Discussing appropriate funding
Once you have engaged a specialist solicitor, the first step is to determine the most appropriate funding arrangement for you. Your options can include pre-existing Legal Expenses Insurance, Legal Aid or a “no win, no fee” agreement.
Investigating your case
We’ll request copies of medical records and GP notes from the hospitals where you received treatment. We’ll get these thoroughly reviewed to find out the specific incidences of substandard treatment that resulted in injury or loss. We’ll also identify each of the potential defendants in your case. To successfully bring a claim, your specialist medical negligence solicitors will need to prove that:
- The medical professionals who treated you provided substandard treatment
- That, as a result of that substandard treatment, you have suffered injury and financial loss, for example as a result of a delay in diagnosis or treatment.
If we feel that your medical records are supportive of a claim, we’ll instruct a specialist medical expert to provide an opinion regarding any potential incidences of substandard treatment identified. It may be necessary to approach more than one expert if substandard treatment was supplied by medical professionals in more than one discipline. We’ll also ask appropriate medical expert(s) to report on whether any of these incidences of substandard treatment resulted in you suffering an injury.
Response from the defendant
Once we’ve received supportive evidence from the medical experts, we’ll draft a formal “letter of claim” to the medical professional(s) or NHS Trust responsible for the substandard treatment. The letter of claim will set out in detail the circumstances surrounding your treatment, the specific allegations of negligence you are making against the Defendant(s) and the particular injuries and losses you have sustained.
The Defendant will have four months to investigate the claim and respond with a formal “letter of response” outlining the treatment provided, any reasoning behind decisions made and a summary of medical records. The letter may contain either an admission or denial of liability.
We appreciate that it can be difficult making a claim against an NHS Trust, or your medical team while you’re still working with them. We understand the importance of maintaining a good relationship with your treating medical team and are used to handling these situations.
Deny or accept responsibility
If liability is admitted, we’ll arrange for you to be assessed by a medical expert who will provide a formal report on your condition and prognosis. We’ll also need to carefully consider your past, ongoing and future requirements and, where appropriate, commission expert reports on your current and future care, therapy, accommodation, assistive technology and any other needs to enable us to accurately value your claim.
If the experts are able to give a firm prognosis, we’ll work with you to make a formal offer to settle your claim to the Defendant. If you require further treatment and therapy before the claim can be quantified, we’ll request an interim payment to fund the treatment and therapy required. In appropriate cases we can also arrange for a qualified case manager to manage and coordinate a care and therapy package for you.
If liability is denied, we’ll consider the letter of response with our medical experts. If we still think have a strong case, we’ll obtain a medical report on your condition and prognosis and consider issuing court proceedings to send out the strong message that we are willing to allow your claim to be determined by a judge at trial. We’ll also do this if a settlement isn’t reached.
Potential court proceedings
If we need to issue court proceedings, we’ll need to prepare the following documents:
(a) The Claim Form – A formal document setting out brief details of the parties to the claim, the alleged date(s) on which the substandard treatment occurred and on which you realised you had suffered injury as a result of the treatment received and the approximate value of the claim. The court will be asked to seal or “issue” this document, signifying the issue of proceedings;
(b) The Particulars of Claim – A formal document setting out paragraph by paragraph the circumstances surrounding your claim, the particulars of the negligence alleged and the injuries sustained as a result with reference to a Condition and Prognosis report;
(c) A medical report from one of the medical experts involved in your claim, setting out your Condition and Prognosis;
(d) A Schedule of Loss – A formal document setting out the details of your past and future loss and expenses incurred due to your injuries.
Once the Court has issued the Claim Form, we have a period of four months to serve all of the above documents to the Defendant(s) or their nominated solicitors. From the effective date of service, the Defendant(s) or their solicitors have a period of 14 days to serve an Acknowledge of Service indicating they intend to defend the claim. They then have a further 14 days to serve a Defence. The Defence will respond paragraph by paragraph to the Particulars of Claim with admission or a denial of liability. If no Defence is filed, judgement can be entered against the Defendant(s) and the court will provide for your compensation to be assessed.
Preparing for your trial
Once the Defence has been served, the court will list a Case Management Conference to determine a timetable of steps to be completed by both parties, narrowing the issues and/or valuing your claim. Such steps include disclosure of relevant documents, exchange of witness statements and the exchange of experts’ reports. The Defendant may be granted permission to instruct their own medical experts in the same discipline as your medical experts. The court will also list the case for trial.
During the court timetable we’ll continue to consider whether a settlement can be reached. If the parties are unable to negotiate a settlement, a judge at trial will ultimately decide the claim. Please be assured that many cases settle without trial. The court will usually require parties to consider alternative methods of settling a claim. For example, a round table settlement meeting will be scheduled where both parties and their representatives meet with a view of negotiating a settlement face to face.