Medical negligence occurs when a healthcare professional falls below the standard of care expected of them in providing care to their patient. If a claim is successful, then the defendant may be ordered to pay compensation, known as “damages” to the claimant. The overriding objective of this compensation is to put the claimant back in the position they would have been in if the negligence had not occurred. There are industry-wide guidelines that solicitors and judges use to quantify medical negligence claims. The Judicial Studies Board update these annually to ensure fairness and consistency across all claims and also ensure that compensation is correctly aligned with inflation.
Successful claimants in medical negligence cases will be entitled to general damages, to compensate for any pain, suffering and loss of amenity suffered as a result of avoidable harm. It is hard to pinpoint an exact amount, as figures vary widely (from the hundreds into the millions, and everything in-between) but compensation is positively correlated with the severity of the harm suffered. For example, for moderate psychiatric damage, claims are valued between £5,500 – £17,000 and for severe PTSD, current guidelines suggest a payout between £56,180-£94,470.
In addition to general damages, a successful claimant may be entitled to special damages. The aim of special damages is to compensate for any financial loss incurred in the past, or that may incur in the future, as a result of the negligence suffered. This could include, for example, the cost of any medical treatment or equipment, changes to accommodation or clothing, loss of earnings and the need for future care, support or assistance. The highest damages are reserved for the most severe cases of medical negligence with the most serious life-changing injuries that require around the clock care. Most often, these are claims involving medical negligence during birth where the child is severely injured. In these types of cases, claims can be worth millions. For example, Nadine Montgomery received £5.25 million in compensation after her son, Sam, was born severely disabled. Ms Montgomery was a petite woman with type 1 diabetes. Diabetic mothers can give birth to larger babies and are therefore at an increased risk of complications when giving birth. Her treating team failed to properly advise her of these risks, specifically the risk of shoulder dystocia, where the baby’s shoulders become stuck. Sadly, this risk materialised and Sam was born with severe disabilities due to being starved of oxygen for several minutes. It was accepted that, had Ms Montgomery been advised of the risks of shoulder dystocia, she would have elected for a caesarean section and Sam almost certainly would have been born unharmed.
There are options for how compensation can be received, including single lump sum payments and periodical payments. There are pros and cons to both. For example, a lump-sum payment can seem attractive, especially to help with start-up costs involved with care or adapting to the injury. However, if life expectancy for the claimant is long or unknown, there is a risk of running out of funds over time. Lump sums require careful financial management to preserve them for the rest of the claimant’s life. Periodical payments, on the other hand, offer certainty that money will not run out. They can also be staggered and increase over time as care needs may increase (for example, as a child may grow older and want to live independently) and will continue until the claimant’s life ends. However, at times of increased expense in the claimants’ life, such as moving house, an increase in care needs, going on holiday or buying a specially adapted car, the periodic payments would have to be managed carefully to account for this, as the whole fund would not be available.
At Ackroyd, we recognise that no amount of money can make up for the harm you have suffered when undergoing medical treatment. However, we will help you every step of the way to get the compensation you deserve to allow you to get on with the rest of your life. Get in touch with our team of solicitors today.