Anyone experiencing clinical negligence is likely to have considered suing those responsible. With a claim, the first things that people usually want to know is whether they have a claim, how much it is likely to be for and how long it will take to receive a result. It’s at this point, or even before asking these questions, that another question often takes precedent: is it going to be worth the hassle?
Clinical negligence can take place in the forms of death, surgical errors, misdiagnosis or poor treatment that leads to an illness being made worse, or mistakes such as overdoses being made. According to the NHS Litigation Authority (NHS LA) Report for 2013/14, the NHS spent over £2.5bn on damages to claimants and legal costs, not including the claims that were transferred to the Department of Health.
In Leicester alone, throughout 2013-14 University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (comprising of the Leicester Royal Infirmary, Glenfield Hospital and Leicester General) received 128 claims and paid out £15,272,521 to claimants – the 10th largest amount paid across all UK NHS Trusts.
Despite the numbers of claims rising across the UK, the NHS LA states that it is resolving more claims year on year, with 1,152 more claims resolved in 2013/14 than in 2012/13.
So, if lots of people are claiming and receiving compensation, why doesn’t everyone who has experienced clinical negligence claim?
In our experience, there can be several reasons for this:
- People are grieving after the death of a relative and may think that they have left it too late if they don’t claim straight away. (This often isn’t correct – in most cases, you have 3 years after clinical negligence has taken place, to bring a claim).
- People are still going through illness (either theirs or a family member’s) after clinical negligence has taken place and don’t have the time, energy or head space to look into it.
- People believe that the claims process is too difficult and complex.
- People do not use specialist solicitors and so give up on claims because they are taking too long or appear too complicated.
If you don’t claim, is an apology enough?
Particularly when someone has died, a relative may have gone from caring for and focusing on them – often with numerous trips to and from the hospital – to suddenly not having that family member there to care for anymore. If this is the fault of someone else, relatives can attempt to fill the gaping hole in their lives by being busy; channelling their anger and grief into seeking justice for the clinical negligence that resulted in the death of someone they cared about.
However, even when people do claim for clinical negligence soon after it has occurred, many are just looking for someone to take responsibility for what has happened and to apologise for their mistakes, so that the person who is dealing with the effects of clinical negligence can move on and let go of some of the anger they may have.
The question then becomes – is it worth the hassle to get an apology?
If something happened to you, would you want a family member to have to fight to get an apology for it? What happens if they don’t receive an apology? Would you want them to keep fighting to get compensation and justice for what happened? Not receiving an apology for clinical negligence is often a trigger to start legal proceedings, or to at least to request a meeting with the relevant organisation (i.e. hospital) to discuss what happened in the hope of receiving an explanation.
In many cases, in order to receive an explanation and apology, it is highly likely that you will have had to go through the starting points of a clinical negligence claim anyway. If you’re going to go through that, it’s worth instructing a specialist clinical negligence lawyer so that you are ready to go ahead with a claim if you aren’t satisfied with the investigation and resulting actions that have taken place.
If an apology is enough to be able to move on and come to terms with the effects of clinical negligence, that’s great. Otherwise, you aren’t on your own and expert support is available to help to get the justice that you and your family deserve.
What types of clinical negligence are other people claiming for?
In 2013/14, the NHS LA reported the following percentages of claims by specialty are:
- Orthopaedic surgery (15%)
- Casualty and A&E (12%)
- General surgery (11%)
- Obstetrics (11%)
- Gynaecology (6%)
- General medicine (6%)
- Radiology (3%)
- Urology (2%)
- Paediatrics (2%)
- Psychiatry/mental health (2%)
- Other – aggregated specialties (30%)
In order of highest value claims:
- Orthopaedic surgery
- Casualty and A&E
- General surgery
- Neuro surgery
- Other – aggregated specialties
Specialist clinical negligence legal advice
If you aren’t sure whether you should try to claim, speak to someone that specialises in clinical negligence, who can understand how difficult it is to make a decision about claiming and will be able to give you free advice about whether it’s likely to be worth it for you and your family, based on your individual circumstances.
Our personal injury lawyers have a wealth of experience in clinical negligence cases and will come to see you and your family in hospital, at home, or meet with you at any of our offices in Leicester, Market Harborough or Hinckley. Even if you decide not to pursue a claim, it may help to put your mind at rest to have not had to make the decision on your own.