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Making a Claim For Medical Negligence Compensation In The UK

By Martin Nolan

In the UK were a extremely fortunate to have a Healthcare system that is one of the best in the world. Despite the huge task that they are faced with, the National Health Service (NHS) performs its role extremely well.

New efficiency targets and standards of excellence have been set by the Labour Government since they came to office in 1997. There have been considerable improvements in the service generally. However, because of the sheer volume of people using the NHS, it is inevitable that not everyone will have a happy or positive experience.

The very fact that the NHS have tough targets to meet and a streamlined budget means that staff are constantly under pressure to perform and the law of averages dictates that mistakes will happen.

If you have been the victim of a medical error the law in the UK allows you to make a claim for clinical negligence against the health professional or local "Trust that treated you.

You generally have 3 years to make your claim from the date of injury but this can be extended if you later learn of (or receive knowledge of) the injury following further medical advice. Limitation in this area can be complex and you are advised to seek a legal opinion on your circumstances even if the initial 3 year period is spent.

In order to pursue a claim, you must firstly have your case assessed by a clinical negligence lawyer. The Law Society of England & Wales have a select panel of lawyers / solicitors who are authorised to deal with these claims. The Clinical Negligence Panel is a very select group of specialist lawyers. You must ensure that any lawyer who you instruct to deal with your case is actually a member of the panel. This will provide you with an opportunity to receive the best possible advice and legal representation.

You will need to consider how best to "fund your claim. This means that you will must deal with the question of how the legal costs in pursuing the action are to be paid for. There are a number of funding options because medical negligence claims are treated rather differently to accident related personal injury claims in the UK:

"You might be entitled to Public Funding (formerly "legal aid") which means that your costs and disbursements (expenses necessary to prove the claim) will be covered by agreement with the Legal Services Commission.

"You may opt for a "No win No fee agreement with your solicitor. Here your legal representative agrees to act for you on the basis that they will only recover costs if / when they win your claim. You would be liable for payment of any disbursements and would need to insure against losing the case in court and having to repay defence costs.

"If you are a member of a Trade Union, there may be provisions within the benefits of your membership to pursue a claim without incurring costs.

"You may have a legal expenses insurance policy which will cover you for such a claim. These policies are commonplace with for example Home insurance policies in the UK.

"Finally you may wish to fund the claim privately by paying your lawyer on an hourly basis. Reasonable costs and disbursements would be recovered if you were successful in making your claim.

Once the funding issue has been dealt with, the next step involves assessing and proving liability. Very often it can take time to properly establish liability. This is because most cases are usually complex in nature and initial investigations need to be carried out in many cases. These investigations can involve reviewing the claimants medical records (GP notes etc) and asking the claimant to undergo a medical examination.

In order to win the case you must show that a "standard of care" was owed to the claimant by the defendant (medical professional) and that this standard was breached. You must then establish causation - in other words prove that injury or harm resulted from the breach.

It goes without saying that medical negligence claims are very complex and can take a long time to conclude. They are not run of the mill claims that can be dealt with by any lawyer. You need specialist legal assistance from day one and must be prepared to cooperate fully with your lawyer.

The levels of compensation can be substantial. This is mainly because the injury or harm in many cases can be severe and long lasting. If your claim succeeds you may be able to claim for future treatment costs, loss of earnings as well as pain and suffering.

If you have suffered injury in these circumstances, please contact an authorised lawyer for advice.

For more information about making a medical negligence claim in England & Wales, please visit our "Medical Claims UK claims website.

About The Author
This article has been written by Martin J Nolan who is a legal marketer for UK compensation lawyers offering free Medical negligence NHS compensation advice in the UK

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