For many people, making a GP negligence claim for compensation goes against the grain but unfortunately there are instances where a general practitioners negligence can lead to serious health concerns and in some circumstances premature death. The claims process itself can also be daunting but the use of a medical negligence solicitor ensures an honest assessment of likely success. Where there are potentially strong GP negligence claims for compensation they need to be presented in the correct manner with the accompanying evidence to support them.
Proving any level of negligence in the medical profession can be challenging but in simple terms, GP negligence is defined as the failure of a GP to provide either correct medication or an appropriate diagnosis.
Examples Of GP Negligence Claims
While this list is by no means inclusive it will give you an idea of various types of negligence claims that have been pursued against GPs in the past. They include:
- Misdiagnosis of an illness
- Failure to carry out appropriate medical tests
- Administering incorrect medication
- Failure to refer a patient to a specialist
One of the major problems facing GPs and doctors today is the fact that in years gone by certain illnesses were more prevalent in specific age groups. Due to this, as a rule of thumb it was often acceptable to ignore some illnesses specifically because of the age of the individual. However, medical trends are changing and illnesses such as cancer and diabetes, to name but two, are now occurring in younger and younger patients making a difficult situation even more acute for GPs.
The Definition Of GP Negligence
While there are different types of negligence from misdiagnosis to failure to refer to a specialist, these are measured against what would be expected from other medical practitioners in a similar situation. When ruling on negligence the valid expectations of a patient would also be taken into account. In a similar vein to employers having a duty of care towards their employees, GPs have a duty of care to their patients with the GMC the first port of call for patients with complaints.
It can be a challenging environment for medical professionals because while medical technology has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, there is still a relatively high degree of human decision-making involved in the diagnosis process. This is why doctors will routinely ask for a second opinion from their colleagues to ensure they are “not missing anything”. In order to pursue a negligence claim against a GP it must be proven that not only was the GP negligent but the incorrect action/inaction had a material impact upon an existing condition, impacting a person’s quality of life and in some cases life expectancy. Rightly or wrongly, there will be situations where GP negligence is fairly obvious but this would not have had a material impact upon an existing condition, in which case compensation may be refused.
Physical And Mental Well-Being
Before we take a look at the process of actually claiming compensation because of GP negligence it is worth noting that physical and mental well-being will both be considered. For example, a misdiagnosis could lead to an individual under the wrong impression they are suffering from a life-threatening medical condition. We can only imagine the level of mental and physical trauma this can cause to not only the individual but also their friends and family. In many cases, the mental suffering because of a misdiagnosis can be as bad if not worse as the potential medical implications.
Pursuing A GP Negligence Claim For Compensation
As with any GP negligence claim there is a three-year window of opportunity which starts from the date a misdiagnosis/error by your GP is discovered. We often see situations where errors only become clear years down the line by which time it can be too late for treatment for what could and should have been a treatable condition. If you believe you have a viable claim for GP negligence and are looking to pursue a compensation claim you should gather as much evidence as possible.
This evidence could include:
- Copies of your medical records
- Corrective diagnosis
- Summary of actions taken by your GP
- Third-party review of your medical journey
- Photographic evidence where appropriate
- Witness statements
- Details of previous GP complaints
- GP replies to your medical concerns
It is obviously imperative that the right diagnosis is obtained as soon as possible and corrective treatment administered. The vast majority of people will seek corrective action with another GP because once the confidence factor has been dented it can be difficult to maintain a patient/doctor relationship. All of the evidence should be collated into a report that you can present to a legal company to review.
Supporting Evidence Of GP Negligence
Most medical negligence solicitors have routine access to medical experts specifically for instances of GP negligence. They would likely re-examine the patient and also gather all details involved which would be used as evidence in the negligence claim. Third-party evidence can be extremely important in the event that you do have a valid compensation claim which you pursue through the courts.
No Win No Fee Negligence Claims
If a medical negligence solicitor believes that there is indeed a good case for pursuing a GP negligence claim, they are likely to offer you the No Win No Fee option. This ensures that the claimant is not liable for the solicitors legal expenses even if the claim is unsuccessful. It will also involve what is known as a “success fee” which is effectively an agreement for the solicitor to receive a percentage of any compensation awarded. This reflects the degree of risk taken by the solicitor in relation to their own legal costs although these will be covered by the defendant in a successful prosecution.
Even though No Win No Fee arrangements have attracted a degree of criticism over the years, they are a vital element when looking to hold negligent third parties to account and reduce the chances of similar GP negligence claims in the future. They also ensure that where negligence has occurred then appropriate levels of compensation will be paid out.
Will My Claim Be Successful?
In the vast majority of cases where GP negligence is fairly straightforward, a defendant will approach the claimant’s legal representatives about a potential out-of-court settlement. A successful out-of-court settlement will minimise the defendant’s potential costs going forward and also ensure that the claimant receives compensation in a timely manner. In some circumstances, it may be possible for your medical negligence solicitor to agree an early partial settlement where there have been significant medical costs and GP negligence has already been admitted.
Where negligence is contested or where there might be more than one negligent party the case will likely go before the courts. In this instance, a judge will review all of the evidence by the claimant and the defendant and make the appropriate ruling.
Compensation In GP Negligence Claims
When pursuing damages it is possible to claim for two different types of compensation which are referred to as general damages and special damages. In GP negligence claims general damages relate to compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental trauma
- Life changing injuries
When calculating general damages the specifics of the individual case plus guidance from the Judicial College will be taken into account. This guidance looks back at similar injuries and levels of compensation paid out as a basis for future compensation awards. There is degree of discretion/variation to reflect the specific nature of individual cases and the impact on a person’s life. The Judicial College guidelines have no legal standing but they are recognised by the courts and insurance companies as a basis from which to work.
The subject of special damages is very different because this is simply compensation for expenses incurred as a direct consequence of the GPs negligence and the impact on a person’s life. They take in various matters such as:
- Adaptions to the home
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Loss of earnings
- Future loss of earnings
- Additional transport expenses
While this list is by no means inclusive it does give you an idea of the type of compensation in GP negligence claims covered by special damages. In instances where future funding will be required to address issues directly related to the injuries, these will be estimated by experienced medical professionals.
Who Pays The Compensation?
While many people will be aware that the NHS is self-insuring, which means that any compensation is paid from the central budget, the situation with GPs is very different. Each GP will have their own medical insurance which will cover negligence claims and compensation awards against them.
If you have suffered due to the negligence of a doctor or GP please contact us to discuss your GP negligence claim and what compensation settlement you might be due.