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14 Medical Accidents

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1. Introduction

2. What is a medical accident?

If something goes wrong when you are having medical treatment, this is sometimes called a 'medical accident' or 'adverse event'. If your treatment has not worked or there have been complications, it does not always mean that there has been a mistake, or that someone is to blame. In some cases, you have to accept errors or complications as unavoidable risks of the treatment and the doctor or other healthcare professional would not be considered to blame. For example, if you have major heart surgery, there are risks because of the surgery. However, there can be complications with minor procedures too.

'Clinical negligence' is the legal term used to describe a medical accident where a patient has been harmed, not because of an unavoidable complication, but because a doctor or other healthcare professional has not given the proper standard of care. It doesn't mean this person was incompetent. It can just mean that in that particular case, they made a mistake. Clinical negligence includes things like:

  • making a mistake during surgery;
  • giving you the wrong drug; or
  • making the wrong diagnosis or delaying a diagnosis unnecessarily.

Clinical negligence can also include not doing things that should be done, such as:

  • not giving you treatment you needed;
  • not getting your consent (agreement) to treatment; or
  • not warning you about the risks of a particular type of treatment.

If you or a relative have been the victim of clinical negligence, you may be able to claim compensation.

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?

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: June 2019


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