What is Clinical Negligence?

 In Legal Transcription

Clinical Negligence claims transcribed by experts

Clinical negligence (sometimes referred to as medical negligence) deals with patient claims against healthcare professionals and, in some cases, the organisations which employ the healthcare professionals in question.

A clinical negligence claim which is successful results in damages being awarded to the claimant in the case. This is the only outcome of such proceedings. The court does not have the authority to, for example, compel a hospital or clinic to implement changes in their working practice or procedures, nor can it effect disciplinary measures against health professionals.

Clinical negligence cases occur when the claimant (usually a patient) believes that the legal duty of care the doctor or health professional has with the patient has been broken, resulting in harm or damage to the patient. For a negligence case to be successful in court, the claimant must be able to prove that:

There was, in fact, a duty of care between the healthcare professional and the patient which was not upheld, and that proper care was not taken, which resulted in harm to the patient. Subsequently, the patient suffered either damage or other type of loss due to the negligence.

How is clinical negligence different from a personal injury claim?

In the case of personal injury claims, the claimant is required to prove that the healthcare worker did not perform their duties or responsibilities to the necessary standards expected (fault) and that the patient’s current situation is as a direct result of the failure to do so (avoidable harm).

Fault, or breach of duty, refers to the fact that the type of treatment given to a patient, or the level of care provided, was below the expected standard for such situations. Avoidable harm, or causation, refers to the need for the patient to prove that it was in fact negligent care, as opposed to any pre-existing or underlying circumstances, which resulted in the patient suffering harm or damage.

Clinical negligence claims – time constraints

Normally, clinical negligence claims are required to be brought no later than three years after the time when the harm or damage was suffered by a claimant, or when it was discovered that harm had been suffered as a result of negligence. The claims procedure can be lengthy and complex, requiring investigation and extensive supporting documentation.

Investigating a clinical negligence claim

The claimant’s lawyer must fully understand the details and impact of the treatment or care, which was allegedly the cause of the patient suffering harm or damage, and the full extent of losses incurred by the claimant. This will take into account the impact on the claimant’s life, loss of earnings (if applicable) and any long-term needs the claimant now has as a result of the negligence, in order to seek adequate and appropriate compensation for the claimant.

This requires extensive documentary evidence, which might include detailed statements from the claimant and those health professionals involved (and their transcriptions for use in court), full copies of all relevant medical records, x-rays and other scans, and the opinion of impartial medical specialists.

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