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Medical Negligence

Here for medical negligence victims

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Clinical/ medical negligence claims can be pursued against the NHS or private service providers when diagnoses, treatments or procedures go wrong. If you or a loved one have been the victim of negligence by a medical professional then Freeman Johnson is here to provide specialist legal services.

Why to pursue a claim

You can turn to us for legal advice on all manner of clinical negligence claims. Financial compensation will be vital for victims who have suffered a life-changing injury, but you might be able to pursue a claim for other reasons.

Here at Freeman Johnson, your medical negligence solicitors can help you explore why things went wrong. Meanwhile, they can also determine what further treatment can be provided to improve your quality of life, while also securing funds if you require private treatment.

Crucially, our medical negligence solicitors are experienced in securing recognition for the mistakes that were made. Moreover, they can even pursue apologies and the implementation of measures to ensure other victims do not suffer from the same mistakes.

Contact the medical negligence team

Dorian Williams heads up our team of medical negligence solicitors. He has years of experience bringing claims that yield successful outcomes. You can read about previous cases by requesting details from our customer care department.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions about our medical negligence legal services in Country Durham and North Yorkshire. Call Freeman Johnson on 01325 466221 or view the contact details for our four UK offices here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before you approached us, you may have complained about your treatment to the hospital or to your GP and if you have not received a satisfactory response you may have complained to The Health Service Ombudsman. It is not necessary to do this before bringing a claim but it may be advisable and we can assist you should this be necessary.

Unfortunately it remains the case that frequently doctors and clinicians remain reluctant to admit to errors and so it is not always clear if you have received inappropriate treatment and whether that has caused problems. In some cases it is pretty obvious, for example you were discharged from the casualty department saying you had bruising when in fact you had a fracture. In other cases, the errors can be quite subtle, for example a nerve injury or internal bleeding caused by a punctured blood vessel.

We have to prove that your care was substandard and outside the range of reasonable medical opinion and this caused you injury. It is crucial that we obtain the right independent experts to review the standard of care because the success of your claim rests on the expert evidence and having the right solicitor who will fight your corner – which is where we come in.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

There are a variety of different ways of financing your case and most cases we pursue are on a "no win no fee" agreement which is known as a Conditional Fee Agreement. Alternatively you may have legal expenses cover or be a member of a trades union or be entitled to legal aid for a birth injury claim.

Our "no win no fee" agreement (known as a Conditional Fee Agreement or CFA) is the most popular means of pursuing your claim.

Alternative funding might be through legal expenses insurance, for example via a home contents or buildings insurance policy or as a benefit conferred by some credit cards or via a trades union or professional association that provides legal cover. Legal Aid is only available for birth injury cases.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

If we consider that you have a good case then we will offer you a CFA Agreement. This will be offered in conjunction with an insurance policy (subject to insurer assessment) which will cover you for the cost of expenses (disbursements) for expert report fees and court fees.

A CFA plus insurance means that you have no financial risk if your claim is unsuccessful. In that situation, you pay us nothing as we claim disbursements from the insurers. You do not pay the other side if you discontinue or lose.

If, as we hope, that your claim is successful then your opponents will pay the majority of your legal costs and disbursements. You pay us a success fee and the insurance premium is paid to your insurers at the end of the case.

This information is a snapshot of how a “no win no fee” arrangement works and we will give you more information before you sign up.

All initial discussions are without obligation.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

Mistakes in casualty departments are quite common because of the pressures on clinical staff and financial constraints. That is not an excuse for poor treatment or misdiagnosis because ultimately it may mean that you need further and more prolonged treatment which causes you additional trauma and may have financial implications for you.

The most commonly missed injuries in the trauma department are orthopaedic and neurological injuries. Some of these injuries are missed at triage by nurse practitioners or junior doctors. A clear history so as to understand how the injury arose and details of your symptoms together with decent imaging and examination ("look, feel and move") are important.

Missed fractures frequently occur in the scaphoid, elbow, hip, knee and spine.

A typical example may be a missed fracture by misinterpreting an x-ray or a failure to take x-rays where clinically indicated and sending you home with reassurance that it was just a soft tissue injury. However it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between soft tissue and ligament injuries.

Occasionally someone will present to the A&E Department with a serious medical problem such as difficulty in breathing or heart palpitations and they are not referred to another department for investigations and treatment, sometimes with significant and tragic consequences. An example of this is compartment syndrome.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

Birth injury cases are complex from a medical and legal standpoint because frequently many expert reports are required from different specialists to establish breach of duty against the Trust and that the injuries caused to you or your baby result from errors made by the doctors or midwives. Firstly we would need to obtain an expert report on breach of duty. If breach of duty is established, then we will obtain reports on condition & prognosis and consider what future treatment and equipment is needed as well as identifying the value of the claim which may be very substantial, especially in cerebral palsy claims.

In cerebral palsy cases, errors by the medical team may have been made before your baby was born, usually relating to misdiagnosis (ante natal claims) or errors during or following birth (postnatal).

In many respects, the advance of medical science is such that babies that previously would not have survived do survive and go on to lead fulfilling lives despite having sustained birth injuries.

You or on behalf of your child might wish to bring a claim for cerebral palsy arising from lack of oxygen which may also have caused brain injury or some paralysis. Other injuries may have been caused during delivery by inappropriate use of forceps leading to fractures or spinal injuries by way of example.

We also help mothers who have sustained injuries themselves as a result of gynaecological procedures arising from incompetence or negligence.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

Claims against Trusts for mistakes made during the administration of anaesthetic form a significant proportion of cases handled by Trusts. When things go wrong with anaesthetic they frequently result in significant damage and sometimes with catastrophic results.

With general anaesthetics, damage may have been caused to teeth during intubation when the laryngoscope is placed in the mouth which may cause damage to tissues or cause teeth to become chipped, broken or dislodged. Brain damage may be caused if the brain is deprived of oxygen for over 2 to 3 minutes and have a significant impact on functioning. Blockage of an airway or low oxygen pressure during artificial ventilation might result in hypoxia (shortage of oxygen) causing brain damage.

Nerve injuries may be caused by handling whilst on the operating table or due to needle injections whilst giving a nerve block. Anaesthetists should use a nerve stimulator to locate the presence of the nerve.

Increasingly spinal and epidural blocks are becoming more common. This raises the issue of consent as some people prefer to have a general anaesthetic and may be persuaded to have a spinal anaesthetic against their wishes.

In performing an epidural it is essential that the needle is introduced in the correct region of the spine because if it is placed too high then this may cause spinal cord damage and in the case of one unfortunate client where this happened, she sustained a profound foot drop which was permanent.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

Cancer affects everyone, whether you are suffering, or you know a relative who has cancer. Unfortunately we are told that the incidence of cancer is increasing although treatment options and the effectiveness of treatment is improving for most cancers.

In negligence claims, the most frequent cause of complaint is because of delay in diagnosis and therefore the denial of earlier and sometimes more effective treatment. Generally there is a better chance of a more successful outcome if the disease is diagnosed earlier.

The largest group of medical negligence cases against GP’s arises from a delay in diagnosis and a delay in referral to hospital. Crucially doctors should take a full history and perform a detailed examination, particularly if there is a family history of cancer, for example the BRCA1 gene in breast cancer, and go on to consider risk factors and evaluate the symptoms.

Although it is a simplification, there are some "red flags" that doctors should consider and a failure to consider and follow the NICE clinical guidelines is likely to result in a finding of breach of duty.

Everyone knows that cancer is a complex subject and this applies equally in the legal field as it does in diagnosis and treatment. This is because frequently the defendants argue about causation and whether the delay in treatment made any difference to the outcome. There are some interesting developments in how medical experts evaluate survival and reduction in life expectancy as a result of misdiagnosis and delayed treatment. Where appropriate, we will use these statistical and diagnostic markers to determine if delay has made any difference.

The most common types of cancer resulting in claims are breast, skin, bowel, cervical, prostate and leukaemia.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

Cosmetic or aesthetic surgery is no longer the preserve of film stars or celebrities and many people decide to have a procedure because it makes them feel better and improves their self-esteem. In other cases people require a reconstruction because they have sustained trauma, for example in a road accident or have had breast cancer and required a mastectomy.

As a result negligence claims are on the increase reflecting the fact that there are more procedures and that people are more aware of what they can expect as an acceptable outcome and are not prepared to accept significant visual and functional defects. If the result is unacceptable, then the whole point of aesthetic surgery is lost.

Problems have arisen in the use of defective products such as the PIP breast implant scandal in which implants were made of industrial grade silicone. Frequently claims have been made against private clinics or against the surgeon.

One of the first issues to consider in this type of case is the issue of consent and the extent to which the surgeon counselled you and discussed various options, surgical technique and risk factors with respect to possible complications. In breast implant surgery for example, there are risks associated with capsular contracture, rupture, rotation of the implant and leakage of silicone.

Claims also frequently arise whereby the aesthetic appearance is unacceptable, either the implant has been placed in the wrong plane or is of the wrong size or of the wrong type. Unfortunately some women develop scarring, infection and numbness which may or may not have been caused by poor operative technique or post-operative care.

At one stage it was only breast augmentation that formed the majority of claims but with an increase in the variety of procedures available to people, mistakes arise in eyelid surgery, nasal surgery (rhinoplasty), face and brow lifts, bariatric surgery (weight loss), dental implant surgery and the use of lasers and fillers, to name just several procedures.

Care should be taken in the choice of clinic as unfortunately private clinics may be here today, gone tomorrow and have inadequate or no indemnity insurance. Surgeons may not hold the requisite accreditation or lack experience and they may not be insured.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

If someone has tragically died as a result of medical error then we will be able to help you to investigate and to bring a claim for compensation. We understand that this is a difficult and painful time and we will handle these cases sensitively so that you achieve the outcome that you want.

Your loved one may have been the main breadwinner and therefore you were financially dependent on them. Whilst securing the payment of damages will never compensate for the loss of your loved one, it may ease the financial burden and help your dependents for their future.

In cases where someone has died in hospital or in a nursing home or because of inadequate or delayed treatment by paramedics, for example, then it is likely that the Coroner will be informed. The Coroner’s duty is to hold an inquest so as to investigate the circumstances and facts arising from a suspicious death. The role of the Coroner is not to apportion blame to an individual or hospital.

In rare circumstances, Legal Aid is available (subject to assessment) for representation at inquests. We will be able to assist you and represent you in certain circumstances. An inquest is important because facts are established and may be helpful in pursuing a future legal claim.

We will advise you on who brings the claim on behalf of the estate as it is not necessarily the same person who is the next of kin or dependent. The range of people who may be beneficiaries of a claim is quite wide and it is usually a husband or wife, civil partner, parent or child.

Catastrophic accidents may occur during surgery where the initial error was not noticed. For example we have had a claim in which a lady suffered internal bleeding that was not noticed when a artery was nicked and the site of the haemorrhage could not be ascertained, culminating in her tragic death.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

You may have tripped outside, in the home, in a nursing home or fallen out of bed. At the time, you may not necessarily have been aware that you had sustained a fracture. This can lead to serious implications if the fracture is missed by doctors and therefore inappropriate advice and treatment given.

The elderly are particularly susceptible to fracturing their hip or clavicle or femur or wrist during a fall and if this is not noticed either by the GP or in the nursing home or even in A&E, then this can lead to a chain of events leading in rare cases to a premature death. So the significance of fractures should not be underestimated.

Errors occur when x-rays are not interpreted correctly or even where x-rays are not obtained. It may be that the clinician lacks experience and discharges you without further investigation without referring you to a more senior doctor. This can result in missed fractures of the neck of femur, missed dislocation of the shoulder, missed fractured scaphoid and missed hand and wrist injuries.

Errors may also occur when the hospital outsources their radiology function to an external reporting company which causes delay and may result in miscommunication or misdiagnosis.

The development of radiology whether it is the tried and trusted plain film x-ray, CT scanning, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging or PET scans provide doctors with superb imaging to help refine the diagnosis. Unfortunately the wrong scan might have been obtained or was misinterpreted so there needs to be close collaboration between the radiologist and the doctor or surgeon.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

As the primary carers, GP’s and their team have a huge responsibility because they are the gatekeeper who will determine whether you are referred for specialist investigation and treatment in hospital.

The role of the GP in relation to diagnosis of cancer is dealt with in our section on cancer claims here.

Given the many types of medical problems that GP’s see, it is not possible to discuss all potential areas of malpractice here but some of the main concerns are mentioned below.

One of the frequent presentations to the GP is because of a prolonged and acutely painful headache. Some headaches need urgent referral and assessment by CT scan or a lumbar puncture. This would be in suspected cases of a tumour, meningitis, an aneurysm or a subarachnoid haemorrhage.

Thankfully most cases of headache are not so serious but if there is a delay in referral then the consequences could be significant or even life threatening.

Sometimes GP’s make errors in prescription of drugs where the drug treatment is inappropriate or based on the wrong diagnosis or there has been inadequate monitoring of the effects of the medication by inadequate follow-up.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

This covers a broad spectrum of situations in which doctors or other healthcare staff have made the wrong diagnosis or have delayed in referring you to specialists or failed to carry out sufficient tests so as to make the correct diagnosis.

Some examples of medical conditions where misdiagnosis have been made are covered elsewhere on this site.When a clinician makes an error in diagnosing your condition, this may have profound consequences for you, especially if you are in the early stages of suffering from cancer and this is not picked up early enough. As a general guide, many cancers in their early stages before they have spread are eminently treatable but if there is metastasis to other organs then life expectancy may be affected.

In order to prove negligence against a GP (Clinical Commissioning Group) or against NHS Trusts or even an individual doctor or surgeon if they have treated you privately, then we need to establish that there has been a breach of duty in making the diagnosis and in the provision of treatment. If the care that you have received falls below that of a reasonable standard by reference to what is acceptable medical opinion, and this has caused you injury or damage, then they will be negligent.

Breach of duty may arising from a failure to diagnose, an incorrect diagnosis, a failure to treat you appropriately or to include follow up and referral where necessary, incorrect treatment or a failure to advise you appropriately on risks associated with treatment that is given to you.

The next important aspect is to prove that the damage has been caused because of the doctor’s or Trust’s breach of duty and this is known as causation. Frequently it is causation that is the difficult area to prove.

In order to prove your claim, we will obtain at least one expert report on breach of duty and this will guide us as to whether you have a viable claim or not. Subsequently an expert report on condition & prognosis and causation may be necessary.

We will be able to help you in cases of misdiagnosis in cancer claims, meningitis, epilepsy, diabetes, incorrect medication or a failure to obtain your consent in circumstances when if you were made aware of the risks then you would not have agreed to the procedure or treatment.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

Nerve injuries and lesions are often not easy to recognise or diagnose and as a result symptoms may be overlooked. This is especially the case if you complain of pain following surgery as it may be assumed that this is the inevitable consequence of the operation rather than damage to a particular nerve.

Nerves that have been injured as a result of medical investigations or treatment may be caused by the administration of drugs or anaesthetic, accidental puncturing of an artery causing bleeding, pressure or traction during general anaesthesia, for example delivery of a baby or by the use of radiation or by direct damage caused by instruments in theatre during an operation.The common sites of damage are to the brachial plexus, the median nerve, the radial nerve, the ulna nerve, the spinal accessory nerve, the sciatic nerve and the femoral nerve.

If you have undergone surgery, it may not be obvious to the surgical team that nerve damage has been caused but post operatively you will know about it because you are in pain. The difficulty arises in making the correct diagnosis and whether in fact nerve injury has been caused by the actions of the surgeon and whether this could reasonably have been avoided or not.Unfortunately peripheral nerves can go wrong without any obvious cause so it is important to distinguish this from nerve damage that has been caused by the actions of the surgeon. Normally this damage becomes immediately noticeable because either you suffer significant pain or because it has affected muscular function or one of your organs.

If you have undergone surgery then the surgeon should be aware of the location of the major nerves and to ensure that they are protected wherever possible from surgical instruments and the use of force in the operating area. Nerves may be identified by using a stimulator and in certain circumstances continuous monitoring of the function of the nerve should be undertaken during the procedure.

The most likely areas where one sustains nerve injuries are whilst undergoing surgery by Neurosurgeons, Orthopaedic Surgeons or Plastic Surgeons.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

Elderly people who have been admitted to care homes for some respite care or to a nursing home are necessarily vulnerable and are likely to have some medical problems, whether they are unsteady on their feet, suffer from Alzheimer’s dementia or be hard of hearing and have poor eyesight.

Therefore it is incumbent on the carers in nursing homes to ensure that they speak with relatives and ensure that they make a full medical assessment before admitting a person into their home and under their charge.It is also important that they ensure the dignity of their residents at all times and respect their privacy whilst also being alert to the particular problems that the resident may face.

On some occasions, a resident who has been at a high risk of falling has not been adequately protected by the home because of inadequate safeguards or monitoring. They fall and sustain a serious injury which has profound consequences for them. It may lead to a reduced life expectancy.

Surgery may be performed on any area of anatomy of the body and therefore encompasses many types of procedures with an increasing number of specialist surgeons. At one time there was a Neurosurgeon who worked on the brain, spinal cord and nervous system, the Orthopaedic Surgeon who worked on bones and pretty much everything else was done by a General Surgeon. Now there are Cardiac Surgeons, Plastic Surgeons, Colorectal Surgeons, Ophthalmic Surgeons, Urological Surgeons, Vascular Surgeons, Gynaecological Surgeons, Hand Surgeons, Knee Surgeons, Paediatric Surgeons and the list goes on.

With the improvement in techniques, specialities and the development of high-tech equipment and imaging has meant developing surgeries that would never have been contemplated in the past. This has inevitably been for the good but unfortunately there are mistakes, sometimes arising from an inexperienced surgeon either learning the technique or not performing a sufficient number of operations so as to develop expertise.

Since the mid 1980’s the development of minimally invasive surgery via keyhole or laparoscopic surgery has increased. Whilst this has brought untold benefits, it has also caused complications and negligence claims as a result.

The problem with keyhole surgery is that the operation site is viewed through a telescope and onto a viewing screen. Before the telescope can be inserted a needle or trocar is introduced into the area for surgery and there is the risks that it may perforate a major blood vessel or bowel which may not necessarily be appreciated until problems are caused later on.

Gallbladders are frequently removed by laparoscopic surgery (known as a laparoscopic cholecystectomy). This is considered the “gold standard” for removal of the gallbladder. Errors have been caused where the surgeon did not appreciate the anatomy of the area, damaging the cystic artery and removing the common hepatic duct or injuring the common bile duct.

Repairs of hernias are commonly undertaken by laparoscopic surgery but there is a danger that the oesophagus could be perforated. Whilst this is very rare, risks remain. There is always the risk that a laparoscopic procedure may need to be converted to open surgery in the event of complications, so the issue of consent is important.

There are many reasons for errors, including operating in the wrong site, leaving an instrument or swab in the operation site, damaging a nerve or blood vessel or poor operative technique, either because of inexperience or inadequate training.

If you would like advice on a possible claim, click here to complete an online Medical Negligence Questionnaire.

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy

I acted for a woman who required removal of her gallbladder by keyhole surgery (laparoscopic cholecystectomy). This had to be converted to open surgery because of problems in removing the gallbladder. During the procedure, an artery was punctured causing bleeding and subsequently she developed an infection and deterioration in the function of her liver. She had to undergo remedial surgery. Ultimately the hospital admitted breach of duty but denied the cause of her problems and the extent of her injuries. A negotiated settlement was reached with payment of substantial compensation and an apology. This case was pursued on a “no win no fee” Conditional Fee Agreement as with most cases.

Breast reconstruction surgery

I successfully negotiated a settlement of compensation for a woman who underwent breast reconstruction following a mastectomy. After we obtained independent expert evidence, we were able to argue that the manner in which the operation was performed – and which resulted in the development of an infection and necrosis - amounted to a breach of duty and that a different technique should have been employed. Although the Surgeon disputed the claim, an out of court settlement was reached beneficial to my client.

Foot drop following epidural anaesthetic

I acted for a client who had a spinal anaesthetic during which the Anaesthetist incorrectly positioned the needle in the spine with the result that the anaesthetic caused the Claimant to develop a profound foot drop. Expert evidence was obtained from an Anaesthetist, Neurologist and Occupational Therapist as my client had not made a full recovery and required rehabilitation. Whilst the Trust defended the claim, a negotiated settlement was achieved with payment of significant compensation and the Chief Executive of the Trust provided an unreserved apology.

Fatality following surgery

I received instructions from the family to investigate the circumstances of their relative’s death after undergoing gynaecological surgery. My client was generally well before she had the operation but post-operatively she developed complications after bleeding profusely. Tragically she died as the site of the haemorrhage was not located and the bleeding could not be stemmed. I obtained independent expert reports and following their disclosure, the Trust made a formal admission of liability. Ultimately the case settled with payment of compensation to the estate and an unreserved apology.

Misdiagnosis of fracture

My client attended the Casualty Department at hospital to be informed that she had suffered a torn ligament and was sent away. After a period of time in pain she returned to hospital when the correct diagnosis was made that she had fractured her humerus. She endured significant pain and received inappropriate treatment. I obtained expert reports from Consultants in emergency medicine and orthopaedics. Following disclosure of evidence, the Trust agreed to pay damages in a negotiated settlement.

Nursing home claim

I brought a claim against a Nursing Home on behalf of the estate of a resident who received very poor care and treatment at the Nursing Home. Two Expert reports were obtained from a Nursing Care Expert and a Consultant Physician. The evidence obtained noted that my client had suffered from insufficient nourishment and hydration and should have been referred to hospital for treatment. Tragically, she died from septicaemia. Although the insurers for the Nursing Home denied liability, the claim was successful and compensation was secured for the estate together with an apology.

Road traffic accidents

I have acted for many clients over the years who have unfortunately sustained serious injuries in car or motor cycle accidents. Some of the cases have been brought on behalf of the estate of the deceased in fatal accident claims. These claims were settled by payment of hundreds of thousands of pounds or in excess of one million pounds where there had been brain and spinal trauma.

Industrial injuries claim

I obtained significant compensation on behalf of a client who sustained injuries in the course of his employment whilst operating a piece of machinery which caused a fracture to his forearm with significant skin damage that required skin grafts from his leg. Unfortunately he also suffered psychological distress and was unable to secure future employment. I instructed many experts to report on the physical and psychological injuries and arranged with rehabilitation providers for physiotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy treatment. Although the insurers admitted liability for negligence, they disputed the value of the claim. Ultimately a very good settlement was achieved for my client.

Have you suffered from Medical Negligence?

There is yet more medical and clinical negligence information to explore in our dedicated section of frequently asked questions. Simply look through the list of questions below and then click on each that is relevant for your circumstances. Each is filled with more complex details to guide your further.

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