If you have suffered an injury in an avoidable accident while staying in a hospital as a patient, while visiting a hospital or while working in the hospital as a member of staff, you may be entitled to claim compensation for hospital accidents. Not all accidents that occur in hospitals will qualify you to make a claim for hospital accident injuries, and therefore this guide is intended to provide some valuable information that may be of benefit to you before you speak with a solicitor.
It is always advantageous to speak with a solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss the circumstances of your accident in the hospital, the impact that your injuries have made to your quality of life and – if a claim for an accident in a hospital is possible – to determine how a solicitor can help you to successfully claim compensation for injuries in a hospital accident when you may still be recovering from a physical and emotional trauma.
Qualifying for Compensation for Hospital Accidents
In order to qualify for compensation for hospital accidents, you must have sustained an injury due to the negligence of somebody who owed you a ‘duty of care’. There are many varied scenarios which can result in a claim for hospital accident injuries, for example:-
- a patient who slipped in a hospital shower due to inadequate nursing or support care
- a visitor who developed food poisoning due to contaminated food in the canteen
- a nurse who sustains a sharps injury due to the negligence of a colleague
Provided that it can be established that a person (or persons) with responsibility for your health and safety failed to prevent a foreseeable accident from occurring, and you sustained an injury which required professional medical attention and which has been recorded in your medical history, you should qualify for compensation for hospital accidents.
Establishing Negligence in a Claim for Hospital Accident Injuries
In order to establish negligence in a claim for hospital accident injuries, you should first discuss with a solicitor the circumstances of how your accident occurred. Depending on the nature of the accident in a hospital, your solicitor will advise you on what evidence of negligence needs to be collected and any formalities which should be completed if not done so already – such as making an entry in the hospital´s ‘Accident Report Book’, sending a letter of complaint to the NHS Trust or completing the reporting documentation for NHS Direct.
The majority of accidents in hospitals which are not associated with medical negligence are most often related to slips and falls and manual lifting or carrying, and therefore many claims for compensation for injuries in a hospital accident may have to be supported by the testimony of witnesses to your accident or work colleagues. Photographic evidence or CCTV footage may also be used to support a claim for an accident in a hospital.
Making a Claim for an Accident in a Hospital
Once you – or your solicitor on your behalf – have collected sufficient evidence of negligence, your solicitor will send a ‘Letter of Claim’ to the hospital or NHS Trust advising them that you are making a claim for hospital accident injuries and support the letter with the evidence that has been compiled and a medical report identifying the injuries for which you are claiming.
No mention of how much compensation for hospital accidents you may be entitled to is made at this time – indeed the full consequences of your injury may not yet be known. Only when liability is acknowledged, and your full entitlement to compensation for injuries in a hospital accident has been calculated, will your solicitor enter into negotiations with the hospital´s insurance company to settle your claim for an accident in a hospital.
Calculating Compensation for Injuries in a Hospital Accident
How much compensation for injuries in a hospital accident you may be entitled to receive is calculated according to the nature and severity of your injury, the impact that your injury is likely to have on your future health and the consequences of your accident on your quality of life. Compensation amounts obtained from the Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages are then adjusted with consideration to your state of health prior to your accident, your age and – depending on the nature of the accident – your sex.
If your injury due to a hospital accident prevents you from completing everyday tasks, participating in leisure pursuits that would form part of your regular routine or enjoying an active social life, you can also include your ‘loss of amenity’ in a claim for hospital accident injuries along with compensation for any diagnosed psychological injury you may have suffered. Any expenses you have encountered or any earnings you have forfeited which can be attributed to your injuries can also be recovered in a claim for compensation for injuries in a hospital accident.
Children´s Claims for Compensation for Hospital Accidents
If your child has sustained an injury due to an avoidable accident in a hospital, the procedures for making a claim for hospital accident injuries compensation are similar to the above but with a few significant variations.
Children are not allowed to make a claim for an accident in a hospital or instruct a solicitor until they reach the age of eighteen. Therefore a parent or legal guardian acting as a ‘Litigation Friend’ has to make a claim for compensation on the child´s behalf. The ‘Litigation Friend’ cannot be a person who has a conflict of interest, must be approved by a court and must be prepared to accept the financial consequences if a claim for compensation for injuries in a hospital accident is unsuccessful.
All settlements of children´s compensation for hospital accidents, once agreed, must first be approved by a court before the claim for an accident in a hospital is concluded, and are then paid into court funds where they remain until the child reaches the age of majority. Compensation settlements held by the court can be accessed if the child needs funds for educational support or medical treatment, or to recover any expenses the ‘Litigation Friend’ may have encountered in pursuit of their child´s compensation for injuries in a hospital accident.
Time Limits in which to Claim for Hospital Accident Injuries
The time limits in which to claim for hospital accident injuries are set by the Limitations Act 1980. The ‘Statute of Limitations’ allows three years from the date an injury sustained in a hospital accident is diagnosed – not necessarily the date on which the accident in a hospital occurred.
For example, if an accident in a hospital resulted in an injury which was not identified for three months, the date on which the injury was diagnosed and attributed to the hospital accident becomes the ‘Date of Knowledge’ from when the three-year claims limit starts. A compensation claim for an accident in a hospital does not have to be resolved within this period, as the full consequences of an injury sustained in the accident may not yet be apparent.
Unsolicited Offers of Compensation for Injuries in a Hospital Accident
It may be the case – sometimes even before you have considered making a claim for an accident in a hospital – that you are approached directly by the hospital´s insurance company with an unsolicited offer of compensation for injuries in a hospital accident. Approaches such as these – ominously termed ‘Third Party Capture’ – are aimed at settling your claim for hospital accident injuries for the least amount possible in order to save the insurance company money.
If you receive an unsolicited offer of compensation for injuries in a hospital accident, you should refer it immediately to your solicitor. Should you inadvertently accept the offer of compensation for hospital accidents, and it proves to be inadequate to support your family while you are unable to work, you cannot make a further claim for an accident in a hospital to account for the shortfall.
If short-term finances are a problem for you, and you are tempted to accept the settlement being offered even though it may be inadequate, speak with your solicitor. Even though the insurance company´s direct approach cannot be presented in court as an acknowledgement of their policyholder´s liability, it may be possible for your solicitor to organise interim payments of compensation until such time as your claim for an accident in a hospital is resolved.
Further Advice on Making a Claim for an Accident in a Hospital
If you have sustained an injury in an accident in a hospital which you believe could have been avoided with greater care, the first thing you should do is speak with a solicitor. Most solicitors offer a free and confidential helpline which you can call to establish whether you have a claim for an accident in a hospital which is worth your while to pursue.
Whatever the circumstances of your injury, a solicitor will understand many of the implications that an accident in a hospital may have for you and – although no amount of compensation for hospital accidents will be able to reverse the trauma you may have recently been through – your solicitor will help you to obtain a fair and appropriate settlement of compensation for injuries in a hospital accident that will provide the support and care you are entitled to because of somebody else´s carelessness.