If you have suffered from some sort of medical negligence, you may want to consult a lawyer. Everybody has great respect for people who care for the sick and suffering, but sometimes mistakes or errors of judgement happen. These could be quite genuine mistakes rather than carelessness but, nevertheless, they could make your condition worse, prolong your suffering or cost you money. If you have suffered from minor errors, that have minimal consequences, then it is sometimes best to forget about them and concentrate on getting better. But if it is a serious mistake, or has significant consequences for your health or finances, then you should consult a lawyer.
Bear in mind that if you take a hospital or health board to court you are only suing for damages. You can not have a doctor or medical professional censured for malpractice, make a doctor apologise or insist that the hospital changes its work practices. A negligence action is purely about getting you compensation for the injury that you have suffered. Of course, no hospital wants to have their patients suffer more than necessary, and so your action may result in revised work practices, but that is not guaranteed. You can claim against any medical professional who has treated you, whether the are NHS or private.
Of course, there are various different forms of negligence you could claim for, some that involve treatment and some that reflect a lack of treatment. You could have suffered from a surgical error, someone giving you the wrong medication, a doctor coming to the wrong diagnosis, or delaying diagnosis unreasonably. Alternatively, you may have been given the incorrect treatment, were not warned about the risks or side effects of treatment, or not been asked to give the proper consent. It may seem to you that you have clear evidence of negligence, but it is worth considering how it might appear to a judge. You are a very subjective witness who was probably in pain, or heavily drugged at the time. The human body is complex and the effect of medication is sometimes unpredictable. Doctors often have to make educated guesses, working on little information in urgent life and death situations. The medical professional may have done the right thing in the given circumstances and the treatment may have failed anyway. Deciding to claim for medical negligence is a difficult decision and you would be well advised to speak to a medical lawyer about your case.
Also remember that there are time limits in most areas of British law. In the case of medical negligence it tends to be three years. There are exceptions to this rule, however. If the victim is mentally handicapped, then there may be no time limit at all. If the victim was a child when the alleged negligence took place then the clock starts when he or she reaches eighteen. The time starts from when the injury is discovered and not necessarily when the negligence took place. And finally the judge may decide to ignore the time limit if he sees fit – though this is a very unusual occurrence. Your lawyer will be able to advise you if you have any concerns about how the time limit applies to your case.
Like most legal specialities, if you intend to sue for medical negligence, you really must find a lawyer or solicitor who is an expert in this area of the law. This is not the sort of claim you want to leave to a general legal practitioner. The best way to find one is searching the internet. Make searches for phrases like ‘ medical negligence lawyers’ or ‘ “. Then call them up and check that they specialise in your kind of case. When you speak to your lawyer, make sure you have as much information with you as possible. This could include dates, the names of the medical staff who treated you, any medical treatment you received, any witnesses who can support your statements, any evidence of malpractice that you may have and any correspondence you might have had with the hospital. The first consultation is usually free and the lawyer will be able to advise you if this is the best course of action for you to take.
There have been some massive medical negligence scandals over the years, where large pharmaceutical companies, or health boards have been responsible for gross negligence towards hundreds or thousands of people. However, most medical negligence cases involve a single claimant, who is trying to get redress for a medical error that has had dramatic consequences for their lives. Your health is your most precious asset. If you have been the victim of medical negligence you deserve to get compensation for your suffering.
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