Every clinical negligence case is made up of three distinct elements. These elements have to be met and satisfied before you do anything else. Before you value your claim, before you consider issuing at Court, before you even send the Letter of Claim, you must be confident that your claim will meet these three elements.
The reason being that if your claim does not meet and satisfy these elements, your claim will not be successful. It was laid down by law that for a Defendant to be found guilty of negligence and have to pay out compensation these three elements must be proven.
In this article, we will be explaining these elements, so that you can have a better understanding of your claim.
What Are the Three Elements You Need to Prove
LawCat Definition: Clamant – person bringing the claim
For a claim to be successful, the Claimant needs to show that:
One: That the medical professional owed them a duty of care. This is not a challenge to prove in clinical negligence claims as it is accepted that medical professionals owe their patients a duty of care just by their relationship alone.
LawCat Definition: Balance of probabilities – that it was more probable than not that the Defendant acted negligently.
Two: the medical professional must have behaved in such a way as to breach their duty of care. This is harder to prove, and the duty is on the Claimant to satisfy the legal test. The legal test being, that on the ‘balance of probabilities’ the medical professional's actions or failure to act fell below the standard that would be expected of a reasonably competent and experienced member of medical staff.
This is usually proven by obtaining a medical report from an experienced professional who will say whether or not the Claimant’s treating medical professional acted in such a way so as to be considered negligent.
Three: that the breach caused, or materially contributed to, the Claimant’s injury or loss.
Those are the three elements that must be proven in Court for a claim to be successful. This is the legal test that all claims must pass.
It is not enough that only one or two of these elements be met, all must be met. So, if a doctor was negligent and did not diagnose a patient when they should have done from the evidence, or did not carry out adequate tests which would have allowed a diagnosis, then they will be deemed negligent. However, if the patient’s outlook/prognosis and/or treatment would have been the same even if a diagnosis had been made earlier, then the claim will fail because the third element has not been met.
It is not enough for a medical professional to be negligent the Claimant must have suffered as a result.
Element One: Duty Of Care
All medical practitioners owe their patients a duty of care. This element will always be satisfied if you are claiming against a medical professional who was treating you.
Element Two: The Duty of Care was Breached
To be successful, you will need to prove that the care you received from your medical professional fell below the standard that you would reasonably expect from a qualified medical practitioner.
However, you need to keep in mind that just because you are not happy with the result of your treatment or you were not warned about all the possible risks relating to your treatment, that doesn’t always mean that the doctor was negligent.
For the doctor to be considered negligent, you need to show that a significant number of respected doctors would have carried out your treatment differently or to a higher standard.
A solicitor will do this by instructing a medical expert. That medical expert will review your medical notes and see you for an assessment/appointment. They will then produce a report detailing their opinion on whether your treating doctor fell below the standard and thus breached their duty of care to you.
Element Three: You suffered as A Result of The Negligence
To be successful at Court, you must prove that, because of the negligence, you suffered an injury, or a worsening of your symptoms, or a prolonging of your symptoms.
The medical treatment does not have to be the sole cause of your current condition, but it must have materially contributed to it. Meaning it must have been significantly (over 50%) responsible.
As an example, for the late diagnosis of illness, you will need to show that if the disease had been diagnosed at an earlier stage then either your treatment would have been less invasive, your survival risk would be significantly higher, and/or any permanent disability would not have occurred.
Example: a GP sees a patient with numb toes after a nasty knock, but does not test the foot pulses or diagnose artery damage and/or does not send the patient to a vascular specialist. The patient is later diagnosed with vascular injury and the death of the toes due to lack of blood supply. The patient then has to have the toes amputated.
To bring a successful claim for clinical negligence, the Claimant has to prove that early diagnosis would have meant either keeping some or all of the toes, and/or not having to undergo surgery and/or not now running the risk of further amputations in the future due to damaged arteries.
While the fact that you have suffered as a result of the negligence might not sound overly difficult to prove, it is usually the most difficult part of the claim. A lot of Claimant’s bringing claims for Clinical Negligence were already suffering an illness or injury and separating out what they suffered because of the negligence and what they would have suffered due to their original injury or illness is very difficult and often involves a lot of “what, if’s”.
Again, a legal professional would usually instruct a medical expert who could say that on the ‘balance of probabilities’ if the correct treatment had been given the claimant would have had a more agreeable outcome.
In conclusion, you must satisfy three elements for your claim to be successful. You need to prove that the doctor owed you a duty of care, this is commonly accepted so proving this is straight forward. Secondly, you need to show that the physician breached that duty by not taking due care and attention or behaving carelessly while treating you. Thirdly, that the breach of duty has caused you an injury.