Here are some of the questions we are often asked by people who have encountered problems in their healthcare, and are considering seeking our assistance.
Am I a victim of clinical negligence?
It is important to understand that clinical negligence, as defined by the law, is a very specific thing. You may have had an unfortunate experience during your healthcare, but this does not necessarily mean you have grounds for a legal claim. We have provided a detailed guide to clinical negligence law that you can read here. Alternatively, you should not hesitate to get in touch: we will be happy to talk things through with you.
How can I get an assessment of my case?
We offer a free initial interview, so that we can learn about your experiences, and you can ask us questions. At the end of meetings like this, we are usually able to give an indication of whether there is the potential for a claim (although, naturally, we can only give a detailed assessment of a case when we have had the opportunity to investigate it thoroughly). If you would like to arrange an appointment, please get in touch.
Isn't legal representation expensive? Can I get Legal Aid?
As clinical negligence solicitors, we recognise that funding a legal action is very expensive, and it is unrealistic to expect most people to pay "up front". Public Funding ("Legal Aid") is available for clinical negligence cases, if you meet the Legal Services Commission's financial criteria. In some cases, you may also be able to obtain Public Funding for representation at an Inquest. If you do not meet Legal Aid criteria, we may, in certain cases, be able to offer a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA, often known as "no win no fee"). For further information, please see our Guide to Funding Options, or get in touch.
If I bring a claim and win it, will my compensation be "swallowed up" in legal fees?
No. The usual rule in litigation is that the loser has to pay the winner's legal expenses. This means that, if you pursue a claim to a successful conclusion, the Defendant has to pay not only compensation but your costs, as well. Naturally, they have to bear the cost of their own legal representation, too.
The only way in which a certain amount of legal fees may be deducted from your compensation is if the Defendant can argue - to a Court's satisfaction - that your legal bill contains items for which they should not be held responsible. For example: if, in the course of your claim, you have received a report from a medical expert who does not support your case and, as a result, you do not use his or her report as part of your claim, the Defendant may argue that they should not be held responsible for that expert's fees. In these circumstances, the cost of the expert's bill may have to be deducted from your compensation. We advise that you should not worry unduly about this danger, however: we have never run a successful claim in which we have had to deduct anything more than a small proportion of client's compensation and, more often than not, we are able to settle costs without making any deduction at all.
Is there any point in pursuing a claim? Don't doctors just stick up for each other?
Because the only way to fight a clinical negligence claim successfully is with the support of medical experts, potential clients often fear that the experts to whom we turn will not act impartially, and will try to get their colleagues "off the hook". The best defence against this is to know that you can trust your experts. We have been working with many of the experts we use for many years, and know that they will give honest advice: if they think you have a claim, they will say so (although, equally, they will not advise us to pursue a case that does not, in their opinion, have a realistic basis). This is one of the reasons why we always put a maximum of effort into selecting absolutely the right expert for each case.
Can I pursue a clinical negligence claim on behalf of my child?
Yes. Any child under 18 must have an adult representative, who is known as their "litigation friend". This is an important responsibility: you must make all the necessary decisions in relation to the case, and must always act in the child's best interests. In a claim on behalf of a child, any "out-of-court" settlement that is reached can only be accepted with the Court's approval.
Can I pursue a clinical negligence claim on behalf of a relative who has died during - or as a result of - medical treatment?
Yes, as long as you were a close relative. Claims involving fatalities are for "bereavement damages" (i.e. compensation for the loss of a loved one) which, as a matter of law, may only be claimed by a very limited category of people: the spouse of the deceased or, if the deceased was a child, his or her parents. It is also possible to claim for loss of financial support from the deceased (a "dependency" claim). Such damages are available to a wider group of people - including children, siblings, and "common-law" partners, as well as parents and spouses - but only if you can show that you were dependent on the deceased for part or all of your income. As you can see, this is quite a complicated area of the law, but we will happy to talk you through it in detail: please feel free to get in touch.
What does the Michelmores clinical negligence department have to recommend it?
We are an experienced and highly regarded department. The head of the team, Laurence Vick, is a member of the AvMA (Action against Medical Accidents) clinical negligence panel and the Law Society's clinical negligence panel. He also assists the Legal Services Commission, by sitting on appeal panels to decide whether borderline applications should be granted funding. Another of our solicitors, Bernadette McGhie, is an experienced registered paediatric and general nurse, who has held various posts as Ward Sister and nursing lecturer.
We are one of a limited number of firms that is approved for clinical negligence work by the Legal Services Commission. Even if you are not eligible for LSC funding, you can view this as a powerful recommendation of our department.
As a firm, Michelmores is proud to be accredited with Lexcel, the Law Society's quality mark, and the clinical negligence department is enthusiastically committed to maintaining this standard.
Can you visit me at home?
Of course. We are used to acting for clients who have suffered injuries that make it difficult for them to come to see us, and we are very happy to travel to you, if that is more convenient.