As a society, for the most part, we quite rightly place great confidence in medical professionals, hospitals and other facilities, and support staff. That we are still able to do so despite the extreme demands of more than 3 years of the COVID pandemic and the huge workloads induced by staff shortages, is a testament to the dedication and diligence of all involved at the coalface of our medical profession.
Nevertheless, one only has to regularly peruse the media to see examples of potential inadequacies in some areas. While these high-profile occurrences are headline-worthy, there are also cases where, for whatever reason, deficiencies in the system have caused undesirable results. The reasons are many, but reasons do not lessen the pain and suffering caused to patients.
Time marches on
The Limitation Act 1969 was amended in 2002 to alter the time limit during which medical negligence claims can be made. More specifically, the amendment altered the point at which the 3-year timeclock limit began ticking. The starting point is now the time at which the event became discoverable, not necessarily the date of the event itself.
For many patients, such things are often quite difficult to pin down. They persist with treatments, gain second opinions, or have additional surgery, all the while continuing in the belief that the circumstances are normal, that this is just how it is, and that their carers are infallible in satisfying the required duty of care obligations. Sadly, there are times when their confidence is misplaced.
It is crucial that patients who have the slightest misgivings when results are inadequate report their feelings, ask probing questions, and keep accurate written records of all appointments, conversations, test results, and treatments. While looking after their own well-being is the number one priority, seeking legal advice from a lawyer who specialises in this field is paramount to the success of any future claim.
What compensation is available?
While a successful compensation claim will not directly affect a medical outcome – we wish it could – it can go a long way towards minimising the financial stress that often results. Some of the hardships that can be somewhat alleviated by financial compensation are:
- loss of earnings and loss of future earnings
- loss of superannuation contributions
- medical expenses – both those paid previously and those in the future
- the need to retrain
- the inability to work again
- the need to pay for additional home care
- recompense for pain and suffering
What happens next?
Following an initial consultation with your lawyer, an assessment will be made as to whether there is a case to answer. A judgment will be made as to whether your carers met the standards that would be expected of a reasonable professional in the same circumstances. It also needs to be proven that this failure was the cause of your injury or suffering – proving causation is vital. Further, along with records provided by the client, the lawyer will arrange to receive records from hospitals, doctors, and any treatment facilities involved.
Independent medical experts will be engaged to fully analyse the individual circumstances of your case, and either they or other specialists may be called upon to provide expert opinion.
Failure to provide proper diagnosis, treatment, and care can cause untold pain, suffering, and stress. The process of pursuing recompense can be long and convoluted. Expert and timely guidance from lawyers who specialise in this area is absolutely crucial to the outcome.