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Investigating a clinical negligence claim

Your solicitor - We know your case is important to you and can have wide-ranging consequences – physical and emotional – not only for you, but also for your family, friends and employers. We will fully investigate your claim, and you will be involved at all stages of that investigation.

Before we begin we shall need to hear as much as possible from you about what happened in your treatment. We shall then put the details into a formal statement. If we have to eventually start court proceedings for you, the statement (which will be updated from time to time) will be the basis of your claim and will be an important part of the case.

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Obtaining medical records

We will obtain your medical records as these will be required by  any independent experts that we approach to prepare reports. Our appointed expert will probably need to see all your medical records – not necessarily limited to the relevant treatment. We endeavour to select experts with significant clinical and medico-legal experience. Please remember that the expert is duty-bound by court rules to give an objective and unbiased opinion. Just because he is reporting for one side does not mean that opinion can lead towards that party.

Once we receive the medical report we will go through it carefully with you. Sometimes it is obvious from the conclusion in the report that a case is either strong or weak, but on other occasions it may need further input, either from you, the expert or an expert in a different medical specialty.

The barrister (counsel) - We might at this stage instruct a specialist barrister to look at all the documents and to give an opinion. Often the barrister will want a round-table conference with you, the expert and us to discuss all the points of the case, before coming to a decision as to whether or not, and how, your case can be taken further.

The barrister is also involved at this stage to prepare the documents for court, if that is what is needed. If there is eventually a trial in your case, you will be represented at court by the barrister, so it is proper to have them involved as early as possible.

Your opponent (the defendant) - Once we have concluded that our evidence supports a claim for clinical negligence, we will write formally to the hospital or doctor, giving details of how we say there was negligence in your treatment, how you suffered, and what we think the claim is worth (if we can say at this stage). This is called a ‘Letter of Claim’. Your opponent will then investigate and must answer within 4 months, either by admitting (all or part) or denying the allegations.

If they admit negligence, we may be able to negotiate a payment to you; but if they deny everything, we can start a court case on your behalf. Documents must be filed at court within 3 years of the incident in most cases, but because of the detailed investigations, it could take several years from your first coming to see us before we are in a position to take that step.

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