After suffering a serious injury from inadequate medical care, the thought of contacting a solicitor to discuss a medical negligence claim can be daunting. At Boyes Turner we understand that you will have many questions about the process and prospects of success, which is why we have a team of qualified, experienced solicitors on hand to take your first call and to guide you through those important first steps.
We asked one of our solicitors, Fran Rothwell, to answer some of our new clients’ FAQs:
What information do you need to advise me whether I have a medical negligence case?
It is important for me to have a really clear and detailed account of what has happened. It helps to know why you are concerned about your treatment, how you have been injured and whether your condition is likely to be permanent.
It is also useful to have the relevant dates and the names of the treatment providers. I do appreciate, however, that you are not necessarily going to remember everything - exact dates, for example - especially if treatment has been carried out over a long period of time. In these cases, as long as I can obtain a general outline of the key events, concerns and dates, then that is sufficient for me to advise whether further investigation is needed.
The first call is very much a conversation back and forth and so you should not be worried at that stage if you can’t remember all of the information.
Do I need to make a complaint to the hospital and have my medical records before seeking advice?
No, this is not vital. In fact, most people come to us for advice before making a complaint. However, if a complaint or hospital investigation has already taken place, you should let us know, even if you disagree with the outcome, as it can provide valuable information.
If we accept a case then we can request the medical records on your behalf but, again, if you already have the records, please let us know when you call.
What happens next and how long does it take?
I will often be able to advise there and then whether we can take your enquiry forward.
Alternatively, if you do have additional information which I think will be helpful, such as, complaint correspondence or medical records, then it is often helpful for me to review the documentation with the medical negligence partners to establish whether you have a claim that we can help you with and call you back.
What determines whether a medical negligence case can succeed?
In order to bring a successful medical negligence claim there are two legal tests which need to be proved. Firstly, there must have been a breach of duty of care; this means that the medical treatment you received fell below an acceptable standard of care as viewed by a medical professional in the same field. Secondly, we must prove causation; this means that the breach of duty caused your injury. If I believe that we can prove both of these, I will then also need to consider the likely value of the claim. I will also need to ensure that we have enough time to thoroughly investigate your claim in line with the legal time limits.
What are the legal time limits?
Generally the time limit for a medical negligence claim is three years from the date of negligence. There are, however, notable exceptions. For example, in cases involving children who are under the age of 18 at the time they receive the treatment, the three year time limit starts to run on their 18th birthday and so will end on their 21st birthday. The time limit may also be extended for those who through mental incapacity cannot manage their own affairs.
Will I be charged for the initial call?
If you accept my case, how will your fees be paid?
I will ask you to check whether you have legal expenses insurance, which is legal cover often provided as part of an insurance policy you will already have taken out for something else, such as home insurance. If the cover was in place at the time of the treatment and includes legal costs of a medical negligence claim then I can contact your insurer to find out whether Boyes Turner can work with them under the terms of your policy.
If you do not have legal expenses insurance then an alternative option is a conditional fee agreement, more commonly known as a ‘no win no fee’ agreement. This means that unless you win, there is no charge to you. If you are successful, then some of the costs involved to investigate your case will be deducted from your compensation.
If you are calling on behalf of a child or adult who has suffered a neurological injury resulting in a severe disability which happened either during the pregnancy, during their birth or the first eight weeks of life, then I will look into whether the case is eligible for public funding and we will make an application for Legal Aid.
If you or a member of your family have suffered serious disability as a result of medical negligence, contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.