Why sue for a medical mistake?

Just thought I would answer a question which I have been asked in the past on more than one occasion. 

Most doctors treat their patients with great care. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. 

However, to err is human. Doctors are fallible. The law recognises that everyone makes mistakes. Doctors are not judged with the benefit of hindsight. A doctor’s mistake will only attract legal liability if  it falls below the minimum acceptable standard of care: the care only falls below that minimum standard if no responsible body of medical opinion (not even a minority) would regard that mistake as reasonable on the basis of what the treating doctor knew (or should have known) at the time, and in the circumstances, of the treatment. The legal liability will be limited to damages for the injury or loss which the patient would have avoided, if treated with the minimum acceptable standard of care.

So, what is the point of suing for a culpable medical mistake?

A medical mistake can have absolutely devastating consequences. It can leave a family without its breadwinner. It can cause a life changing disability. 

It is true that damages will never reverse a disability or bring back a loved one who died too soon. In that sense, damages will always be an inadequate remedy. However, in an imperfect world, damages are the only remedy which endeavours to put things right by returning the injured person or the deceased’s family to where they should be, if the patient had been properly cared for in the first place.

As Lord Blackburn put it in the House of Lords in 1880, the “....general rule [is] that, where any injury is to be compensated by damages, in settling the sum of money to be given for reparation of damages you should as nearly as possible get that sum of money which will put the party who has been injured…in the same position as he would have been in if he had not sustained the wrong for which he is now getting his compensation or reparation”, Livingstone v Rawyards Coal Company [1880] 5 App Cas 25, HL.

Please feel free to contact John Blackburn or Elaine Potter at Blackburn & Co. on 01305 858050, if you or a loved one have been affected by a medical or surgical mistake and you feel that we might be able to help put things right for you. Between them, Elaine and John have more than 50 years experience of helping to bring hundreds of clinical negligence claims, recovering millions of pounds of damages for injured people and for their families in fatal claims. 

John or Elaine would be happy to discuss the possible action which might be taken to help you on a no obligation basis.  Blackburn & Co. is happy to offer conditional fee ("no win, no fee") agreements in suitable cases.

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