What is medical negligence?

Quick answer

Medical Negligence is when a doctor, dentist or other medical professional treats you without reasonable skill and care, and you’re injured as a result.

They may have done something negligent (like a pharmacist incorrectly filling your script) or failed to do something expected of them (such as a surgeon not following up after an operation). In both instances, you can sue your medical professional for compensation.

To prove Medical Negligence, you must meet 3 requirements:

  1. The medical professional owed you a duty of care
  2. They breached that duty, and
  3. Their breach of duty caused your injury.

Medical Negligence is notoriously complex and you must file your lawsuit within a strict time limit. If you’re the victim of Medical Negligence, speak to a lawyer immediately. In a free consultation, we’ll outline your legal options, talk you through time limits, and provide honest advice on your chance of success.

In depth answer

Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are held to a higher standard of conduct than other people. This is because they have expert knowledge and skills, and we place them in a position of trust and power.

If your medical professional provides treatment below a reasonable standard (and you’re injured as a result) this constitutes Medical Negligence. It’s also referred to as Medical Malpractice.

You can sue (or make a ‘claim’ against) the negligent medical professional. This means you’ll receive a lump sum payment to cover your lost wages, medical expenses, and the other effects of the injury on your life. It’s essential support for your physical, mental and financial recovery.

What are examples of Medical Negligence?

Medical Negligence includes:

  • Surgical errors
  • Emergency Room treatment mistakes
  • Poor post-operative care
  • Premature hospital discharge
  • Pregnancy, childbirth and gynaecological complications
  • Incorrectly inserted or malfunctioning medical devices
  • Delay in diagnosis or referral
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Treatment without reference to medical history
  • Failure to advise of potential medical risks
  • Improper management of a health condition
  • Dental care errors.

This is not a complete list—you can claim for almost any injury that occurs because of a medical professional’s negligence. If you’re unsure about whether your injury qualifies, our Medical Negligence team can help.

Can I claim if my loved one died due to Medical Negligence?

You may have a Medical Negligence claim if your loved one died due to Medical Negligence. While you can’t directly claim for their death, you may receive compensation if you:

  • Were financially dependent on the deceased
  • Suffered a psychiatric injury due to their death, or
  • Relied on the deceased for unpaid services like housework and childcare.

Our comprehensive guide can help you claim Medical Negligence after someone you love dies.

What should I do after a Medical Negligence injury?

Speak to a lawyer immediately if you’ve been injured by a negligent doctor, dentist or other medical professional. Medical Negligence law is highly complex and you’ll need a specialist lawyer to prove your case. In a free consultation, we’ll discuss your legal options and recommend the best strategy for winning your claim.

There’s no pressure to start a claim after your consultation. If you do go ahead, you’re protected by our genuine No Win No Fee guarantee. That means we cover all upfront fees, and there’s nothing to pay unless we win your case.

How does Gross Negligence differ from Medical Negligence?

‘Gross Negligence’ occurs when a medical professional’s conduct is so reckless or unreasonable that the state government may file criminal charges against them.

This usually only occurs if a patient dies as a result of a medical professional’s actions. In Australia, convictions for gross negligence are rare, and almost all cases involve administering the wrong medication or an overdose.

How do I prove Medical Negligence?

To prove Medical Negligence you must establish 3 fundamental requirements:

1. A duty of care exists

The medical professional you’re suing must owe you a duty of care. Doctors, dentists, hospitals, and nurses are just some of the medical professionals who owe you this duty.

2. The duty of care was breached

The medical professional must have breached their duty of care to you. There are two ways this can occur: a negligent act (like a GP administering a vaccination incorrectly) or a failure to act (such as a doctor not intervening during childbirth complications).

The Court uses the ‘reasonable medical professional’ test to assess whether a breach of duty has occurred. They ask: would a reasonable medical professional have done what yours did? Importantly, the ‘reasonable medical professional’ must have similar skills and experience to your medical professional.

3. The breach caused your injury

Their negligent breach of duty must have caused your injury. To prove this, you need to show a clear link between your injury or condition and the medical professional’s action (or inaction).

To establish whether a link exists, the Court uses the ‘but for’ test. This involves asking whether ‘but for’ the medical professional’s actions, you could have avoided the injury.

Are there time limits for claiming Medical Negligence?

All states have a strict time limit for Medical Negligence claims. This is also known as a statute of limitations.

Generally speaking, you have 3 years from the date you were injured (or discovered you were injured). The exact time limit depends on the state you live in.

To find out your state’s time limit, read our guide to time limits for claiming Medical Negligence.

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