Legal Eagle: How to pursue a compensation claim for clinical damages

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I think I have a claim for compensation because I suffered injuries to my bowel during routine keyhole surgery.

I think I have a claim for compensation because I suffered injuries to my bowel during routine keyhole surgery. This has left me devastated but I am worried about the costs if I contact a solicitor. Will it cost me a lot?

Make sure that you contact a specialist solicitor who should be willing to have a preliminary chat with you for free to obtain more details, tell you if they will pursue the case for you and how it would be paid for.

Unfortunately, since April 2013, legal aid to cover most clinical negligence claims is no longer available except for children who have suffered brain injuries at or near birth.

Some people, without even knowing, have legal expenses insurance in their house insurance or with credit cards. Check your policies. Provided you notify the insurer promptly they might fund the case for you. However, a lot of these policies exclude clinical negligence cases. Do not let the insurer insist that you use their solicitor who might not be local and so you might never meet them.

You may be a member of a Trade Union. Your branch secretary should be able to tell you if they will help. Regrettably again a lot of Trade Unions will not help with these cases either.

Most people are left these days with what are known as “no win-no fee” agreements. The Government introduced these to supposedly save money when they removed people’s right to apply for legal aid. You will not have to pay your solicitors costs if you do not win your case. If you do win then the solicitor will be entitled to be paid the costs by the other side and may also take a percentage of your compensation as a “success fee” for the risk, they have taken in pursing your claim. There are rules that limit how much this can be. You will also probably be advised to take out an “after the event insurance policy”. This protects you against the risk that, in very limited circumstances, you must pay any of the costs incurred by the NHS. The premium for this insurance will also be paid partly out of your compensation but mostly by the other side if you win. Provided you keep to the terms of the agreement you should not pay anything directly. These agreements are complex if you are unsure about anything speak to the solicitor before signing it.

Be wary of firms that ask you for money up front. It usually means they are not experienced in dealing with such cases.

Ben Hoare Bell LLP has experienced Medical Negligence solicitors in the North East. To speak to a solicitor, please phone 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for more details.