Starting a Clinical Negligence case

Patients don’t start out wanting to sue their doctors. You don’t come out of surgery raging against your surgeon. Clinical Negligence cases are not road traffic accidents. You don’t instantly blame the idiot on a mobile phone who rammed you.

Clinical negligence cases are slow.

Often, patients don’t realise something has gone wrong. You’re in recovery. You’re taking painkillers. You feel rubbish anyway. No one is to blame for that. In time you’ll feel better, you expect.

You only go to lawyers when you’ve worked out that what the doctor said should happen, should be sorted out, hasn’t happened. Something is wrong.

Lawyers will ask you about the whole shebang. Why you were being treated. What you think happened. What evidence you have that something medical has gone wrong.

Having been given a narrative, lawyers will then need the medical records, all the medical records, and imaging.

Sometimes your medical records reveal what went wrong. It’s there in black and white. But that’s rare. However, what the medical records do, is, along with your narrative, help to put together a history of what happened, both medical and personal.

Usually, medical records need to be analysed by a doctor who is a specialist in the field of medicine in which you underwent treatment. This can be disappointing.

You think that it’s obvious something went wrong. A specialist says what happened was a risk of the treatment that you underwent, that the surgeon/doctor isn’t negligent.

If this happens, usually the case is over. However badly you feel, however let down, however the medics have made things worse not better for you, if there isn’t evidence of negligence supported by a specialist, the Courts won’t compensate you.

If the specialist opinion is that the doctors who treated you, did get something wrong, then it’s time to set out the narrative to the NHS Litigation Authority (or whatever name it now calls itself – there have been a few!).

With all Clinical Negligence cases the beginning stage is gradual and detailed. There is no simple internet claim process. Clinical negligence cases need care and dedication, as well as an understanding of the medical language and medical procedures.

Taking on new Clinical Negligence cases is not a decision made like a road traffic accident case. It’s rarely blindingly obvious on day one that someone is at fault.

Back in the old days it was even more cloak and dagger. Back in the 1980s hospitals did everything possible to admit nothing, and prevent potential Claimants even getting medical records, let alone obtaining easy access to them.

Now, on the other (depressing) side, resource pressures mean hospital really do make mistakes because they can’t cope. Government likes to blame lawyers, but lawyers come later, when the mistake is made, and, even then, for lawyers do their job, they (we) have to be methodical and cautious in identifying what the mistake was.

The cost and time of Clinical Negligence cases means you can’t just try it on.

If you think your doctor(s) have done something wrong, start with a personal written account prepared as soon as you start to suspect your condition is because of the doctor(s) mistake (or omission – that is, what the doctor(s) didn’t do, that should have been done).

A personal written account always help us, the lawyers, to have a point of reference. It will also help you. Setting down details in black and white can help you to make sense of your own narrative, and can, sometimes, make it clear that maybe you’re not happy about what happened, but this is about how you were looked after, not what the medics actually did when treating you.