What to do if you think you’ve been the victim of medical negligence

The UK’s healthcare system ranks as one of the best in the world, yet unfortunately misdiagnosis or accidents still occur. If your care has fallen beneath the medically acceptable standards, then you have experienced medical negligence, and you can make a claim for compensation.

Receiving unsatisfactory medical treatment is not only physically damaging, but psychologically and financially, too. This is why victims of medical negligence deserve compensation. Making a complaint, however, can be a confusing and lengthy process, and victims must have sufficient evidence to support their claim. 

Below you will find details on what medical negligence entails and what you can do after experiencing unacceptable medical care. 

How to know you are a victim of medical negligence

Identifying that you have experienced medical negligence is the first step. The most common signs of negligence include misdiagnosis, treatment that does not improve your condition or causes the condition to get worse, or insufficient aftercare and errors during surgery or treatment. If you get a second opinion from another doctor, this can be evidence for your claim.

Below are a few scenarios where McCarthy + Co Solicitors explain where you may be able to bring a claim for GP negligence: 

  • Failure by your doctor to carry out enough testing to accurately diagnose your condition.
  • Situations where you have been prescribed incorrect medication or treatment courses.
  • Failure by your doctor to recognise common but serious issues, where an earlier diagnosis may have significantly extended your life or prevented a significant decline in your quality of life.
  • Failure by your doctor to refer you to a specialist where it was needed.
  • Failure by your doctor to attend home-visits, where required.
  • Failure by your doctor to keep accurate records, resulting in the obscuring of important patient information that impedes diagnosis and treatment.

You can also make a claim as the next of kin for someone who does not have the capacity to take legal action themselves, or has died due to negligence. 

Steps to take after being a victim of medical negligence

There are steps to take to ensure you have all you need to claim for medical negligence. 

If you are aware of medical neglect during your treatment, you should make a complaint straight away in case your issue can be dealt with quickly. The NHS offer Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS), who specifically deal with informal complaints and try to resolve any problems immediately. 

If the negligence is not detected until after the medical treatment has taken place, you can make a complaint to either the NHS practice, GP, or private practice who issued your treatment. Each organisation has its own process. You must make sure you send your complaint within 12 months of the date of treatment, although you can sometimes gain an extension if the negligence meant you were too ill to make the complaint within the timeframe. Even so, it is perhaps better to arrange for your next of kin to make the claim for you if you are unable to do so. 

If you make an informal complaint with no results, you can then take steps towards making a medical negligence claim. When making a claim, you will need to make sure you include all the details of the medical treatment that has caused you concern. These include when and where the events took place, your concerns, and how you wish these problems to be handled. You can even contact a specialist solicitor to help you create a detailed complaint. 

You’ll also need to supply evidence for your claim, including your medical records, any witnesses including loved ones or medical staff, and a detailed statement that sufficiently describes your situation. This can help you and your solicitor create a valid case for your complaint.  

What does a Statute of Limitations involve?

You will need to make a claim with the Statute of Limitation in mind. This law details the maximum amount of time the parties involved in a dispute have to begin legal proceedings, usually three years. This period begins from the date you are aware of the offence. If you have suffered an avoidable injury or misdiagnosis due to negligence, the Statute of Limitations begins when this negligence has been diagnosed, rather than the date that this offence occurs. 

There are some cases where the Statute of Limitation changes. This includes incidents that occur during pregnancy or childbirth. If a child suffers a brain injury during delivery, then there is no deadline, whereas if they endure an injury that does not cause mental impairment, they or their caregivers have until two years before their 18th birthday to make a claim. 

What happens after making a complaint?

Most cases are settled before those involved have to go to court for a full trial, and the defendant offers the victim a financial settlement. However, you should still be prepared just in case. 

If your medical negligence is taken to court, the trial can take between 18 months to three years, if not longer. This all depends on the defendants’ response to the accusation, plus the complexity of your claim. 

Final thoughts

If you feel you suffered whilst obtaining medical treatment, then you are within your rights to start a medical negligence claim. Whether you have been misdiagnosed, suffered an avoidable injury, or not received ideal aftercare, you can begin with a complaint to your doctor, practice or hospital to see whether the matter can be dealt with immediately. 

If your complaint does not bring you the results you deserve, you can then hire a solicitor to help you make a claim for medical negligence. Making a claim can be a long and confusing process, but it is worth the effort to ensure you receive compensation.