Do I Have Grounds to Make a Medical Negligence Claim?

Knowing If You Have A Claim

Medical negligence claims are part of an area of law known as tort, which is the law governing ‘private wrongs’. Most personal injury claims fall within the remit of tort law, and often come about as claims in negligence. Such a claim is established if there is a duty of care owed towards you, it has been breached, there has been damage, and that damage was caused by the negligent action.

What Is A Breach Of Duty?

Establishing the existence of a duty of care is not normally an issue in medical negligence claims. After all, the medical professional or institution against whom you are pursuing legal action has a duty towards you as a patient. More difficult is proving a breach of that duty. Unlike many other areas of personal injury, the mere fact of damage which is the fault of someone else is not enough to found a successful medical negligence claim. This is because medicine is not an exact science, and doctors must take some risks in order to save patients. The law is designed in such a way that it does not overly discourage doctors from trying to save a patient.

Because of this policy consideration, you must prove that the action taken by the doctor who had a duty of care towards you was unreasonable by the standards of a competent professional in their particular field. In other words, it is not enough that your GP did not take the best possible action to help you, or inadvertently caused damage. Their actions must have been unreasonable by the standards of a competent General Practitioner.

What Is Causation?

Even if you can prove a breach of duty by the standard laid out above, you must still prove causation. That is to say, the breach of duty must have caused the damage about which you are claiming. This is not always straightforward. For example, a brief delay in diagnosis may be held to have had no effect on the progress of a disease. It is often the case that causation will limit the amount of damages for which you can claim, as not all of them will have been the result of a negligent act.

How Do I Establish A Claim?

If you can meet the standards required for a medical negligence claim, you will need to contact a firm of solicitors who specialise in this area. They will conduct an initial investigation into the viability of your claim, by taking a full statement from you, reviewing your medical records and possibly consulting a medical expert. This can be a lengthy process, and you will also need to keep one eye on the time limit for negligence claims. In most situations, this will be three years from the time at which the damage occurred. However, in many circumstances this ‘limitation period’ will only start to accrue once you have knowledge of your injury. Make sure you check with your solicitors, and claim in plenty of time.

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