As a medical professional, you have enough on your mind without having to continually worry about whether a patient will file a medical malpractice claim against you and whether the claim is valid or not.
Unfortunately, in today's increasingly litigious society, medical negligence claims are becoming more commonplace.
Whether you are a doctor, nurse, cosmetic surgeon, dentist, or any other type of medical professional working in the NHS or privately, you should have a solid grasp of what medical negligence is and how it affects you.
With the proper cover and knowledge, you can help ensure that one mistake or false allegation does not place your job and finances at risk.
Medical Malpractice / Professional Indemnity Insurance Explained
The overwhelming majority of medical negligence claims, also commonly referred to as medical malpractice or clinical negligence, are brought under the tort (or delict, in Scotland) principle of negligence.
The claims are brought by claimants seeking compensation alleging that their medical professionals caused them injury or harm by failing to provide the proper standard of care as required by their profession.
In a private health care setting, there may also be a claim under the law of contract.
For a claimant to prove that a medical professional was negligent, he or she must typically establish:
- That the medical professional owed him or her a duty of care;
- That the medical professional breached that duty of care;
- That the breach of duty caused harm; and
- That damages or other losses resulted from that harm.
Owed a Duty of Care
It is a well-established principle through common law that a duty of care exists between a doctor or medical professional and his or her patient—that is, the medical professional has a responsibility to provide proper care for the patient.
It is generally not difficult to prove that the medical professional owed a duty of care to his or her patient.
Breached Duty of Care
The claimant must also show that the medical professional breached his or her duty of care.
This means proving that the care provided by the medical professional fell below the standard of care expected of an ordinary and competent medical professional in the same field.
The typical standard of care test, also known as the 'Bolam' test, holds that a medical professional is not negligent if he or she acted in accordance with the opinions and practices accepted by a responsible body of practitioners in that same field.
However, opinions and accepted practices can vary among different responsible bodies of practitioners.
So in recent years, courts have held that the responsible medical body's opinions or practices relied upon by the medical professional must also be logical and reasonable.
It may not be enough anymore to just rely on a body of opinion supporting the professional's actions; he or she should also make sure that view is logical and reasonable.
Caused Harm to Patient
One of the most challenging areas for the claimant to prove is causation.
The claimant needs to establish that the medical professional's breach of duty directly caused or significantly contributed to the injuries suffered by the claimant.
Often, a claimant may be able to show that the medical professional breached his or her duty, but cannot establish that the failure of that duty was the cause of the claimant's injury.
The standard test for causation is the 'but for' test. The test asks whether the damage suffered by the claimant would not have happened 'but for' the medical professional's actions.
Courts have made slight modifications to the 'but for' test, such as cumulative causation and material increase in risks.
Resulted in Damages
Finally, the claimant must be able to establish the damage, specifically damage that a medical professional can be held responsible for.
This includes physical and psychiatric injuries and financial losses such as loss of earnings. However, losses that are not reasonably foreseeable or too remote will be excluded.
When compensating for damages, courts attempt to place the claimant back into a position as if the negligent act had not occurred.
Types and amounts of compensation available will depend on each country's governing law. Damages in Scotland will be governed by Scots law and can include compensation for emotional, physical and financial harm.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are typically two main types of damages:
- General damages – awards for pain and suffering and loss of amenity
- Special damages – awards for any past and future financial losses, including lost earnings and costs for care and equipment
Medical Malpractice Insurance Quote
Medical negligence claims can quickly become complicated and time-consuming, not to mention costly to defend.
As a medical professional, you need to make sure you and your employees are fully covered for any claim or circumstance that may arise.
Insync Insurance has the expertise and experience to make sure there are no gaps in your policy and that you are fully covered.
FREE Insurance Review
Insync's team of Insurance Gurus can help you through the Insurance maze, offering specialist Medical and Nurses Professional Indemnity Insurance/Medical Malpractice policies, which can be tailored to your individual needs.
You can request a quotation online, or alternatively, why not book a FREE Review at a time that suits YOUR diary.