Doctors stick together – will the independent doctor really help my claim?
The purpose of an independent doctor in medical negligence claims is to provide an unbiased view of the situation and write a report based on the facts of the case. This means that they are not on anyone’s side and their job is to be completely impartial.
If your solicitor has instructed an independent doctor to participate in the case, it is likely to be because they think your claim has a chance of succeeding. If this is the case, the independent doctor will more than likely help your claim. If the doctor reviews the evidence and reports back that s/he thinks your claim would be unsuccessful, it may be hard to hear but it is better to know early on in the process rather than proceeding with a costly case you may well lose.
This means that the independent doctor has a vital role in medical negligence claims, but their job is not to automatically take your side. Rather, they have to present the true facts of the case so that you can make the right decision in relation to your claim.
Will an independent doctor need to examine me?
It is likely that an independent doctor will need to examine you in order to back up your claims. For instance, if you are claiming compensation on the grounds that you received unexpected or excessive scarring following a medical procedure, this will need to be confirmed. The purpose of the investigation is to build as strong a case as possible and you will be treated sensitively throughout, so you shouldn’t worry about the examination.
A member of my family has died as a result of poor medical treatment – can I still claim?
Yes. If you believe that a member of your family has died due to medical negligence you may well be able to make a claim. Typically, this will be a fatal injury claim and you may well have to attend an inquest presided over by a coroner. The purpose of the inquest is to establish the cause of the person’s death and the circumstances leading up to it.
You can also make a claim on behalf of cpeople with mental disabilities who are unable to act in their own capacity and who have suffered medical negligence. Your solicitor will be able to tell you more about the process of making a claim on behalf of someone else.
Can I make a medical negligence claim on behalf of my child?
Yes. You can also make a claim on behalf of children in your care who have suffered medical negligence, as well as people with mental disabilities who are unable to act in their own capacity. Don’t forget however, with children[unless the injury only came to light later), you must claim before they reach the age of 21, or they lose the right to do so.
With regard to medical negligence claims on behalf of children, legal aid is now only available to fund the case in very limited situations.
Can I make a claim without a solicitor?
While you can make complaints to medical bodies on your own initiative, if you are planning to pursue a full claim properly you will need the services of a specialist medical negligence solicitor. Strict processes have to be followed and time limits kept to -specialist knowledge is frankly essential and using an experienced expert solicitor is so important.
Also, if your case ends up going to court, your solicitor will need to put the proceedings into motion and also act on your behalf throughout the trial. Medical negligence cases can also be complicated, not necessarily because the law is complex but because medical issues are often sensitive and it can be hard to prove negligence.
In general, when people have made medical negligence claims without a solicitor, their success rates have been very poor, while success rates for claims with a solicitor are much better. Your solicitor can also provide invaluable advice such as whether you should proceed with a claim, so it is definitely worth using their services.
How do I know who to charge with negligence?
Knowing who to charge with medical negligence can sometimes be confusing, especially if you have dealt with several doctors and are unsure which of them was to blame for the medical error.
If you are making a claim of negligence against the NHS, the defendant in your case might be the relevant health authority or the NHS Trust. However, if you are making a claim against a GP, even if they are working under contract for the NHS, you would name either the GP or their practice as the defendant in the claim.
Your solicitor will be able to help you identify who you should charge with medical negligence in cases where this isn’t clear cut. The initial stages of investigation into your case should help to make this clearer, as should obtaining your medical records to see who was responsible for your care at the time the negligent act took place.
Is legal aid is still available for my medical negligence claim?
Legal aid is now only available for medical negligence and very limited circumstances. In particular since changes made on April 1, 2013, only children whose brain injuries were caused during the pregnancy itself, or who were injured during their birth, or who have developed serious brain injuries which led to serious disabilities within 8 weeks of their birth qualify for legal aid to make a medical negligence compensation claim
Legal aid is only available through a small number of solicitors firms that that have been awarded a “clinical negligence franchise” by the government’s Community Legal Service. Because the vast majority of our clients are no longer eligible for legal aid, we gave up our legal aid franchise following the changes
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