Misdiagnosis and claiming for compensation
Although the vast majority of medical staff diagnose illnesses and prescribe treatment correctly in accordance with set professional standards, a small number of unfortunate mistakes do occur – sometimes with serious or devastating consequences. If you consider that you have been affected by medical misdiagnosis, contact our legal experts today for help, support and an initial evaluation of your possible case. Making a claim for compensation can help to provide a remedy for suffering, loss of earnings and the cost of rehabilitation or ongoing care.
Some commonly misdiagnosed conditions seen in National Health Service hospitals and private healthcare institutions include:
Failure to diagnose an illness or medical condition correctly may lead to unnecessary or delayed treatment. In cancer misdiagnosis cases, prescription of the wrong drugs could have critical repercussions.
The startling statistics
The NHS treats around 243 million patients a year and though the error rate is around just half of one-hundredth of one percent (i.e. 0.005%), the relatively few misdiagnoses that do occur can lead to unfortunate and severe ramifications.
Within the health service, a written constitution exists to formalise patients’ rights to make a complaint and receive compensation. The National Health Service Litigation Authority (NHSLA) deals with medical negligence claims. Data recently provided under the terms of a Freedom of Information request showed that during the 2014/15 financial year, there were over 1,300 claims for failure, delays or mistakes associated with medical diagnoses. Total compensation payouts came to over £193 million and the highest individual settlements were in the £3-4m range, although average payouts were lower.
Surprisingly, diagnosis errors had occurred in the treatment of as many as one in six patients at some stage in their childhood or adult life, according to a survey carried out in 2009.
Can I claim for compensation?
If you are wondering how to claim, it is best to take qualified legal advice, so you receive help and support when it counts. Making a claim as soon as possible after receipt of the misdiagnosis tends to increase the probability of a successful outcome. Once made, the NHS has to deal with complaints within twelve months, whereas private healthcare institutions have a maximum of four months to respond to a letter of claim, according to court rules.
Sometimes, medical practitioners may admit liability but contest the extent of the consequent injuries or damage. Medical claims cases often involve highly sophisticated legal arguments and expert witnesses. For a claim to succeed, it is necessary to prove that the patient was a victim of misdiagnosis and that he or she suffered as a result. Time off work and loss of earnings is a significant factor in some cases and can form part of misdiagnosis claims when the financial hardship is a direct consequence of the original negligence.
The legal team has to show that the treatment the patient received fell below the level that would reasonably be expected and, therefore, caused harm (known as the Bolam test, after a legal precedent established in 1957). Finally, in line with modern case law, it may now be sufficient to show that the patient could not properly have given what is known as informed consent because he or she was not fully informed about the treatment and all the associated risks.
Expert Legal Advice Will Be Required to Bring a Claim
This is an area that the medical profession is very keen to get right, yet mistakes do happen and the consequences are often severe. The effects can be life-changing or fatal and very often, financial compensation is essential to support the victims of delayed diagnosis or their families.
Whether medical negligence compensation is due in the event of delayed or misdiagnosis, the legal test will usually be whether another doctor would have diagnosed the patient’s condition correctly if presented with the same symptoms. This can be difficult to prove and expert legal advice will be required to bring a claim.