Healthcare professionals are there to help you get better. The care they give is usually very good. But sometimes things can go wrong.
Clinical negligence is when someone suffers harm because of the treatment they have been given – or not given – by a healthcare professional. It can also be called medical negligence.
Clinical negligence can result in physical harm or mental harm.
It can happen in the NHS or in a private healthcare setting. Healthcare professionals include
- care workers.
Being a victim of clinical negligence doesn't mean that a healthcare professional has deliberately tried to harm you. Sometimes mistakes happen. Things can be overlooked and things can go wrong.
There are about 10,000 cases of medical negligence brought against the NHS every year.
Cases can sometimes be difficult to prove and may take years to settle.
Are you a victim?
You could be a victim of clinical negligence if
- your condition was wrongly diagnosed or missed
- a mistake was made during your operation or procedure
- you were given the wrong medication or treatment
- you were not told about potential risks
- you were given medication or treatment without your consent
- you were sent home from hospital too soon.
You may have a claim if a member of your family has died or suffered as a result of one of these things.
Actions you can take
You can complain to the NHS or to a private healthcare provider.
If you complain, you can still make a compensation claim.
There are special compensation schemes for certain illnesses.
NHS Resolution usually handles NHS cases. Around 98 per cent of their cases are dropped or settled out of court.
Speak to a regulated legal adviser to make a claim. Some specialise in this area.
The charity Action against Medical Accidents might also be able to help you.
You will need to pay fees to make a claim.
You will need to give as much detail and evidence as possible to your legal representative. This includes
- medical records
- receipts and expenses
- diary entries.
Record as much information about your case as possible.
Proving claims is hard and cases can be costly if you don't win. They can also take a long time.
Claims need to be made within three years of the incident – or three years from when you became aware of it.
Timeframes are different for children and people with a mental disability.
It is important to act quickly.
There are three possible outcomes:
- You are offered an out-of-court settlement.
- Your case goes to court and is dismissed.
- Your case goes to court, you are successful and awarded compensation.
The amount of compensation depends on many things, including
- your level of suffering as a result of the negligence
- the impact this has had on your life
- any ongoing treatment required as a result of the negligence
- any loss of earnings
- whether you have children or relatives who depend on you and who you have not been able to care for or support as a result of the negligence
- the cost of any extra care needed
- any home adaptations you have needed
- any psychological damage you have suffered as a result of the negligence.
If a victim of clinical negligence has died as a result of the negligence, their family may receive less compensation. However, this will be higher if the victim has dependants (such as young children) who are still reliant on financial support.
Good to know
Legal Choices is a free website run by legal services regulators.
The information here is independent and just the facts. We're not trying to sell you anything.
We just tell you about things that are good to know to help you make better choices about legal issues and lawyers.
Try our dictionary
Search our dictionary for definitions of terms related to negligence.