Clinical negligence claims could affect your business

Running a business is hard work at the best of times, so the last thing a company, partnership or sole trader wants is to experience dealing with an employee who makes a claim for clinical negligence, where the individual’s health and the ability to work may be seriously impaired.

Clinical negligence is where a health professional such as doctor, dentist or nurse, or the organisation that employs them, has made a medical mistake leading to significant harm to a patient.  This can prove to be devastating not only for the individual who suffers, but also for a small or family business that may find the loss of a key member of the workforce causes operational problems.  For a sole trader who may be the only income earner in the household, the results could be even worse financially.

Taking out business interruption insurance will help mitigate the effect of a key employee or owner being away from work for a period of time while a claim for clinical negligence is made.

Reasons for clinical negligence claims

There are many reasons that a clinical negligence claim could be brought against a member of the health professions.  One of the commonest reasons for medical claims is a misdiagnosis or late diagnosis of an illness or long-term condition.  If, for example, the diagnosis of a disease such as cancer is missed or delayed, the consequences could be appalling for the patient, especially if urgent treatment is delayed.

Medical errors can be a cause for a claim.  A doctor may prescribe the wrong medicine or the wrong dosage, a nurse may fail to administer a dose of drugs or a piece of medical equipment could malfunction.

When undergoing surgery, there is always the possibility that something may go wrong, especially if there is a traumatic injury to be dealt with or other complex invasive treatments.  There is still a duty of care from the medical team.  A surgeon may use unsterile equipment or leave an instrument in the body, or postoperative care may not be of the required standard and thus lead to complications.

Recommended dos and don’ts

Medical negligence claims are complex, so the most important first step is to speak with a clinical negligence solicitor who can run through all the options and explain the system from long experience.  Complaints should be made within six to 12 months after the incident, and records should be kept of everyone seen, when they were seen and what they said.

Asking the person giving the treatment to explain what has happened and keeping a record of symptoms and how life has been affected will help the solicitor take a case forward.  If friends and family have helped out, record what they have done to assist and also keep a record of any losses or expenses incurred.

Don’t discard any receipts for medication or for other expenses or losses, but don’t incur what might be considered to be unreasonable expenses.  Don’t settle any part of the claim without consulting the solicitor, and don’t accept from anyone giving treatment the comment that it is “just one of those things” when something has gone wrong.