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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?

Investigating a claim for clinical negligence can cost many thousands of pounds. If you can't afford to pay for this yourself, there are several ways of getting help with the costs.

Public funding
If you cannot afford to pay legal costs for your case, you may be able to get public funding (formerly Legal Aid) through the Community Legal Service (CLS). You will have to show that you have a reasonable chance of winning your case. To do this you may have to complain to the hospital or clinic first. You will also have to show that the possible value of your claim is enough to justify the costs. If the compensation you would receive is likely to be less than £10,000, you are most likely to get help if the issues are straightforward and can be resolved quickly.  If the claim involces a child, it is likely thay they will qualify for public funding. See 'Further help' for more about the Community Legal Service.

Trade union help
If you are a member of a trade union or similar type of organisation, it may be able to help you with legal costs.

Legal-expenses insurance
You should check your insurance policies, especially your household insurance policy, to see if they include legal-expenses cover for personal injury claims. These policies can provide cover for legal costs up to a set limit, though not all cover clinical negligence claims. Your insurance company may want you to use one of its solicitors, but you should try to make sure that the solicitor is a member of one of the specialist clinical negligence panels.

'No-win, no-fee' agreements
These agreements, officially called 'conditional-fee agreements', mean that you do not have to pay your solicitor's fees if you don't win your case. However, because clinical negligence claims are often very complicated, most solicitors won't usually enter into a conditional-fee agreement until there is strong evidence that you will win your case.

This means that you may have to pay several thousand pounds to collect evidence before a solicitor will be in a position to:

  • tell you whether your claim has a good chance of success; and
  • offer to continue working on your case under a conditional-fee agreement.

It is important to realise that a conditional-fee agreement does not protect you from having to pay the other side's legal costs if you lose your case. So, unless you already have insurance, you will almost certainly have to take out insurance to protect you against the risk of having to pay the other side's costs if you lose. This is called 'after-the-event' insurance and it can be expensive.

Different types of conditional-fee agreements are availible for clinical negligence claims. Your solicitor should explain all of them to you. If you are unhappy with the funding arrangement you have been offered or cannot afford it, try talking to another solicitor. However, it is important that the solicitor you choose has the right experties for your case.

For more about conditional-fee agreements and legal-expenses insurance, see the CLS Direct leaflet 'No-win, No-fee Actions'.

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: October 2017


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