(US clinical medical negligence law and general information applicable in the UK) You went to the doctor seeking competent, compassionate medical treatment. What you received, however, may have been the opposite. From misdiagnosing illnesses and prescribing the wrong medications to horrendous mistakes that never should have occurred, medical negligence can and does occur. If you feel as though a healthcare provider treated you negligently, you may want to pursue a clinical negligence claim.
Step One: Is Your Clinical Negligence Claim Legitimate?
Before you start, consider this: Did the provider’s actions or lack of action cause serious harm? Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers make mistakes, many of which are promptly caught and corrected before the errors erupt into bigger problems. In other words, if you went in for a flu shot and received a pneumonia shot in error and nothing came of it, you likely don’t have a legitimate clinical negligence claim. On the other hand, if the mistaken injection caused you to have a life-threatening allergic reaction that put you in the hospital for weeks, you may have good reason to seek compensation under a clinical or medical negligence claim.
Step Two: Learn More about Clinical Negligence Laws Specific to Your State or Country
While you certainly don’t need to know the specifics of the law (unless you opt to pursue the claim without the benefit of legal counsel), any casual research you do should consider the governing law where you will be filing the claim. Clinical negligence, medical negligence, and medical malpractice laws vary from one country to the next. For example, in the United Kingdom, Civil Procedure Rules apply to clinical negligence claims in England and Wales. These rules include a provision dictating that doctors serving as expert witnesses must remain impartial. However, these rules do not apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Even within a country, the laws can vary from one state or province to the next. For example, according to a malpractice report issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation, U.S. medical malpractice laws, which trace their roots to 19th Century English common law, have largely been established through decisions made in state courts. Legal precedents established in one state do not apply to other states, though many state laws share common traits. If you research clinical negligence before consulting with an attorney, focus on the laws that apply to your specific jurisdiction.
While there’s plenty to learn about clinical negligence, time is ticking. Most clinical negligence laws have a statute of limitations which specify the legally prescribed period in which a lawsuit can be filed.
Step Three: Find a Good Clinical Negligence Attorney
No matter which laws govern your clinical negligence claim, you will need to prove that the healthcare provider’s negligence caused harm to you (or your loved one if the harmed patient is incapacitated or deceased). This burden of proof is on your shoulders, and a good medical negligence attorney is essential.
In general, you will need to prove:
• That a doctor-patient relationship existed or that the doctor had a duty of care to you
• That the doctor was negligent
• That you suffered harm as a result
Proving liability and causation is often difficult, making it vital to retain a clinical negligence attorney.
Step Four: Prepare for the Legal Process
Most legal claims never make it to court. Even if your clinical negligence claim goes to trial, it may be settled out of court before the court date. Regardless, there will be plenty of forms to fill out and meetings and depositions to attend. Your attorney will handle the legal details, though you may need to be involved at some level.
Clinical negligence claims are difficult. However, if you have been harmed as a result of clinical negligence, pursuing a clinical negligence claim may be in your best interest (and the best interest of future patients). Are you ready to explore your legal options?
1. Clinical Negligence. Patient.co.uk. [Online] [Cited: August 21, 2012.] http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Clinical-Negligence.htm.
2. Foundation, Kaiser Family. Medical Malpractice Law in the United States Report. Kaiser Family Foundation. [Online] May 2005. [Cited: August 23, 2012.] http://www.kff.org/insurance/upload/medical-malpractice-law-in-the-united-states-report.pdf.
About the Author
Guest Post was contributed by Daniela Levett on behalf of Pryers Solicitors. Daniela is a freelance writer with extensive legal background as an attorney. She enjoys writing for various online legal publications.