What counts as medical negligence?

While the vast majority of medical treatments in the UK go to plan, sometimes mistakes can happen. When mistakes do happen, it can leave patients suffering injuries and loss of confidence in medical professionals. In minor cases, a patient may just want an explanation, apology and reassurance that it won’t happen again. If the effects are more serious, they are in their right to consult a legal professional to find out if they have a medical negligence claim or not.

Here we outline the exact definition of medical negligence, the most common types of medical negligence, and what steps you can take if you believe you have a claim to make.

What is the definition of medical negligence in the UK?

Medical negligence is the breach of a legal duty of care owed to a person by doctor, other healthcare professionals and their employers, which results in damage caused to that person.

For a medical negligence claim to be brought, it must be established that the doctor or nurse involved in your medical treatment was negligent and that negligence actually caused your injury.

How can medical negligence be determined?

Pinpointing medical negligence can be extremely difficult. For a case of medical negligence to be determined, the courts must decide that the medical professional or medical organisation has done something that no reasonably competent medical professional would have done. That can be difficult to prove.

It must also be shown that the injury a patient has endured was more likely than not caused (or was contributed to) under the medical professionals care. An independent medical specialist would have to identify this for there to be a medical negligence case.

What are the most common types of medical negligence?

Medical Misdiagnosis:

When a medical professional fails to diagnose a condition correctly, which leads to unnecessary suffering. Medical misdiagnosis actually tends to fall into two quite clear types.

1. Where a condition is completely missed and ends up being undiagnosed completely

2. Where a diagnosis is made incorrectly

If a medical professional or organisation fails to provide treatment or provides incorrect treatment to a patient, the potentially life-threatening risk this can pose adheres to medical negligence.


Prescription and medication errors:

Hundreds of thousands of prescriptions are written and dispensed in the UK every single day. Again, the majority are all processed correctly, but errors can still happen.

Some of the most common forms of medical negligence regarding medication and prescriptions are:

– The wrong medication is prescribed or dispensed

– Medications are prescribed together that shouldn’t be (contraindications)

– Medication is prescribed that the patient is recorded as being allergic to

– Incorrect dosage amount or period

Pregnancy and Birth Injuries:

There are thousands of births that happen under the care of medical professionals every year and most of these happen without any problems. However, on the rare occasion when something does go wrong, it can be devastating and affect both mum and baby.

Some of the most common medical negligence incidents relating to pregnancy and childbirth include:

– During pregnancy: Maternal Diabetes or Gestational Diabetes, Pre-Eclampsia, Uterine Rupture and Placental Abruption, and Wrongful Birth Cases (cases where sterilisation or vasectomy has failed, or if the parents were not warned by medical professionals that the child would have been born with a specific disability)

– During labour: Second or Third Degree Tears, Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy, Brachial Plexus Injuries, Ventouse or Forceps Delivery, and Episiotomy.

– After childbirth: Congenital Hip Dysplasia

Negligent Medical Advice:

So that you are able to make an informed decision about whether or not you want or should have an operation, medical professionals are required to advise you of any risks and ensure you are aware of any alternatives that may be available. If they fail to do this however, you may be entitled to make a medical negligence compensation claim.

Surgical Negligence:

While the vast majority of operations performed in the UK are successful, mistakes may sometimes be made – however, these incidents are extremely rare. Nonetheless, some types of surgical negligence may include:

– The wrong operation was performed

– The wrong body part being operated on

– Foreign objects left in the body

– Cosmetic surgery causing scarring and disfigurement

– Organs being perforated

– Infections that are caused by poor hygiene.

It must also be understood that surgical mistakes such as these are medical negligence incidents that are sometimes labelled as ‘never events’. These are regarded by the Government as so serious that they should never occur.

If you believe that either yourself or a family member has suffered medical negligence and they would like to explore their options, don’t hesitate to call our expert team on 0800 230 0573. We will be able to assist you in finding out whether you have a claim or not, and answer any other questions you may have.

For more information on how we help people through medical negligence, take a look here.


What are the common surgical errors that lead to a compensation claim?

Surgical errors are extremely rare but when they do happen they can have a serious impact on a patient’s quality of life.

For that reason it is necessary for people affected by a surgical mistake or omission to seek compensation to help them reverse or mitigate the impact of the negligent surgery.

Here, we outline what the most common types of surgical errors are in the UK and what you need to prove to be able to claim compensation.

Errors within the operating theatre

– Surgery is carried out on the wrong part of a patient’s body

– A foreign object, such as a surgical sponge or instrument, is left inside a patient’s body

– The wrong type or dosage of anaesthesia is given to the patient

– Neglecting to monitor vital signs such as heart rate or blood pressure

– Damage is caused to other organs, such as the gall bladder, intestine or spinal cord, while carrying out an open, diagnostic or laparoscopic surgery and the damage is not detected

– An infection caused by unsterile surgical instruments or practices

Negligent medical surgeryErrors outside the operating theatre

Surgical related errors and omissions do not just occur on the operating table. The failure to carry out adequate pre-operative and post-operative procedures and practices can also lead to life-changing injury.

Below we have listed some of the most common errors that lead to successful compensation claims.

– The patient is not given adequate information about the risks or alternative treatments before the operation is performed, which is called lack of informed consent

– There is a delay or a failure to perform the correct pre-operative tests

– A failure to secure pre-operative clearance (These are routine checks to make sure a patient who has, for example, cardiovascular, renal and respiratory conditions or diabetes and obesity are risk-assessed for the relevant surgery)

– Performing an unnecessary procedure

– A delay or failure to identify and treat complications or infections after surgery

– A delay or failure to refer to medical or specialist consultation

What do you need to establish to prove negligent surgery?

Proving medical negligence following a surgical error or omission can sometimes be straightforward, but in most circumstances the facts are complicated and the cases are time consuming. Experienced specialist clinical negligence solicitors, like the team at Birchall Blackburn Law, can take on the burden and progress the case smoothly while the patient and family focus on their health and recovery.

Every patient, operation and surgical related injury is different, however the law is clear on what needs to be established in order to bring a case forward for negligent surgical errors and omissions.

You must prove:

– That the medical professional in question had a duty of care towards you – this is usually a straightforward step

– That the medical professional in question breached this duty of care via unsafe or unsatisfactory practices deemed as unacceptable considering their expertise

– And that the breach of duty of care resulted in tangible harm or damage to you. This is because claims are not judged on the basis of wrongdoing but on the losses that were unfairly inflicted upon you.

What do I do first if I suspect there have been surgical mistakes or omissions?

Your first step should be to seek expert legal advice. Our clinical negligence team will provide initial free advice with no obligations. Take the opportunity to talk to them about what has happened to you or a family member. They have decades of experience and will be able to advise whether there is a case for negligence, if you need to obtain extra information, and what support is available.

Call our clinical negligence team on 0800 230 0573 or for more information on how we help people, take a look here.

My medical negligence happened a few years ago – how long do I have to claim?

Making a legal claim can be a daunting experience, especially when the claim involves a clinical organisation or medical professional.

Many of us aren’t sure what first steps to take in making a medical negligence claim. They can be complex, emotional times and you might come to find that the process has limitations too. One of those limitations you may come across whilst making a medical negligence claim is the time limit, or how long you have to make your claim. So, if your medical negligence happened a few years ago – what are your options?

The Time-Limit of Medical Negligence Claims

In most cases where the claimant is an adult, the time limit is 3 years from the ‘date of knowledge’. The ‘date of knowledge’ could refer to the date that the negligence occurred (if it was realised immediately), or it could refer to the date that you first observed symptoms, suffered a related illness, or when malpractices were discovered.

Exceptions to the Time-Limit to make a Medical Negligence Claim

There are some exceptions to the 3 year time-limit that you should be aware of, such as:

Claims concerning children:

For those under the age of eighteen that have suffered medical negligence, they have three years from the date of their eighteenth birthday. This exception is designed so that, once legally an adult, they are able to take matters into their own hands to pursue a medical negligence claim, should they want or need to.

Claims concerning those with mental disabilities or illnesses (both adults and children):

If the claimant is a protected party (someone with a pre-diagnosed mental condition), there is no immediate time-limit to make a claim. This is also the case if the negligence resulted in brain damage.

However, if they are deemed to have recovered from their mental illness and are considered to be capable of handling the matter properly, they will then have three years from the date of recovery.

If the claim concerns someone that has died:

In cases where the victim has sadly died, the family of the deceased have three years from the date of their death to bring forward a medical negligence claim on their behalf.

If a claimant is in the process of a medical negligence claim when they die, their family will again have three years from the date of death to continue with the claim via the personal representatives of the deceased.

If the claim concerns a concealed negligence:

In some cases, you may discover many years after a medical procedure that medical negligence actually took place. This could be because you may have had limited knowledge of the treatment and/or procedure at the time, or there have since been reports of high mortality rates, poor levels of care or if the trust you were under openly admits fault during an investigation.

If this is the case, the time limit to make a medical negligence claim is three years from either the date of knowledge, or when you ought to have reasonably known of the negligence.IMG_5521 sml

Why is there a time limit to make a medical negligence claim?

Although the time-limit can be a cause for concern for many claimants that may not have been fully aware of their negligence, there are valid reasons as to why the limit has been set as three years. This is because:

• Witnesses can sometimes forget what happened over lengthy periods of time, this limiting accuracy.
• You may need compensation to deal with your illness of injury, sooner rather than later.
• Medical notes may become lost – especially as many hospitals and/or medical trusts only hold them for a required period of time.
With a three year time-limit, there is a better chance that you are able to gather the best information to help your claim deliver the best results to aid your recovery.

What if the time has expired?

If the time-limit has passed, your medical negligence claim is likely to be time –barred i.e. out of time.

Unfortunately, this can be a common occurrence. Many victims of medical negligence make a decision to ignore the claim promptly for many different reasons, preferring to pursue the claim at a later date.

However, we do always encourage you to seek legal advice still – no matter your circumstance – to fully explore any options you may have left. It is always worth obtaining legal advice from a specialised medical negligence solicitor to check when your time-limit ended. In some limited circumstances, a court may allow you to bring your claim outside of the time-limit; however, this is very much the exception and not the rule.

An experienced medical negligence solicitor has the resources, compassion and knowledge to best advice you on all of these matters, to make sure you are completely informed of your rights. If you require medical negligence legal advice, don’t hesitate to call our experts to discuss your options on 0800 230 0573.

Can I make a medical negligence claim on behalf of my kids?

When your child receives medical treatment that goes wrong, it can shatter your whole world. At a time where you might feel helpless, it’s important to understand what you can do to get as much support as possible.

Medical negligence claims regarding a child can be complex and confusing. Understandably, you may feel unsure about whether you can make a medical negligence claim on their behalf and what your rights are if your child has been mistreated.

With so much information out there, here are the facts on whether you can make a medical negligence claim on behalf of your kids, and if so, how:

What kind of negligence claims can be made on behalf of children?

Medical negligence can be complicated and completely diverse. But no matter what your child’s injury, if you believe if could be caused by negligent or inappropriate medical treatment, it is important to speak to a medical negligence specialist solicitor. You may be able to bring a claim for compensation, which could make all the difference to your child’s subsequent rehabilitation and future quality of life.

At Birchall Blackburn Law, we have successfully supported hundreds of children and their families through a variety of medical negligence cases. These have including misdiagnoses, delays in diagnosis and birth injuries, as well as medical negligence claims relating to specific conditions such as cerebral palsy, sepsis and cauda equina syndrome, to name just a few.

When can you make a compensation claim on behalf of a child?

In a nutshell, if you are the child’s legal guardian, you can make a medical negligence claim on their behalf if they have suffered or been injured as a result of inappropriate or neglectful medical treatment.

According to UK law, if your child is under the age of eighteen, or is unable to represent themselves because of their injuries or their mental state, as a responsible parent or guardian you can be appointed to act on their behalf as their ‘litigation friend’ to make a medical negligence claim.

It is then the duty of you, the ‘litigation friend’, to provide instructions in the child’s best interests and guide their case to ensure the outcome makes the rest of their life easier and more comfortable.

Is there a time limit on making a medical negligence claim on behalf of my child?

Unlike most adult medical negligence claims where the claim must be filed within 3 years from the ‘date of knowledge’, claims on behalf of a child are slightly different.

If your child is under eighteen on the date that the accident occurred, the 3 year limitation rule only comes into force after their eighteenth birthday. This means that the medical negligence claim can be filed at any point before their 21st birthday.

However, if someone suffers from medical negligence as a child, but then as an adult is deemed to lack mental capacity and unable to manage their own affairs (whether caused by the negligence or not), there is no stated time limit.

medical negligence and children

How is compensation calculated and what is an interim payment?

For your child’s medical negligence compensation amount to be fully assessed, your assigned expert solicitor must establish how the standard of care your child received fell below reasonable expectation and whether there is a link between the ‘breach of duty’ and your child’s specific injuries.

They will also need to explore the levels of compensation your child might require to help them following their injury, so a medical expert will be consulted to do this.

Our expert medical negligence team at Birchall Blackburn Law work with a range of medical experts that will help us assess your child’s long-term care and rehabilitation needs, so that you can have peace of mind for your child’s future.

Sometimes, a child’s injury can be so serious that doctor’s may not be able to predict the long-term consequences of the injury until the child is much older.

In these cases, medical negligence claims won’t be finalised. Instead, your solicitor may pursue interim payments to help support your child’s ongoing care needs until their injuries and long-term needs can fully be determined at a later date.

hese interim payments can offer you and your family a vital source of funding in order to pay rehabilitation costs or any ongoing treatment bills that might occur.

How do I begin a medical negligence claim for my child?

At Birchall Blackburn Law, we understand that no parent wants to be in this position. That’s why we want to make the process as quick and as comfortable for you as possible. To do this, we follow 3 simple steps to get you started with your child’s medical negligence claim:

Step 1: Initial Enquiry

We offer free initial advice to establish whether you have a case for your child.

Step 2: Your Case

We can take your child’s case further and use our proven legal expertise to start to build a strong argument for compensation.

Step 3: Compensation

We fight to secure your child the best possible outcome, compensation and a good quality of life.

Start the process now and speak to one of our compassionate and expert team members on 0800 230 0573. Or take a look at some FAQ’s on medical negligence claims here.