What is clinical negligence?

July 15, 2016

Most hospital staff and healthcare workers strive to deliver the highest standard of medical and after care they can.This is why we are grateful and for their tremendous efforts, and we get to go home feeling happy that we have received the very best care.

There are, however, some instances where people feel that they haven’t received adequate care. In fact, in some instances patients, or those close to them, feel that the care or medical attention that they have received has been substandard, or even non-existent.

This is called clinical negligence, and it can have a devastating effect on patients and their families.

What constitutes clinical negligence?

To make a clinical negligence claim, the claimant needs to be able to prove four key things:

1. That the medical professional involved in the case owed a duty of care to the claimant.
2. That the duty of care was breached.
3. That this breach of duty caused harm to the claimant.
4. That this harm to the claimant caused significant losses, be that financial or otherwise.

What is a duty of care?

The definition of a duty of care is a moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety or well being of others.

From a legal perspective, a duty of care is a legal obligation which has been placed on a person who must adhere to a set standard of care while performing any acts that may harm others (i.e. when a nurse is taking the blood of a patient).

What is a breach of duty?

For the duty of care to have been breached, the medical professional will need to have provided a level of care that falls below the average standard of a medical professional in their position.

As each clinical negligence case is different, there is no definite scale upon which a suspected breach of duty can be measured.

If you suspect that a duty of care has been breached, it’s best to contact a solicitor that specialises in these types of cases to talk about your next steps.

What constitutes ‘harm’ to the claimant?

The term ‘harm’ can be used to define a number of different things, including: physical harm (i.e. disease or infection caused by a breach of care), psychological damage (i.e. the emotional turmoil of a person who has lost a family member due to a breach of care) and financial damages (i.e. the cost of on-going medical care and/or counselling sessions needed after a breach of care has taken place).

Is there a time limit for clinical negligence claims?

The Limitation Act 1980 set the time limit for clinical negligence claims as three years from the ‘date of knowledge’.

This date varies from case to case. It could be that the date of knowledge is the date that the negligence occurred, or it could be a later date, when the harm caused by the negligence becomes apparent.

If the patient died due to clinical negligence, their family has three years from the date of death to make the claim.

If the victim of negligence was under the age of eighteen at the time of the occurrence, they have three years from their eighteenth birthday to make the claim.

If you would like to discuss your clinical negligence claim with one of our expert solicitors, please do not hesitate to give us a call on 01925 571 212, or fill out our contact form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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