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The value of specialist medical negligence solicitors

Category: Medical Negligence

Last Updated: 9th Dec 2020

About the Author

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

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Making a claim for compensation of any kind can be a heavy responsibility. When someone has been let down by a healthcare 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 healthcare 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 experts provide. The experienced solicitor ensures medical negligence claims are appropriately investigated and pursued, and that those affected by substandard treatment receive the compensation they are owed.

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

Why do I need a medical negligence expert?

Strictly speaking, it is not necessary 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 solicitor, then your case will benefit from having the expertise and experience that only solicitors that deal regularly with medical negligence can offer.

The complexities facing clinical negligence solicitors

As noted earlier, the claimant must demonstrate that they received substandard care from a medical professional, and that this substandard care either caused or contributed to their injury. Proving this connection requires an experience and understanding of medicine, which our medical negligence solicitors can offer.

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

Examples of evidence used by medical negligence solicitors

  • Complaint correspondence
  • Medical records
  • Witness statements
  • Photographs
  • Independent medical opinion
  • Financial evidence

Complaint correspondence

Your letter of complaint both raises your grievance with the medical professional or facility in question, and is also useful in organising the events that took place into a structured narrative. The response you receive can give insight into how the medical professional views those events.

Medical records

These are fundamentally important. Your clinical negligence solicitor and the appointed medical experts will examine and review the medical records in order 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 address both what happened and the impact the injury has had on their day-to-day life, which is essential in determining the compensation to which a claimant is entitled.

Photographs

Photographic evidence of the harm caused by the alleged negligence, can verify the incident took place and may help to highlight any substandard care. It also helps the court to understand the impact on the claimant.

Independent medical opinion

A report provided by an independent medical professional who specialises in the relevant field of medicine, offers vital opinion evidence to help the court determine 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.

The best medical negligence solicitors thoroughly investigate and analyse all of the available evidence from those listed above, and draw all of that information together into an effective claim. This is a complex and difficult task – a generalist firm is unlikely to have the experience or expertise

For instance, say 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 exactly what happened and where the healthcare professional was negligent can take months or years. There are many factors at play and many times during that period which have to be examined to determine when the negligent act or omission may have taken place.

Without experienced medical negligence lawyers carrying out this investigation, the negligence may be missed. If a claim does proceed, important details may be overlooked that means you lose out on some part of your compensation.

That is where the experience of solicitors specialising in medical negligence is so valuable. All of the solicitors at Gadsby Wicks are highly experienced in the process of investigating and bringing a claim. This ensures that no stone is left unturned. We will ensure that we make it clear to you:

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

What’s the difference between medical negligence solicitors and personal injury lawyers?

So what is the downside of approaching a personal injury specialist to investigate and support your claim? As set out above, this is a question 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 settings and providers. We do not focus on suing the NHS for negligence; we help clients bring claims against private consultants, GPs, midwives, dentists, opticians, physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals who have caused them harm.

This is not to suggest that personal injury claims do not carry their own complexities. However, the experience of dealing with and understanding medicine and the medical records day in and day out is what sets solicitors specialising in medical negligence apart from those who deal with claims for injuries occurring in multiple other situations.

Differences between medical negligence solicitors and personal injury solicitors

Solicitors who deal with medical negligence:

  • Manage cases that arise out of a healthcare treatment, or where a healthcare professional is specifically involved
  • Manage complex cases where determining whether anyone is responsible for the injury may involve complex medical questions which require a great deal of consideration
  • Have an in-depth understanding of medicine and the healthcare system

Solicitors who deal with personal injury:

  • Manage cases that often take place outside of a healthcare setting, such as in the workplace or on the roads
  • Manage cases that tend to be more “open-and-shut” about where the blame for the incident lies (certainly, there will be no medical issues to consider when determining who is responsible)

If you do not choose a medical negligence expert, then your solicitor may not have the relevant knowledge or experience to fully understand and manage the complexities of your claim.

This does not necessarily mean you do not receive any form of compensation, but that compensation may be significantly lower than if you had been advised by specialist medical negligence solicitors who:

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

Choosing the right medical negligence solicitor

Now that we have established the added value of working with true medical negligence experts, how can you ensure you choose one that will offer you the best legal advice?

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

  • Has the right accreditations
  • Has experience in the field of medicine relevant to your claim
  • Is highly organised
  • Is empathetic towards your circumstances
  • Treats you like an individual
  • Is a strong communicator
  • Is experienced and 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

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 experience in 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 must have conducted claims on behalf of claimants for at least 3 years, have completed at least 24 cases during that time, 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 area of medical law
  • 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)

APIL is a group for lawyers who are focused on representing injured people. An accreditation in Clinical Negligence from APIL illustrates a mark of competence that a solicitor has the experience, knowledge, understanding, skill and character required to properly represent someone injured by clinical negligence.

Each of the partners at Gadsby Wicks 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 of any level and complexity. Other advantages include:

  • Access to a wide range of funding options for your case
  • Expert assessment of your chances of success at all stages
  • Greater likelihood of success in your claim
  • Higher chance of your case being settled out of court

If the solicitor works for a medical negligence firm, it is also worthwhile considering the accreditations and reputation of that firm. For instance, Gadsby Wicks is recognised as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ by Lexcel, which demonstrates our exceptional approach to client care and practice management.

If you are able to verify that the medical negligence solicitor who works for you is accredited by one or more these bodies, you know that they have the right experience and meet the highest standards of client care, so that you can be reassured that they will work in your best interests to ensure you receive the answers and compensation to which you are entitled.

Research the level of experience of your solicitor

As well as establishing that they have the correct accreditations, you should also research their experience of investigating and managing medical negligence cases.

You can do this by exploring relevant case studies or examining the profiles of the various solicitors within the firm. Take the time to reassure yourself that this is a team you can trust.

Talk to the solicitor in person

Your medical negligence solicitor should be willing to meet with you face-to-face to discuss your case. This will give you an opportunity to determine that they have an expert understanding of the law behind your claim and whether they are empathetic towards your circumstances. You can also ensure that the solicitor is someone you feel happy to work with.

During your discussion, you can identify the crucial characteristics that illustrate that your solicitor understands your situation and can be trusted to support your claim through to completion. Use this opportunity to ask questions that will reassure you of this.

The best medical negligence solicitors will demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • 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 claim for medical negligence is long, complicated and emotional – 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 specialist solicitor to each client. This helps to ensure that their questions are always answered, and their claim remains a top priority. We make sure that an experienced medical negligence solicitor is guiding your case, not a trainee solicitor or paralegal.

7 key questions to ask a potential medical negligence solicitor

1. Are they a member of a specialist Clinical Negligence Accreditation Scheme?

2. Are they accredited by Lexcel, ISO9001, or an equivalent?

3. Will the solicitor you meet be the one managing your claim from start to finish?

4. Do they have a successful record of handling cases like yours?

5. How many medical negligence solicitors work at their firm?

6. How do they intend on keeping in touch with you during your case?

7. Do they offer multiple ways for you to fund your claim?

Do I need to choose a local medical negligence solicitor?

Being local is not listed above as one of the criteria for choosing a medical negligence solicitor. While working with a local firm can be convenient, nowadays the same level of client care is easily delivered via email, telephone and video conferencing. Specialist experience and dedication outweigh proximity.

We are proud to be among the foremost medical negligence solicitors in Essex and East Anglia. Historically, we have worked with clients based across England who need the support of an experienced specialist medical negligence solicitor.

How can you find a medical negligence solicitor?

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

  • 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.
  • 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 and other healthcare claims, rather than run the risk of working with a generalist practitioner.

What if I want to change my existing medical negligence solicitor?

There are many reasons why you may not be happy with your existing medical negligence solicitors. Maybe they do not demonstrate the experience, knowledge or expertise that has been detailed above. Perhaps they do not appear to understand your needs or you have instructed the wrong expert for your medical negligence claim.

You have the right to change your solicitor if you are unsatisfied. However, you will need to consider what will happen regarding the funding of your claim which is presently in place and you should also consider the procedural stage of your claim. If you are considering a change of solicitor, we can advise you on the specific implications in your case.

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 no-one can 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 an experienced and specialist solicitor. We have decades of combined experience so that you can rely on our No Win, No Fee medical negligence solicitors 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.