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Medical Negligence

How Long Does A Medical Negligence Claim Take?

Medical negligence compensation claims are complex personal injury cases but the health authority at fault can accept liability early on. Read more...

How Long Does A Medical Negligence Claim Take?

Medical negligence compensation claims are some of the most complex personal injury cases. They can take a long time to settle. As a rough guide:

  • 18 months to 2 years – for a simple claim that is not contested
  • 3 to 4 years – if court proceedings are needed
  • 5 to 6 years – for a complex contested claim or where there is significant ongoing injury.

But don’t let the time involved stop you from claiming – in many cases the health authority or clinician(s) at fault will accept liability early on. They can pay you interim damages while the full impact and cost of your injuries is determined.

Claim ‘No Win No Fee’ – So There Is No Risk To You

Clinical negligence cases take a long time because so much expert medical evidence is needed – but that does not mean you will face huge legal bills.

You will be claiming on a ‘no win no fee’ basis so there is no financial risk to you. And the process will be stress-free because our highly experienced medical negligence solicitors will be doing all the work.

Medical Negligence Claims Process – How Long Each Stage Takes (And Why)

  1. We apply to the relevant health authority and/or GP surgery for your medical records. Under disclosure rules they have 40 days to comply.
  2. Our solicitors assess your clinical records and seek expert medical evidence to determine whether the treatment you received was below the acceptable standard. This can take 3-4 months per specialist. More than one may be required to address liability and causation.
  3. We may then send a formal Letter of Claim on your behalf to the hospital trust, GP or other treating clinician. They have 4 months to respond under a guideline, the Pre-Action Protocol for the Resolution of Clinical Disputes. They usually take longer, saying that 4 months is not long enough for them to prepare their defence.
  4. It is likely that we will then arrange for you to be examined by a number of medical experts instructed on your behalf to address your medical condition and prognosis. This can take 3-4 months per specialist. It may be appropriate to consult experts one after the other rather than all at the same time.

    - Example 1: for a surgery compensation claim we may require a breach and causation report from a GP or orthopaedic surgeon (to address the referral, investigation and treatment). You may be examined by an orthopaedic surgeon (to address the medical outcome); a psychiatrist (to assess any psychological injuries you may have suffered); an occupational therapist (to deal with loss of earnings, care and equipment needs).

    - Example 2: for a cauda equina compensation claim there would be liability reports from a GP and/or an A&E consultant and a neurosurgeon. You may need to be examined by a neurosurgeon, orthopaedic surgeon, urologist, occupational therapist and a psychiatrist.

  5. (a). If the defendant accepts liability, we will ask them on your behalf to make you a compensation offer. Often, their first offer is too low and we will ask them to revise their offer. Around 99% of claims are settled in this way – very rarely does a medical negligence case ever go to trial.

    (b). If the defendant refuses to admit liability (or if their final offer is still too low) then we will pursue civil court proceedings. There are a lot of time-consuming steps in this stage of the process but trials usually take place around 24 months after proceedings are issued.

    If your case goes to trial then the hearing may last between 4 and 5 days but some can take longer. Even simpler contested claims can involve a 3-day trial.

  6. Compensation for your injuries – if you win your case, the court will issue an order requiring the defendant to pay damages within a fixed period of time, in addition to legal costs. Payment of damages usually takes 14-28 days. Payment is by bank transfer.

The Impact Of Covid-19 - How Might This Affect My Claim?

The pandemic has had a huge impact and understandably created a backlog with patient appointments and procedures; some patients are only now being seen or assessed, which may result in delayed diagnoses of various, potentially serious medical conditions, including cancer.

Potential cases are likely to increase for these reasons in the coming months, however the global pandemic is unprecedented and some delays will not constitute a breach of duty of care in the circumstances.

We will have to distinguish what still constitutes a breach of duty of care despite the pandemic; the duty to assess and treat patients in a reasonably timely manner still applies. There is likely to be developing case law as to what constitutes a ‘reasonable’ delay in assessment, referral or treatment in light of the new circumstances we face.

Serious conditions including possible cancers should still be referred for assessment and treatment within the relevant time periods or ‘pathways’ , failure to do so is still very much likely to constitute a breach of duty of care. We will then need to assess the impact that delay had on the client’s long term outlook.

Covid is likely to complicate claims in terms of what constitutes an ‘unreasonable’ delay in referral, diagnosis and treatment but there is still a duty of care to all patients and repeated and unnecessary delays will continue to result in successful cases.

The pandemic has also had an impact on the legal process in terms of time and cost; it is currently taking longer to obtain expert's reports. .Some of those that have been conducted remotely require a further face to face examination, meaning the cost of two reports instead of one. There is also the difficulty of experts' availability - particularly those that are caught up with Covid treatment. Courts are taking longer and hearings and meetings are being held remotely.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic our legal experts will strive to get you the help you deserve and need and will always be available to reassure you during the process.

Get Expert Legal Advice

Have you suffered because of medical negligence? Did the doctors fail to tell you all the facts when they asked for your consent? Should you have been offered less risky alternative treatments?

Find out more about how to claim compensation – ‘no win no fee’.

Contact Coles Miller solicitor David Simpson, a Partner and head of our Medical Negligence Department, for expert legal advice.

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