Why do medical negligence claims take so long?July 21, 2017
At the outset of any medical negligence claim, whether against a hospital trust, a private surgeon, a GP or a dentist, the solicitor conducting the case on behalf of the Claimant should provide their client with a realistic timeframe for completion of the case. This timeframe will be based upon the presumption that the case is successful (which is by no means guaranteed).
Providing this time estimate at such an early stage in the case is, as one might suspect, not an exact science by any means, as there are so many unknown variables at that stage. However, it is important that one’s clients are at least clear from the outset that the chances of their claim being “done and dusted” within 12 months (or even 18 months) are slim to downright remote.
If (and it’s a big “If”) there is a typical medical negligence case, and even if liability is admitted relatively early on in the matter, then the claimant is likely to still be looking at approximately 2 years before the case is concluded. This can be for a variety of reasons including:
- The length of time it takes to obtain the client’s medical records - this is typically 8 to 10 weeks but it can be longer, and often updating sets of records are required during the course of a claim.
- The availability of an independent medical expert (instructed by the claimant’s solicitors) to provide a liability report.
- Whether or not the claimant has ongoing, but potentially non-permanent symptoms which preclude settlement until the prognosis period (as advised by the independent expert) has elapsed.
If one then factors into the above calculation a denial of liability by the defendant, then the timeframe for the case can reach 3 or even 4+ years because, for example:
- The defendant will no doubt wish to obtain its own independent medical evidence.
- With the availability for 2 or more parties’ experts and barristers to consider (not to mention lay witnesses including the claimant), the Courts may struggle to list the case for trial for many months after the parties are ready to proceed.
So, the route to compensation arising from medical negligence is often a long one, but one that is often worthwhile and, moreover, very necessary for many victims of medical negligence who have suffered life-changing injuries. In addition, at Burroughs Day we will always keep our client’s fully updated as to the progress of their claim at regular intervals, even if there is nothing very much to report, and we do our absolute best to make the whole process as stress free as possible.