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14 Medical Accidents

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1. Introduction

2. What is a medical accident?

3. What should I do if I have suffered a medical accident?

4. How do I find out more about what happened to me?

5. What if I want to complain about a professional's behaviour?

6. When can I claim compensation?

7. How do I claim compensation?

8. How do I decide whether to take legal action?

9. What if I can't afford to pay for a solicitor?

10. What do I have to prove to claim compensation?

11. What can I claim compensation for?

You can claim compensation ('damages') for any injuries or losses that you can prove were the direct result of the healthcare provider's negligence. This could include compensation for:

  • pain and suffering, including, for example, ongoing treatment and further operations;
  • if you can't carry out daily activities or hobbies (called 'loss of amenity');
  • loss of earnings;
  • costs of nursing care, including care that your family provides, special equipment, medical care or help that you need to carry out daily activities;
  • costs of adapting your home; or
  • psychological injury.

If the case is about someone who died because of clinical negligence, you can claim the following:

If your husband, wife or a child under 18 died, you can claim bereavement damages of £10,000. If the person died before April 2002, you can claim only £7,500;

  • If you were financially dependent on the person who died, you can claim loss of dependency.

You can also claim on behalf of someone who has died for their pain and suffering and for any financial losses that were as a result of their accident.

When you first see the solicitor, they will probably be able to give you only a rough idea of how much compensation you might get. They will have to take into account certain social security benefits you get because of your injury, such as Income Support. This is because you benefits could affect how much compensation you will receive.

Will I have to appear in court?
There is a good chance that your case won't go to trial, where you would have to appear in court.

Until a few years ago, clinical negligence claims could take years to deal with. However, many cases are now settled more quickly, often within one to two years and at less cost. This is because of rules introduced in 1999, which cover the way clinical negligence cases are run.

More and more cases are now settled before legal proceedings are issued, called the 'pre-action' stage. Under the new rules, you and the organisation you are claiming against (the defendant) are encouraged to share information about your complaint to try and settle the matter quickly.

Your solicitor will need to start formal legal proceedings if:

  • the defendant doesn't accept that they should pay you compensation; or
  • you are close to the three-year time limit.

Once this happens, your case will run on a timetable set down by the court. But your case is still unlikely to end in a trial, where you would have to give evidence. Most cases are settled before the date set down for a trial.

To help people reach an early settlement, the courts also want to encourage both sides to look at other ways of settling disputes, including mediation. Mediation is where an independent person comes in to help both parties agree on how to settle the matter. For more ways of settling disputes without going to court, see the CLS Direct leaflet, 'Alternatives to Court'.



12. What can I do if my treatment was private?

13. What if a relative has died as a result of a medical accident?

14. What if my injury was caused by faulty medical equipment?

15. What if I want to make sure that the same mistake is not repeated?

16. Further help

17. About this leaflet

Logo of AVMAThis leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Action Against Medical Accidents.

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

Leaflet Version: October 2017


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