
If you are required to attend an examination, it’s essential to be honest about your condition; any attempt to embellish or exaggerate your symptoms could jeopardise your entire claim. However, it is very important that you remember to describe everything that you are suffering from, so it might be an idea to write some notes in advance and take them along to the examination with you.
If liability is established, the matter of agreeing upon a figure means taking into account lots of different factors, including how you are now and how your condition is expected to progress.
Some of the factors which could influence how much you receive include the following:
- cost of treatment and care
- pain and suffering
- past loss of earnings
- expected future loss of earnings
- prescription charges and medical costs
- travelling expenses
- help with household chores
- special adaptations and aids
- out of pocket expenses
Lawyers for medical malpractice will be familiar with all of the above factors and will be able to extract the information they need to get you a fair settlement.
Considering a claim for medical malpractice is never easy but it’s not fair for you to end up out of pocket due to an error or omission by your doctor. An experience medical malpractice lawyer will be able to guide you through the whole process, and give you their honest opinion about whether you have a claim for compensation to pursue.