1. Q: What is a medical negligence?
A: Medical negligence is professional negligence resulting from an act or omission on the part of a health care provider in which the care provided deviates from accepted standards of medical practice and causes injury or death to the patient. Most cases involve medical error of some sort. In cases where an individual has undergone some form of medical treatment that has gone wrong whereby the level of care fell below the reasonable standard at which a competent medical professional should operate, there may be cause to bring a claim for compensation due to medical negligence.
2. Q: Under what circumstances can I make a claim for medical negligence?
A: Doctors and other medical practitioners owe a duty of care to their patients when they are administering medical treatment. However, doctors are not obliged to achieve success with every case that they treat. The duty of doctors is to exercise reasonable skill and care towards each patient when administering medical treatment. Generally speaking, doctors are not deemed to be negligent if they act in accordance with a practice that is accepted as proper by a recognized body of medical opinion, even though a different practice may be adopted by other doctors to treat the same disease or injury. If a doctor does not follow the usual practice without good reason and this results in injury to a patient, then it is likely that the doctor has breached the “duty of care” requirement, and will be found to have been negligent.
3. Q: How to make a claim for medical negligence?
A: Initially, you will need to obtain and collate all relevant medical records and notes for the entire treatment period from the medical professional or institution that treated you. Next, you will have to find an independent medical expert, give them the records, and ask the expert to comment on whether or not medical negligence was involved. For a medical negligence claim to be successful, broadly speaking it is important to establish that the errors that occurred during the medical treatment would not reasonably have occurred if the same procedure had been conducted by another competent medical professional. It needs to be proved that the treatment fell below acceptable standards and that the treatment has caused harm or injury to the patient.
4. Q: Is there a time limit for filing a medical negligence claim?
A: Generally speaking, an adult claimant has 3 years from the date on which the cause of action accrued (the date on which the incident involving the negligence occurred.) or, if later, the date on which the existence of a cause of action for medical negligence became known. For an infant claimant (under the age of 18), the 3-year period does not begin until the claimant reaches the age of 18. For a person of unsound mind, the 3-year period does not begin until the date on which the person becomes sane.
5. Q: How much could my claim be worth?
A: It is difficult to provide exact figures regarding how much compensation a successful claim for medical negligence would bring because each case is different in circumstances and no one case will be exactly the same as another. In general terms a claim for compensation based on medical negligence will be calculated by taking into account the past and future financial cost caused by the medical negligence, the pain and suffering that was caused as a result and the interest that has accrued from the time that the proceedings were served and payable and the financial loss attributable to the problem caused by the medical negligence together with the legal costs.