The Claims Process

The 1st Appointment with Your Medical Negligence Claim Solicitor

When you attend your first appointment with our Medical Negligence Claim Solicitors it is very useful if you could bring certain information with you. This will help to speed the process along and help us start to gather the evidence in support of your claim.

The things you will need to bring are:

• Personal details – including your name, address, date of birth, marital status and NI number.

• ID. Ideally, this should be a photo ID such as a driving license or passport. We also need to confirm your address, so please bring a utility bill as well.

• The date of the accident or incident you would like us to investigate.

• If you only realised a while after the incident that something was wrong, we need to know when you discovered this.

• Details , if you have it, of the consultant or other medical professional, as well as the relevant NHS Trust responsible for your care at the time of the negligence.

• A summary of your condition at the time you went into hospital/sought medical treatment – and in particular if you had any previous relevant medical problems;.

• A summary of the negligence and what you think went wrong.

• If you were provided with an explanation, in advance, of your treatment; whether you were warned of any risks; if you were told of alternative treatments, and what information you received on what you would happen if you were not treated

• Financial expenses information. It’s useful to have a summary of the expenses you have incurred as a result of the negligence, such as medical costs and loss of earnings.

• Any correspondence you may have had with the relevant doctors or other medical staff that relates to the incident in question.

• Anything else that is relevant to the incident

• Last, but not least, a list of any particular questions you want to ask your solicitor

Once your medical negligence claim has been investigated by your solicitor and an independent doctor or other medical expert has confirmed that you have a claim, the official claims process can then start.

If you are planning on making a medical negligence claim, there are certain time limits you must stick to.

Strict time limits in Making a Medical Negligence Claim

The most important limit is to start your claim within three years of discovering the negligence. This doesn’t necessarily mean within three years of the negligence occurring, as you may not always be immediately aware that something is wrong. For instance, if you are given a faulty implant, it might be some years before a problem becomes apparent.

This means you have three years from the point that you find out something went wrong in which you or your solicitor makes the initial court application. It is very important to get legal advice as soon as possible if you do intend to claim – as the claims process is often be long and complicated. In addition, it is often easier if your medical negligence solicitor can start collecting the evidence in support of your claim early on, while the details of what happened are still fresh in your mind

  • Time Limits – Exceptions

There are a couple of exceptions to this three year rule. One is if an act of negligence is committed against a child. In this case, the three year limit would not apply until the child reaches the age of eighteen- so children essentially have until they are twenty one to start a claim.

There is also an exception made for people with mental disabilities. For them, the three year rule does not apply until they get over their disability. If they are unable to recover from the disability, the limit will never come into force.

  • Time Limits – the Court timetable

As well as the time limits you must keep when starting your claim, there are also time limits to observe after your claim has been issued at court. Your solicitor will be able to provide you with more information about this, but the limits can be expected to include:

• Once the defendant (the person who committed the negligent act- although usually the insurance company) has been served with notice of your claim, they have 28 days to serve their defence if the case is being heard in the High Court. If it is being heard in a County Court, they will have 14 days.

• Prior to a claim going to trial, there will be a meeting of lawyers in which evidence is considered. Following this meeting, your solicitor will have 28 days in which to submit written questions to the experts for the defence, asking them to clarify their evidence.

• Following the issuing of proceedings, your trial must take place within 15 months.

• If the judge at your trial reserves judgement due to the complexity of the case [i.e. the judge says that they won’t immediately tell you what they have decided as they feel they should put their decision in writing], they must provide you with a written judgement within 3 months.

Depending on your individual circumstances, a medical negligence claim can take several years to progress from your initial meeting with your solicitor to the verdict delivered by the judge. Three or four years is sadly not unusual. If you choose to appeal a decision, it could take even longer, so this is something you definitely need to be aware of and prepared for before you start the claims process.

Don’t delay – Contact one of our Medical Negligence Solicitors today

If you are thinking of making a medical negligence claim, don’t delay – or you may lose your right to do so entirely.

Formal complaints

This may involve making a formal complaint to the professional body or medical professional in question. It is always worth contacting them directly before starting legal proceedings against them as they need to be aware that a case is being bought against them.

Settlements

In most cases you should be able to settle your claim outside of court; the defendant may decide that it would make more sense for them to pay you compensation without the legal expense, and time involved in a contested court case, especially if your evidence is strong. Settlements are normally achieved through negotiating with the defence. However, settlement outside court isn’t always possible, and so 2 or 3 in every 100 cases will end in a court case.

Depending on when you made your claim, your medical negligence solicitor may already have started court proceedings to make sure you acted within the prescribed time limits. If this has not already been done then this will be the next step. However, court proceedings should usually only begin once a letter of claim has been sent to the medical professional in question and any attempts to settle the claim with them directly, outside of court, have failed.

Choosing the right court

Your solicitor is usually the one who decides which court your case will be heard in. For medical negligence cases, this will usually be the High Court. This is because the High Court judges tend to be more experienced in such cases, which can be very useful when making a claim. However, depending on the circumstances of your case and how complex it is, it may also be heard in a County Court.

Proceedings will be initiated by your solicitor serving a claims form on the defendant. This should go directly to the defendant rather than their insurers, and ideally it should include details of your claim.

Defending a medical negligence claim

• The defendant will then instruct their own solicitors to act on their behalf. If they have not done so already, they will investigate the defendant’s claim.

• The defendant usually has 28 days to serve their defence, unless the case is heard in the County Court, in which case they have 14 days.

• The defence team is allowed to ask you for more details of your negligence claim if they do not think you have provided sufficient information and they can also ask you to undergo another medical examination, this time carried out by their doctor.

• Once the defence has been served, witness statements also need to be prepared so they can be submitted to the court. This will also include your own personal evidence. After the documents have been submitted, the case will be in the hands of the court.

• Well before any contested court hearing, there will normally be a meeting with your barrister, where your medical expert will discuss what the defence expert has written about your injuries and your claim. They can then provide a supplementary report based on what the defence has written.

• Your solicitor can also ask the defence to clarify their reports by supplying them with written questions within 28 days.

Final hearing

Following this, a final hearing should then be scheduled. A judge will hear the case and rule on the matter; in English courts, juries aren’t used in cases of medical negligence. Once the trial has been completed, if your case is simple then the judge is likely to deliver the verdict orally. If the case is more complex, the judge will deliver a written verdict within three months.

Grounds for appeal

In the event of you losing the case, there may well be grounds for appeal. This is something that your medical solicitor will be able to advise you on. Generally, it is thought that around 50% of medical negligence claims taken on by solicitors are successful, so as long as you have a strong case there is a good chance that you will be successful in your claim.

For specialist legal advice, contact our Medical Negligence Claim Solicitors

Make sure that you don’t delay getting in touch – strict time limits apply, and if you leave it too long, you could find that you’ve lost your right to claim compensation for a medical error entirely.

  • Call us on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544
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