If you or a loved one has suffered from medical negligence, you’ll know it can have a devastating impact – both on the person directly affected and those around them. When we get ill or sustain an injury, we expect to receive the appropriate care from medical professionals. And although most treatments are administered without a hitch, just one delay or misdiagnosis can have catastrophic consequences.
For the year 2020-21, the NHS reported 12,629 new medical negligence claims. That is an increase of 7.5% from the previous 12 months (11,678). It is thought that very few of those claims have been made in response to healthcare provided as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. There is often a lag time between the incident occurring and a claim being made, so we can expect to see those cases reflected in figures over the coming years.
And while it is undoubtedly something that nobody would ever wish to experience, the topic of medical negligence is surrounded by a certain degree of misinformation. Here, we debunk four of the most common misconceptions.
All cases are for minor injuries
This is not true. Some medical negligence claims are made as a result of a fatality. In that instance, a friend or family member of the deceased will begin proceedings on their behalf. There are also cases that occur as a result of serious injury – such as to the spine or brain. Injuries of that nature may leave the victim unable to claim for themselves, in which case a loved one will do so on their behalf.
All cases result in a big payout
There have been instances of claimants receiving a sizeable payout where their injuries have been severe. One such example is Milly Evans, who sustained serious injuries at birth in 2001 and in 2012 was awarded £10.8 million in compensation. Thankfully, however, such serious cases are less frequent, and ones that involve an allergic reaction or a minor injury are likely to result in a payout of a few thousand pounds.
Claims are driven by greedy lawyers
This is untrue. The final decision on whether to proceed with a claim is entirely down to the victim. And although medical negligence solicitors do get paid for a successful claim, many operate on a no win, no fee basis. This means if the case is unsuccessful, the claimant does not have to pay a penny.
Lawyers are out to scapegoat doctors
Medical negligence lawyers are out to serve the best interests of their client. This means holding those responsible to account, of course, but it is not about hanging the medical profession out to dry. Some people worry that any case will drain the NHS of its financial resources, but there is a separate budget, managed by NHS Resolution, that is designed to cover the cost of proceedings and settlements.