medicalYou have just had some botched and painful treatment which has left you embarrassed and frightened; what do you do and where do you stand?

The first thing to remember is not to panic. Emotions are generally running high right after a medical procedure that does not appear to have gone to plan, but in law you have two years from the date of an incident to bring your proceedings. In certain situations the two year time limit does not start ticking until you know or are aware of the injury and in cases for children this does not start until the age of 18. Specific rules relate to persons under a legal disability which your solicitor can advise you about.

A first and natural step would be to discuss your grievances with your doctor. It might be prudent to make notes as to what you are told or bring somebody along with you. It may well be that the doctor’s response is satisfactory and this might be the end of the matter, but keep the 2 year time limit in mind.

To succeed in a case for medical negligence in very general terms you must show that the medical practitioner went outside normal practice and that an equivalent practitioner would not have acted in this way. You must also show that harm is done. An independent medical report will be necessary to give guidance as to whether the duty of care between doctor and patient has been breached and your solicitor can arrange this for you. It is not uncommon to commission a report from an overseas doctor, for example from the UK. It is also important to obtain your medical records and your solicitor will usually ask you to sign an authority so that he can take these up on your behalf. If these records are not easily forthcoming then a court application can be made on your behalf.

Medical negligence cases might be seen as a sub-branch of personal injury cases in which special rules apply. For example in medical negligence cases no application is made to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board and as a consequence proceedings are issued directly. Similarities arise in that you must prove liability and the question of general and special damages are dealt with in a relatively similar way to all personal injury cases. General damages are awarded for items such as pain and suffering whereas special damages arise for out of pocket expenses which might include loss of earnings, medical bills and travel expenses.

Bringing a case for medical negligence is often a difficult process, which in some situations can stop a patient from properly moving on from the harm which has been done in the first place. It is certainly true that the tests for succeeding in medical negligence cases are tougher than ordinary cases for personal injury and to improve your chances of success it is essential to obtain good advice.