Am I entitled to compensation even if a hospital says my serious injury wasn't their fault?

14th June 2018 Clinical Negligence

When a patient is seriously injured or even killed while they are in the care of a hospital it can come as a complete shock to them and their family. We all see hospitals as places where the best possible care will be given but unfortunately that is not always the case. Serious injuries that happen in hospital can include brain damage caused by poor maternity care, delays in treatment of stroke or mistakes made in surgery. They can also include deaths caused by the failure to carry out tests that would have revealed a treatable condition.

When this type of tragic event unexpectedly occurs families may confront the hospital only to be told that it was just 'one of those things' and unavoidable.

However if families are not content with this, and feel there is more to the incident than the hospital acknowledges, they will have questions about what they can do next. The good news is that further action can be taken and compensation awarded where warranted even if the hospital initially denies any culpability.

Here Angharad Hughes, a partner in the specialist medical negligence team at JMW, tries to answer some of the questions families may have. .

Hospital staff say proper care was given but I don't agree what do I do next?

A good place to start would be making an official complaint via the hospital's complaints procedure. Details of how to do this can usually be found on the hospital's website or from their Patient Advice and Liaison service. The hospital must acknowledge receipt of the complaint, confirm how long it will take them to respond and then provide a written response to all the concerns raised. The hospital may acknowledge that there were mistakes and apologise or they may seek to explain why they believe there was nothing that could have been done differently.

The hospital's complaint response says they did nothing wrong what now?

This is not an uncommon scenario even when the concerns raised are valid but it doesn't have to mean that there are no further options to challenge the poor care. If you believe that the serious injury was as a direct result of mistakes then you can talk to specialist solicitors such as the medical negligence team at JMW who can give initial advice about whether there is a case to answer and launch an investigation on your behalf if we think there is. This would involve gathering evidence from leading independent medical experts then send our allegations to the hospital trust. The trust must then do its own investigation and respond to our allegations within a legal time frame.

I have significant care needs due the injury I suffered can I still claim compensation?

Yes and it's important not to be put off by a disappointing complaint response if you have been left with a financial burden from your injury. Coping with a disability is emotionally and financially difficult and if medical staff have breached their duty of care to you then you deserve help to rebuild your life. The medical negligence team at JMW has dealt with countless cases where the trust had initially denied any wrong-doing but has gone on to accept our overwhelming evidence and pay significant compensation.

I need ongoing hospital care will claiming compensation affect this?

No. Hospital staff have a duty of care to all their patients and purposely providing sub-standard treatment is illegal. You will still be able to access the same specialists and appointments even if the hospital trust is fighting against your case. The case will be handled by NHS lawyers and hospital staff will have limited involvement in it.

I am worried about taking money away from the NHS but this incident has left me with financial difficulties

No one wants to take money away from the NHS but if you have been left with injuries and financial difficulties then you do need compensation to cope with this. Coping with a disability or the loss of a loved one has huge financial implications. The NHS has insurance policies in place to cover the cost of compensation settlements. Ideally we would want to see a proactive approach to dealing with poor care and investment in services that would see the number of incidents fall and a reduction in the total compensation bill.

It is the government's responsibility to reduce the NHS compensation bill by raising standards. It is not the responsibility of people who have often had their lives completely devastated through no fault of their own.

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Angharad Hughes is a Partner located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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