LEGAL CORNER: Medical mistakes can happen, but trained lawyers are there to help

Hospitals, clinicians and general practice doctors often have a difficult and stressful job and many thousands of treatments every year are conducted by them, mostly successful and without any problem.

However, like any professional, mistakes can be made and the consequences to the patient can be very serious.

The usual cases which end up with a claim at law include failure to diagnose, failure to treat, failure to refer to another consultant, and failure of a medical product or device such as in a hip replacement operation.

In England and Wales, there is a group of medical negligence specialist lawyer practitioners belonging to AvMA (Action against Medical Accidents) and the Law Society Panel of Clinical Negligence Solicitors.

If a patient feels he or she has a case against a hospital or doctors, then it is important to instruct a member of one of the panels, because many lawyers set themselves up to be specialists in clinical negligence, and may not have the necessary expertise to conduct such cases as the two national panels mentioned above have rigorous entry requirements to make sure their panel members are suitably qualified to conduct such complex cases.

Details of the panels can be found online.

Medical negligence includes medical, nursing, pharmaceutical and dental claims.

Many, if not most claimants, as well as seeking compensation, are keen to make it so that the mistake that happened to them will not happen to others.

As regards funding of clinical negligence cases, you may well have legal expense insurance attached to say, a household contents policy.

Legal aid itself is restricted to birth injuries up to eight weeks after delivery, which, in effect, involves brain injury to the baby.

Clinical negligence claims do not stop there.

Very often, in the event of damages being recovered, we can advise on financial planning and investment management, social services, education, housing, equipment and state benefits and we have an in-house qualified financial adviser.

We can also advise on family issues, wills, and trusts.