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The value of specialist medical negligence solicitors

Category: Medical Negligence

Last Updated: 14th Nov 2020

About the Author

Medical Negligence Solicitor, Co-founder and Managing Partner - LLB (Hons) University of East Anglia, 1989

Read more about Gillian »

Making a claim of any kind can be a heavy responsibility. When someone has been let down by a professional they felt they could trust, and has suffered harm as a result, it can have an impact that affects them physically, emotionally and financially.

As specialist medical negligence solicitors, we understand how devastating it can be to be let down in this way. We make every effort to support claimants on the long and often-complicated journey to prove that a negligent act took place. To do that we must establish that:

  1. The patient received substandard care from a professional (a breach of the duty of care)
  2. The patient suffered pain, injury, loss or damage as a result
  3. This harm was directly caused by this substandard medical care

Establishing these factors is far from straightforward, which is why it requires the undivided attention and in-depth understanding of the law that true medical negligence specialists can provide. This experience ensures medical negligence claims are appropriately investigated and pursued, and that those affected receive the compensation they are rightly owed.

However, when there are many purporting to be specialists out there. How can you tell if a solicitor has the right expertise for your case?

Why do I need a medical negligence expert?

Strictly speaking, it is not required for someone to instruct a specialist medical negligence solicitor to handle their claim, in the same way you do not need to hire an experienced contractor to build your house extension.

However, if you choose a specialist then your case will benefit from having the expertise and experience behind your claim that a solicitor who deals only with medical negligence can offer.

And if you have concerns about contacting a medical negligence expert because of legal costs, then that is addressed by our ‘No Win, No Fee’ agreements. These ensure that no fee is paid to your solicitors, regardless of their expertise, experience or reputation, until you have successfully secured your compensation.

The complexity of the medical negligence claims process

As noted earlier, the aim of the medical negligence claims process is to demonstrate that the claimant received substandard care from a medical professional, and that this was the direct cause of their injury.

But, how do you prove medical negligence has occurred? This requires a thorough examination of the available evidence.

Examples of evidence used in the medical negligence claims process

  • Letters of complaint
  • Medical records
  • Witness statements
  • Photographs
  • Independent medical opinion
  • Financial evidence

Letters of complaint – these not only help in raising your grievance with the medical professional or facility in question, but can also be useful in organising the events that took place into a structured narrative

Medical records – these are fundamentally important for specialist medical negligence solicitors and their associated medical experts to examine and review to identify any instances of substandard treatment and understand exactly what did, or did not, take place.

Witness statements – taken from the claimant and their friends and family, this evidence will clarify the impact the injury has had on their day-to-day life, which is essential in determining the compensation that person is entitled to

Photographs – photographic evidence of the harm caused by the alleged negligence, can verify the incident took place and may help to highlight any the substandard care

Independent medical opinion – a report provided by an independent medical professional who specialises in the relevant field of medicine, offers vital evidence for the Court as to whether the treatment received by the claimant fell below an acceptable standard

Financial evidence – keeping records of the financial losses the claimant has sustained following the injury, such as loss of earnings, ongoing medical expenses or home renovation costs, will help ensure that full compensation is received

Investigating and analysing all of the available evidence, and then compiling what is learned into an effective claim, is a complex and arduous task. A generalist firm is unlikely to have the experience, expertise or the time to dedicate to this process.

For instance, if your child was born with Cerebral Palsy. This may be as a result of oversights in care during either the pregnancy, labour or delivery. Establishing this can take months or years, as there are many factors at play and many times during that period when the negligent act or failure may have taken place.

Without experienced lawyers carrying out this investigation, you might be told that you do not have a claim when you do or, even if it does proceed, important details may be missed that mean you lose out on some part of your compensation.

That is where the knowledge and insight of specialist medical negligence solicitors are so valuable – we are highly experienced in the process of bringing a claim. This ensures that no stone is left unturned and we will ensure that we make it clear to you

  1. Whether your claim has a good chance of succeeding; and
  2. The complexities involved in calculating compensation

This may well mean that your case will proceed faster, because it will be handled more efficiently and effectively in order to achieve the best outcome for you.

Do I have a medical negligence case?

As explained above, three criteria must be fulfilled for you to have a successful medical negligence case:

  1. It has to be determined that a medical professional responsible for your care was negligent – which means that the care received was substandard
  2. You suffered harm, in the form of physical or psychological injury –
  3. The injury is the direct result of the substandard care of the healthcare provider in question

If you believe that you have a case, speaking to a specialist medical negligence solicitor will mean your claim is thoroughly investigated and assessed. *

Knowing the difference between medical negligence and personal injury

So what is the problem with approaching a personal injury specialist to investigate and support your claim? As above, this is a matter of the experience and specific expertise of the lawyer who works for you.

Medical negligence covers a broad range of scenarios and applies to many healthcare providers. We do not just focus on suing the NHS for negligence; we help clients bring claims against private GPs, midwives, dentists, opticians, physiotherapists and other professionals who have caused them harm.

This is not to suggest that personal injury claims do not carry their own complexities. But personal injury cases differ from medical negligence cases in a number of ways.

Differences between medical negligence solicitors and personal injury solicitors

Solicitors who deal with medical negligence:

  • Will manage cases that arise out of a healthcare environment, or where a healthcare professional is specifically involved
  • Will handle complex cases where determining whether anyone is at fault for the injury may be extremely complex and requires a great deal of investigation
  • Will often oversee cases that take many months and sometimes years to reach resolution
  • Will have an understanding of medicine and the healthcare system

Solicitors who deal with personal injury:

  • Will manage cases that often take place outside of a healthcare setting, such as at work or while driving
  • Will handle cases that typically are more “open-and-shut” about where the blame for the incident lies
  • Will often oversee cases that take only a matter of months to resolve

Unfortunately, this may mean that you could find your case being run by a solicitor without the relevant knowledge and experience to manage its complexities, or who does not have the time available to thoroughly assess your claim and ensure that you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.

This might not mean you do not receive any form of compensation at the end of it, but it could be significantly lower than if you had spoken to specialist medical negligence solicitors who:

  1. Have complete understanding of the area of medicine relevant to your claim;
  2. Are experienced in the process involved in investigating a medical negligence claim, assessing the evidence and managing negotiations for compensation;
  3. Will take the time required to understand the nature of your situation and the effect it has had on you and your loved ones.

As noted earlier, any assumption that working with a ‘specialist’ medical negligence solicitor is inaccessible or too expensive is remedied by the availability of our ‘No Win, No Fee’ agreement. Through these, people can pursue the justice and compensation they deserve without the threat of financial repercussions if their claim is unsuccessful.

Is there a difference between medical negligence and clinical negligence?

Today, these terms are practically interchangeable when discussing an act of negligence by a healthcare professional. However, in the legal world there is a subtle difference between a medical negligence claim and one that falls under “clinical negligence”.

Clinical negligence was introduced to denote that these claims can be brought against any healthcare professional, be it a nurse, physiotherapist, optician or dentist. This is because it was felt that the term medical negligence gave the impression that this only applied to doctors. **

The qualities to look for in specialist medical negligence solicitors

Now that we have established the value of working with specialist medical solicitors, how can you ensure you choose one that fits the criteria?

What qualities should you look for in a specialist medical negligence solicitor?

  • Has the right accreditations
  • Has experience in the field of medicine you are interested in
  • Is highly-organised
  • Is empathetic towards your circumstances
  • Treats you like an individual
  • Is a strong communicator
  • Effective at managing negotiations
  • Is up-to-date with the latest legislation and reforms
  • Is proactive in keeping in touch with clients
  • Makes sure clients understand the claims process
  • Has a number of client testimonials they can present
  • Is honest about the prospects of your claim and compensation you may receive
  • Has a database of specialist experts and barristers which they have built up over time

1. Check their accreditations

Above all else, you can ascertain whether someone is a medical negligence expert if they belong to one (or more) of the following bodies:

The Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Panel

The Law Society is a prominent independent body that acts as the voice of solicitors across England and Wales and drives excellence in the profession. As such, the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Panel is an accreditation that illustrates that:

  • The solicitor has proven competency managing clinical negligence cases
  • The solicitor complies with best practice in this area of law
  • The solicitor maintains relevant standards over time

Anyone with this accreditation will have been conducting clinical negligence work for claimants for at least 3 years, have completed at least 24 cases, and have had a number of these cases taken as far as either a case management conference or meetings of experts.

The Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) Specialist Clinical Negligence Panel

The AvMA is a registered charity dedicated to helping those affected by negligent healthcare find the support they need and receive the justice they deserve.

By being recognised and accredited by their Specialist Clinical Negligence Panel, first established in 1983, this indicates that a solicitor:

  • Is an expert within the areas of medical law they work in
  • Demonstrates high levels of empathy and care towards clients
  • Has strong knowledge of the ways to resolve disputes, including mediation
  • Understands complaints procedures, inquests, Human Rights procedures and fitness to practise procedures

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)

Focused on representing injured people, an accreditation in Clinical Negligence from APIL illustrates a mark of competence that a solicitor has the knowledge, understanding, know-how, skill and behaviour required for effective performance for their clients.

Each of our partners is accredited to more than one of these high professional standards, indicating that our team carries the expertise and understanding to lead medical negligence cases on behalf of our clients, regardless of complexity. In addition, other advantages include:

  • Access to a wider range of funding options for your case
  • Greater likelihood to win your claim/know your claim is worth pursuing
  • Greater chance of your case being settled out of court

If the solicitor represents a firm, it is also worthwhile to check their accreditations and reputation as an organisation. For instance, our firm has been recognised as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ by Lexcel, illustrating our exceptional approach to client care and practice management.

Verifying that the solicitor who works for you is accredited by one or more these bodies should give you reassurance that they meet the highest standards of client care, and that they will work in your best interests to ensure you receive the answers and compensation you are entitled to.

2. Research their level of experience

As well as establishing that they have the correct accreditations, you should also research their experience of investigating and managing medical negligence cases. Whether this is by exploring relevant case studies or examining the profiles of the various solicitors within the firm, you should take the time to reassure yourself that this is a team you can trust.

3. Talk to them personally

Finally, specialist medical negligence solicitors should be willing to meet with you face-to-face to discuss the nature of your case. This will give you an opportunity to determine that they not only have an expert understanding of the law behind your claim, but that they are empathetic towards your circumstances and that your personalities are compatible.

During your discussions, you are looking to identify crucial characteristics that illustrate that your solicitor understands your situation and can be trusted to support your claim through to completion. When choosing a medical negligence expert, ask questions that help establish that they demonstrate:

  • Empathy towards your situation
  • Organisational skills
  • Strong communication
  • Negotiation and mediation skills
  • Attentiveness to client needs
  • Confidence
  • Respectfulness
  • Understanding of the relevant area of law
  • Honesty, particularly in relation to the potential for your claim

The journey to concluding a medical negligence case is long, complicated and emotional, so it is important you are comfortable with the solicitor who is on that journey with you.

In addition, it is important that your solicitor has the time to devote to your case and secure the justice you deserve. Even with the right expertise, the complex nature of these claims demands a solicitor’s total attention.

That is why we devote one solicitor to each client throughout their whole case. This helps to ensure that their questions are always answered and their claim remains a top priority. The fact that we make sure that a specialist is guiding your case, not a trainee solicitor or paralegal, allow us to focus on “more valuable” claims.

Finally, note that one of the essential qualities we listed does not include “they must be local”. While this is certainly convenient if the option is available, nowadays the same level of attentive client care can be delivered through emails, phone calls, video calls and other methods. Specialist understanding outweighs proximity at all times.

How can you find a medical negligence specialist?

In order to help ensure that the solicitor or firm you contact is a true medical negligence specialist, we recommend using the following channels to streamline your search:

  1. Look up the solicitor on the Law Society’s dedicated database, and check to see if they are specifically accredited to act in medical negligence cases.
  2. Use the AvMA’s ‘Find a solicitor’ search, which will provide a list of local specialist medical negligence solicitors to your area who have been accredited to their organisation’s high standards.

Using these routes, or by thoroughly researching the options following a Google search will make sure you find someone specifically trained in medical law and with the capacity to pursue hospital negligence claims, rather than run the risk of working with a generalist practitioner.

Speak to true medical negligence experts

It is impossible to overstate the long-term impact that a medical mistake can have on a patient and their loved ones. And while you cannot undo the emotional or physical damage, you should feel confident that you have a team of specialist medical negligence solicitors in your corner that can help you get life back on track.

At Gadsby Wicks, we promise you the best result possible. Through decades of combined experience, you can rely on us to support you at every stage of your claim, in order to help you to secure the compensation, answers and justice you deserve.

Don’t settle for any less than a specialist – talk to us today.

Disclaimer

All content contained within this article is meant for general information only – this should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. If you require legal advice specific to your situation, please contact our team directly.

Gadsby Wicks is not liable for any diagnosis made from the content of this article, nor does it endorse any service or external site linked to within the article.

Always consult your GP if you are concerned about your health and wellbeing, or speak to us if you require legal advice.