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Medical Negligence Claim – How Long Might This Take?

Monday, April 8th, 2013

If you are thinking about making a claim for compensation for medical negligence, how long might this take? Is this something that can be started and finished in a matter of only a few weeks, or will it take a lot longer than this? This article sets out to explore what needs to happen during a medical negligence case and how long each stage might take.

Step 1 – Medical Evidence. It is important to understand the process involved in making a medical negligence claim to see what is involved and the likely time scales are involved. The first step is to take full details from the patient about the treatment (or lack of treatment) received and the pain or injury experienced as a result of it. In addition to a full and detailed statement the solicitor will have to obtain the patient’s full set of medical records, to examine the treatment received and to look at any pre-existing medical condition that might have caused the patient’s reaction to be worse than might otherwise have been expected. Once the medical records have been obtained along with a statement of events from the patient, the solicitor will then need to find a medical expert to review this evidence and provide a report. This report is crucial as it will indicate in the expert’s opinion whether the claim can proceed or not. Due to delays in obtaining the medical records and for the expert to book time in their diary to provide the report and then review the records and prepare the report, this stage alone can take several months.

Step 2 – Other Evidence. If the medical expert supports the allegations of medical negligence, the solicitor will need to obtain other evidence to enable them to value the claim. This will include evidence of the pain and suffering caused by the negligence, from family members and friends, along with financial documentation to support any losses and expenses (wage slips etc). Once the solicitor has enough evidence to value to claim, he or she may be able to seek offers in settlement, but many cases are vigorously defended which means that the next stage is to issue court proceedings. Court proceedings might be issued from six months after the accident to up to three years later, depending on Step 3 below.

Step 3 – Treatment And Recovery. If the injuries sustained were serious the patient may need further surgery to correct ongoing problems. This might result in several operations being required with fairly long recovery periods. Often it is not possible to obtain a final medical report confirming the full extent of the injury until the patient’s medical condition is stable so this can take months or even in some cases years. If the patient has not recovered within three years legal proceedings will have to be issued to protect the claim (there is a three year time limit for most medical negligence cases).

Step 4 – Issue Court Proceedings. A claim will be issued setting out the full details of the injuries sustained and the compensation sought (which might include additional treatment required).

Step 5 – Settlement. Settlement of the claim can either take place by negotiation, or if the National Health Service Litigation Authority defend the claim after a hearing before a judge.