Can I Sue a Hospital for Medical Negligence?
What is Medical Negligence?
Medical negligence is a blanket legal term, covering civil cases regarding the injury and/of suffering of a patient as a direct result of medical action or inaction. This can include a variety of cases, from the over-prescription of dangerous drugs and the non-prescription of vital drugs to serious mistakes made in care – whether surgical errors or mistreatment on ward.
There are four factors to any medical negligence case, otherwise known as the four ‘D’s: duty of care, dereliction, damages and direct causation. Duty of care is the establishing that a doctor, nurse or service had duty of care over you at the time of the incident or incidences in question. Dereliction describes that doctor, nurse or service’s failure to uphold duty of care in their treatment of you, and damages describes your account of the injuries, injustices and suffering you received as a result of that failure – estimated as a compensation amount, taking into account time off work, mental anguish, disability aids and other incurred costs. Direct causation is the establishment of causation between dereliction and damages; proving beyond reasonable doubt that the actions or inactions of your healthcare provider directly resulted in your injuries.
When Can I Sue a Hospital?
In the United States, medical negligence – or medical malpractice, as they call it – is handled a little differently. This is because the vast majority of their hospitals are privately owned, and their patients able to access them via insurance schemes. Doctors in these hospitals are either private contractors or employees – and only in the case that they are employees can the hospital be held responsible for their malpractice.
In the UK, the vast majority of hospitals are NHS-run, and free at the point of use to UK citizens. Every doctor and nurse is part and parcel of the NHS’ service, and as such every medical negligence claim involving NHS hospital admission is against, and handled by the NHS – or more specifically, NHS Resolution: a non-profit wing of the NHS designated to handle litigation against the NHS. Specific and extremely rare circumstances can result in claims against individuals in the NHS – where gross GP misconduct occurs, or criminal activity.
How Much Time Do You Have to Sue a Hospital?
You typically have up to three years from the date of the initial negligence incident to put in a compensation claim for medical negligence; if you were under the age of 18 when the negligence occurred, this three year window begins on your 18th birthday. There are provisions which allow for the pausing of this three-year window – particularly, when the claimant does not have the mental capacity to make such a claim. For example, if suspected medical negligence resulted in the claimant spending an extended period of time in a coma, the window would begin when they were awake and able to make independent decisions.
Should You Hire a Professional for Your Medical Negligence Suit? It is unwise to attempt to file a medical negligence claim without retaining the services of a specialist medical negligence solicitor. Claims such as these can be a lot more complicated than they appear – and without legal help, you may struggle to prove in court that your damages were caused by dereliction, or that your damages would not have occurred anyway. Solicitors make your life easier, and can navigate the claims process swiftly and efficiently. Only 2% of medical negligence cases against the NHS make it to court, and this is largely due to the negotiating powers a solicitor has with the NHSR.