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At first glance, personal injury and clinical negligence claims appear quite similar. Both types of claim involve injuries where you’re not at fault and you’re claiming for negligence.
But there are fundamental differences, and these are important so that you understand which type of claim you should be making.
In a personal injury claim, you are making a claim against someone else – an individual or company – for an injury you’ve suffered. This can be any other person or body. Typically, this applies to accidents involving vehicles, accidents in the workplace or in public spaces, or on holiday, for example. Often, the details and the liability are relatively straightforward to establish.
Clinical or medical negligence claims only apply where you’ve received negligent care from a healthcare professional. You can make a clinical negligence claim if the injury is due to the negligence of a doctor, nurse, surgeon, midwife, dentist or other healthcare professional.
Duty of Care
In both types of claim, you will have to prove that the person responsible for the injury owed you a duty of care and that they have breached this duty. Because of this breach of duty, you’ve suffered an injury.
But at this point, the two types of claim become significantly different.
In personal injury cases, proving there has been negligence can be very clear. For example, in a car accident, the driver responsible has a duty of care to passengers, motorists and pedestrians. If they drive in an unsafe manner and cause accident and injury, the sufferers deserve compensation. Here, personal injury negligence applies.
But in a clinical negligence case, you already know who’s responsible for your treatment. What you’re trying to establish is that this treatment they provided fell below a reasonable standard.
This adds a potential complication: what determines this reasonable standard? In defending themselves, the party you’re claiming against could claim they were doing what ought to be done in the circumstances.
Establishing duty of care in a given situation may be much more challenging in clinical negligence claims than in regular personal injury claims.
In legal terms, establishing causation is how you prove there has been a breach in the duty of care.
In a personal injury case, causation can be easy to prove. Your injury was caused by a car failing to stop at a crossing, for example. Before the accident, you had no history of back pain, but now you do. The reasonable assumption is that the accident caused your back pain, and the driver of the car was negligent in failing to stop in time.
But in a clinical negligence case, there are fewer black and white explanations. If you’ve been receiving treatment for a pre-existing condition, you then have to establish whether your injury would have happened anyway.
Or there may be multiple factors influencing the state of your health, so your claim has to demonstrate exactly what the cause of your injury is, and prove it is down a breach in duty of care.
The court has to decide whether the standard of care you’ve received fails to meet reasonable standards.
If the defence is that a reasonable body of medical professionals would have acted the same way as the defendant in your claim, then you cannot prove clinical negligence.
Personal Injury versus Clinical Negligence
When considering a negligence claim, you must look at the type of claim you’ll be making, and what will be required of you to prove your claim.
The key differences between personal injury and clinical negligence are:
- Responsibility – only if your accident was a result of the actions of a healthcare professional will it be a clinical negligence claim
- Breach in duty of care – establishing this breach will mean proving that the healthcare professional perform to reasonable standards
- Causation – causation in normal accidents is often easy to establish, but in clinical negligence cases, it can be less clear.
Compared to personal injury claims, clinical negligence claims can be much more difficult to prove.
However, many people do see their claims settled, and the NHS pays out large sums in negligence claims.
Which type of claim fits your case? This will depend on the circumstances in which you received your injury. But if clinical negligence rather than personal injury will become the basis of your claim, then you will need specialist help in bringing it.
For more details about making either a personal injury or clinical negligence claim, please call us on 0800 088 6004, or complete our online contact form, and we will be in touch as soon as possible.
More on Clinical Negligence Claims from Wilson Browne Solicitors