So you have received a letter of claim?
Multimillion pound medical negligence claims are no longer a rarity, but receiving a solicitor’s letter can feel like a shocking blow. Although so much seems to be at stake, MDU claims handler Dr John Dale-Skinner recommends some ways in which consultant orthopaedic surgeons can help themselves.
In recent years, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) has seen a disturbing rise in the number of high value claims against consultant members, including our highest settled claim to date: £9.2 million in compensation and legal costs for a patient left tetraplegic after spinal surgery.
In 1995, the MDU settled one medical negligence claim for over £1 million. By 2015, there were 12 such claims. Within the private sector, orthopaedic specialists are at greater risk of a claim than, say, ophthalmologists or general surgeons.
Despite what some commentators might suggest, the increase in high value claims and the rise in negligence claims generally are not caused by a fall in clinical standards. In fact, during 2015 the MDU successfully defended 80% of claims brought against our medical members.
If you are unfortunate enough to receive a claim, here are the five most effective ways that you can help us to help you:
1. Notify your Medical Defence Organisation
The first you are likely to know about a claim is when you receive a solicitor’s letter which sets out the allegations and is accompanied by the patient’s signed consent to release their records. This is known as a Letter Before Action and can be upsetting but do not be tempted to write to the solicitors or contact the patient directly to refute the allegations. Doing so can make the claim more difficult to manage. Instead, notify your Medical Defence Organisation (MDO) straight away; they will guide you throughout the process.
2. Get your paperwork in …