Clinical Negligence Defence
Doctors Defence Service represents doctors who are being sued for clinical negligence by former patients. We also defend doctors who are being pursued by a former employer for a contribution or indemnity relating to a claim by a former client or patient.
What is Clinical Negligence?
Clinical Negligence is the professional negligence of a clinician in their practice that causes damage to a patient. A doctor owes a Duty of Care to all patients to make a competent diagnostic assessment, prescribe appropriate treatment, and to refer to other specialists for further investigations, clinical assessment or treatment where appropriate. A doctor who fails to reach a level of competence commensurate with the level of care that is expected of all doctors operating at that level (known as the ‘Standard of Care’ in clinical negligence law) may be of risk of being found to be in breach of their duty of care toward a patient. If their acts or omissions in some way cause a clinical injury or an exacebration of an otherwise treatable condition, a doctor may be liable to pay the patient compensation (also known as Damages).
Defending a Clinical Negligence Claim
Doctors at some time in their career will likely receive a civil claim for damages from a current or former patient, who claims that their doctor has caused them harm as a result of poor clinical care. Some claims are speculative and can be knocked out with a robust defence at an early stage, while other claims may take some considerable time to resolve. All Clinical Negligence claims can lead to worry on the part of the doctor who is being sued and most fear, quite understandably, a reputational risk if their client goes public with the story. Even where a patient has wholly misunderstood a doctor’s past conduct, the patient may (either maliciously or because of cognitive overlay) choose to contact newspapers and media organisations to ‘raise awareness’ of the “butcher surgeon” or “incompetent physician” that is ‘out there’ and which the ‘GMC is doing nothing about!’.
Admissions / Denial of Liability
In some instances, doctors might accept that they have in good faith made a clinical error of judgement which has unintentionally harmed a patient. In such cases, a careful assessment will need to be undertaken to assess whether the doctor should accept responsibility (called in legal terminology ‘Accepting Liability’). In some cases, no harm will have been caused by the error of judgment, and there will be a denial of causation, even where a breach of duty of care is admitted (without the admission of liability – causation of injury being denied). However, where liability is accepted, and there is an acceptance therefore that damage has been caused, there will need to be an assessment of damages (known as ‘Quantum‘ in legal terminolgy). Advancing a good (and well-evidenced) counter-argument to the damages claim can lead to significantly lower compensation being paid by a doctor or their insurer to the patient.
Where a doctor denies an element of a patient’s allegations of clinical negligence, the doctor may need to give evidence at a trial before a civil judge. Clinical Experts in the doctor’s specialist fields may also need to be instructed to give a written opinion and to give evidence.
Here at Doctors Defence Service we have specialist lawyers who have a strong record of acting for the defence in clinical negligence claims. We have represented private hospitals, GPs, Physicians, General Surgeons, Plastic Surgeons, Anaesthetists, and other specialist doctors. Our lawyers have a good understanding of clinical matters and of the system of civil compensation. Our lawyers can give general advice, assist with writing letters of defence in response to Pre-Action Letters, draft robust formal defences to formal clinical negligence claims, advise on evidence and procedure, and represent doctors in court. Contact Doctors Defence Service to discuss any clinical negligence aspect on: 0800 10 88 739
View our Digest of Clinical Negligence Cases