Most people who require medical treatment do receive a high standard of care from our National Health Service. However, even in the best run institutions things can and do go wrong from time to time. When they do there is the possibility of obtaining compensation.
There are two broad hurdles to get across before a successful claim can be made. The first of these hurdles is to establish that the doctor or other medical professional has done something wrong or to use the legal jargon is in “breach of duty”. Suffice it to say that if the practitioner`s work falls below a certain standard there may be a breach to consider.
The second hurdle is the more difficult one to establish because that is where many clinical negligence claims do run in to difficulty causing confusion and disappointment to many clients. To succeed in a claim for compensation the Claimant has to prove that any “breach of duty” that has occurred has caused some injury. Alternatively, the negligent act may have failed to cure the problem. In a clinical negligence case that can mean that the negligent procedure has actually inflicted an injury, for example if a swab or other foreign body has been left inside someone after surgery or the “breach of duty” may have made an underlying problem worse than it was. There must, however, be some type of cause and effect. The mere fact that a doctor has done something wrong or has failed to do something that should have been done will not, of itself, give rise to a claim.
By way of an example, in a hypothetical case a client was playing in goal in an amateur football match. In saving a ball he suffered a flexion injury to his wrist. At his local hospital, it was diagnosed as a sprain. He was reassured and sent away with some pain killers. He continued to suffer pain and some weeks later a fracture was diagnosed. He underwent surgery and the future prognosis was good. What was the outcome?
It was highly likely that the doctor who initially saw the client was at fault. Good practice would be to order an x-ray in such a case (so the doctor was “in breach of duty”). However, the correct diagnosis was made, admittedly late, and the correct treatment was then given. Evidence from a medical expert says his recovery will be the same as it would have been if the diagnosis was correctly made at the first consultation. All the “breach of duty” has caused is a few weeks extra pain and inconvenience. In theory that could be compensated but the pay out would be so low it would not be economic to run the case. This hypothetical case illustrates the point that just because there was a wrong diagnosis originally, unless that “breach of duty” caused greater problems such as a far longer recovery period or the need for surgery that would not have been the case if the diagnosis had been correct, then the doctors initial mistake would not result in a payment of damages.
If you feel you have been a victim of clinical negligence please contact us without obligation for an initial consultation to discuss your case. We accept such cases on a “no win, no fee” basis.