Clinical negligence is an umbrella term that encompasses a number of medical situations: incorrect diagnosis or treatment, delays in diagnosis or treatment, botched operations, failure of a medical product or device, etc. The implications of clinical negligence can have life-altering consequences—such as physical deformities, pain and suffering, and sometimes, even death. If you or someone you know has been the victim of clinical negligence, it’s important that you know your rights when pursuing a claim. Here are the top things you should know about clinical negligence cases:
1) You have a legal right to request copies of your medical records.
Under the Data Protection Act of 1998, all patients have the legal right to obtain copies of their medical records from the hospital or clinic that treated them. This can prove important in determining where the negligence occurred—and who is responsible for it—as well as determining your next path of treatment. A small of ₤10 or less may be charged for accessing and photocopying the records.
2) You have up to three years to file a compensation claim.
Don’t miss out on your opportunity to file a claim. For personal injury cases, The Limitation Act of 1980 requires victims to file a claim within three years of the time the negligence occurred. Exceptions to this rule are made for children and young adults who were under the age of 18 at the time the negligence occurred, as well as those who may be suffering from mental incapacity. That said, the sooner you take action, the better chances you have at winning your claim. Seek advice from an experienced professional at least six to twelve months before the expiry period to make sure you meet the limitation period.
3) Know if you’re eligible for public aid to help you pursue a claim.
The new Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill, which came into effect on April 1 of this year, drastically cut public funding for victims of clinical negligence. However, the bill does not affect those currently receiving aid, so if you were granted public aid by the March 31 deadline, you can expect to continue receiving aid. In addition, children who have suffered neurological damage as a result of clinical negligence during their mother’s pregnancy, the birthing process, or in their first eight weeks of life will be eligible to receive public aid if their caretakers file a clinical negligence claim. Unfortunately, you will likely be denied public aid for most other forms of medical negligence claims.
4) Find an experienced solicitor to take on your claim.
Clinical negligence claims are extremely complicated and time-consuming cases that are best handled by an experienced clinical negligence solicitor. If you are planning to make a claim, meet with a solicitor to explain your situation and ask questions about his/her experience in handling clinical negligence cases. You should also determine whether or not the solicitor will take on your claim on a “no win no fee” agreement so that you don’t have to pay any costs out-of-pocket. Under these kinds of agreements, the solicitor will be entitled to a certain percentage of your award if the claim is successful.