Medical negligence (or clinical negligence) is when a medical or healthcare professional breaches their duty of care. Medical negligence UK law means you can claim for compensation if you have suffered negligence at the hands of a medical professional.
There are many ways negligence can happen in a medical setting; sometimes, medical treatment doesn’t go to plan; this could be due to a surgical mistake, the incorrect treatment or when an illness is misdiagnosed. If you’ve been injured by the treatment you’ve received from a medical professional, you may be able to claim compensation to help you piece your life back together.
Our medical compensation solicitors are here to secure you the compensation you deserve. Medical negligence cases can be complex, particularly if your injuries are severe or if extensive evidence is needed to prove your claim. Here for you every step of the way, we’ll guide you through the process to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
What is medical negligence?
Medical negligence and clinical negligence and are the same thing. Negligence occurs when a medical or healthcare professional breaches their duty of care. In the US, it is called medical malpractice. In the UK, the law around medical negligence means you are able to claim for compensation if you have suffered at the hands of a medical professional.
Medical negligence claims are very different to other compensation and personal injury claims; in order to successfully claim for medical compensation you need to prove two things, firstly that the medical professional failed in their duty of care (fault), and secondly that this caused your situation (avoidable harm).
Duty of care breach or fault, in simple terms this means the care you received care that fell below an acceptable standard of a skilled and competent medical or healthcare professional.
To prove avoidable harm it is essential to show that the negligent care caused your current situation rather than your medical condition. This can be difficult to prove if a person was already ill at the time of the medical care.
For this reason we often use independent UK medical experts to give an analysis and expert opinion on whether there was a breach in the duty of care and if the treatment was negligent or fell within an acceptable standard.
Clinical negligence compensation no win no fee
The majority of the cases we work on are on a no win no fee basis.
No win no fee is actually a term for a CFA (Conditional Fee Agreement) which is an agreement between you and your solicitor where there is no financial risk to you.
If the case is won and an award granted you will be required to pay our fees, in some cases you can recover these costs from the other side. Our fees can also be paid from your compensation.
If the claim is unsuccessful you will not be liable to pay our fees.
However, there have been a number of recent changes to the way in which claims can be funded. We will discuss all the options listed below in detail with you:
- Conditional Fee Arrangement: We can take on your case on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.
- Legal expenses insurance: you may be covered under your home, car or other insurance that will pay for all or some of your costs.
- Legal Aid: public funding is now only available for claims involving birth-related brain injuries in babies.
- Private funding: you can fund the cost of the claim yourself.
Please read our guide to making a claim for details on how to fund your claim.
"Rachael kept me informed at every stage of the claim and was always professional in her advice and technical expertise."
Our compensation claims team have over 25 years’ experience dealing with claims for both medical negligence and personal injury.
Top ranked in Chambers UK and Legal 500, Jeanette Whyman runs the team; she is very well regarded as a leading expert in her field, she is recognised by the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.
Jeanette and her team deal with all types of medical claims as a result of orthopaedic surgery for joint replacement, surgical errors, cancer treatment and misdiagnosis, cosmetic surgery and dental negligence.
Our solicitors deal with medical negligence claims against the NHS, private hospitals, dental practices and other healthcare practices.
Mrs D had suffered from back problems and agreed to undergo a spinal operation in order to regain the degree of mobility and flexibility she enjoyed beforehand. This was particularly necessary to her as she had young children and being active was important.Read case study
Do you have a claim?
In order for your medical compensation claim to have merit we will access your individual case using three criteria:
- The healthcare provider must be guilty of a ‘breach of duty’. This means that the care you received fell short of what is deemed acceptable and caused harm;
- You were injured or received a worse than expected outcome; and
- The injury you received was as a result of a ‘breach of duty’. Your chances of success will depend on the extent of the breach of duty and the harm caused. Based on this and on independent medical opinions, we can advise you whether or not your claim is sufficiently strong to proceed.
How the value of your claim is calculated
This is usually the first question we are asked. The value of medical negligence payouts is based on many factors and your individual circumstances. We have put together a medical negligence compensation calculator to give you can idea on the value of your claim. Please contact our solicitors for your personal assessment.
The value of your claim will depend on a number of issues including pain, suffering, loss of earnings and likely future losses (such as care requirements). Your compensation will be made up of ‘general’ damages relating to pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life and ‘special’ damages relating to past and future financial loss, such as loss of wages and the cost of care. We can advise you on how your compensation is likely to be assessed and an estimate of your medical negligence compensation amounts. It is also possible that your claim will settle out of court. We can guide you through this process.
- Record as many details about the medical treatment that you can remember and the effect your injuries have had on your everyday life.
- Keep all relevant documents
- Record all related expenses
- Keep a ‘care’ diary to record the time either that you spend looking after a family member who is the victim of clinical negligence or that family members spend looking after you.
"Rachael kept me informed at every stage of the claim and was always professional in her advice and technical expertise."
Time limits and the date of knowledge
There is a medical negligence time limit. Normally, you must bring a claim within three years of the date of the injury or death of a loved one or from when you first became aware that your injury was due to medical error, known as the “date of knowledge”.
For adults who are mentally capable
Cases where an adult has mental capacity the time limit for the majority of medical negligence claims is three years from the date the injury or negligence occurred or three years from the date you became aware of the injury. This is called the “date of knowledge”
In many cases you will be aware of the injury or suffering either immediately or soon after the suffering occurs, this could be after surgery or the death of a loved one. However, in some cases, perhaps were an illness or disease is left undiagnosed you may not become aware of the negligence until several months or even years later. The three year time limit starts from the moment you became aware – the date of knowledge.
In children the rules and time limits for medical negligence are different; this is to allow a child to bring a claim for medical negligence in their own right once they become an adult if they see fit. Therefore the time limit for a child is actually when they reach their 21st birthday.
An adult or child lacking mental capacity
If an adult is deemed to be have issues with mental capacity so they are unable to manage their own affairs, this may be due to a mental illness or brain damage then there is no time limit for bring a claim for medical negligence. The same rule applies for children where the circumstances mean when they reach adulthood they are unable to manage their own affairs due to lack of mental capacity.
Claims on behalf of the deceased
The same three year time limit applies when claiming medical negligence on behalf of the deceased. The limit is three years from the date of death for the family to claim on behalf of the estate.
Sometimes there is an exception to this if someone dies leaving young children. The children would have until their 21st birthday to make a claim.
If these time limits have expired?
There are sometimes exceptions to time limits so it is always worth speaking to a specialist medical negligence solicitor to discuss your individual case and see if you are still able to make a claim, there are times when the court can allow you to make a claim outside of these time limits.
If you think you have a claim but you are concerned about time limits please give our team a call to discuss the individual merits of your case.
Medical negligence cases
Matter: Action against Harley Medical Group
Summary: Our client Pearl Richman underwent a face, neck and eye lift. Due to a negligently thin skin dissection and excessive diathermy, the client suffered painful necrotic changes on her lower cheek and jawline resulting in the need for further laser treatment. She has been left with scaring along her jaw line. This was reported in many nationals newspapers.
Matter: Action against South Warwickshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Summary: Daniel Kunigiskis died aged just four days after errors made at Warwick Hospital during the baby’s delivery. The mismanagement of his birth led to him suffering hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy (lack of oxygen) resulting in a severe brain injury.
An inquest, attended by Jeanette Whyman, was held which heard how three different midwives failed to read Sarah’s antenatal notes which would have revealed her as a medium risk patient; one of the midwives had a history of making mistakes; and there was a failure by staff to monitor the foetal heartbeat properly.
The hospital admitted liability and the family received a five figure settlement. This again was reported by many national newspapers.
Matter: Action against University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust
The family of a teenage girl who starved to death after doctors failed to give her a life-saving drip have received a five-figure pay-out, after health chiefs were found guilty of 'gross failings'.
Stephanie Bell, 19, died after doctors sent her home instead of giving her vital nutrients which would have saved her life. The family received an out-of-court settlement from the hospital. This case was reported by the Daily Mail.
Matter: Action against East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust
Summary: Claimant underwent a hip replacement operation in 2008 following which the hip was painful and regularly dislocated. On being reviewed by a new consultant in 2008 he was diagnosed with a malposition of the acetabular component of the hip replacement which resulted in the subluxation of the joint. He therefore underwent a further hip replacement operation to replace the prosthesis which relieved the pain and has not suffered any further dislocation. Liability was not admitted but offers were made and the matter was subsequently settled.
Matter: Action against Stratford Dermotherapy Clinic
Summary: Our client suffered significant scarring to her chest as a child after an accident with boiling water, a fact she had learnt to accept. As an adult, she was persuaded by a doctor at Stratford Dermotherapy Clinic that laser type plastic surgery to the neck and chest would reduce the appearance of the scarring and help rejuvenate the skin. The result was quite the opposite: the treatment caused further scarring to the chest area due to the negligent approach of the practitioner. The Clinic admitted liability and the case was settled in our client’s favour.
Matter: Action against Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham
Our client is a self-employed boiler maker who, after suffering considerable pain in his elbow (due to the manual nature of his work), agreed to undergo an operation on the advice of a professor at Queens Medical Centre, a respected orthopaedic surgeon. Prior to the operation, the professor failed to give our client the range of options open to him (of which operating was just one) and failed to outline the risks associated with surgery i.e. that it might not work and informed him that the recovery period was three weeks. In the event, our clients elbow did not make a full recovery as expected and the recovery period was 12 months which necessitated a considerable time off work. The case was settled in our client’s favour and damages for pain and loss of wages were made.
Matter: Missed diagnosis of early stage lung cancer
Summary: Our client’s wife visited hospital in 2007 for a chest x-ray which revealed the presence of a lesion on her lung. The hospital did not take any action nor did they follow up. Following a deterioration in her health, our clients wife made another appointment with the hospital in 2012 which revealed that she had lung cancer. She died three months later. The hospital admitted liability for the original missed diagnosis and we settled the case in our client’s favour.
Matter: Mistreatment of periodontal disease
Summary: The dentist, treating our client, did not recognise the symptoms of periodontal disease and thus failed to treat it properly. She was referred for surgery which, had the disease been diagnosed and treated earlier, could have been avoided. The claim was settled in our client’s favour.
What is medical negligence?
Medical negligence is where medical and healthcare professionals fail to meet their duty of care to a patient and this failure has resulted in injury or harm.
Can you sue the NHS for negligence?
Yes, you can sue the NHS for medical negligence. The amount of compensation you receive for suing the NHS will depend on your individual circumstances, your injuries or illness and the negligence you suffered. We have put together a brief compensation calculator guide to give you an indication.
What does a successful medical negligence claim show?
A successful medical negligence claim has to prove two things: firstly, proving fault requires evidencing that the medical professional or institution failed in their duty of care; and secondly, that this failure in their duty of care caused your current situation and would have been avoidable.
Proving avoidable harm can sometimes be difficult, particularly if you have an ongoing medical condition. Consulting independent medical experts means someone can provide an independent, unbiased analysis of your situation to help determine whether the harm could have been avoided had a duty of care been upheld.
How long do I have to make a claim?
In most cases, you’ll have 3 years from the date of injury, or the date when the injury became known. Sometimes, these are the same date, but in others, the extent of an injury or impact of an incorrect diagnosis or treatment may not be apparent for months or even years. We’ll be able to determine whether you’re still able to make a claim.
Is there any evidence I should keep hold of?
We recommend you keep all records of your injury or condition, including doctors’ letters, official documentation, and record of any related expenses. We also urge you to keep your own records, detailing any medical treatment you undergo, any care hours you require, and the effect your injuries have on your everyday life.
Locations we cover
An Italian doctor who did not have adequate insurance to cover the surgical procedures he was carrying out in the UK was...Read article