Medical Negligence: The Commonly Asked Questions Answered

Medical Negligence Claims FAQ's

If you have suffered from medical negligence, then it’s likely you have plenty of questions needing to be answered. In this podcast, Sydney Personal Injury Lawyer, Courtenay Poulden addresses those questions and reiterates the importance of getting legal advice very early.

 

Dan:

Every year thousands of people undergo surgery or other types of medical interventions and it’s not surprising, giving the sheer volume, that mistakes or oversights occur. What happens when they do and, more importantly, what can you do about it? Well, today I’m with Courtenay Poulden, an Accredited Personal Injury Law Specialist and Multi-Award Winning Lawyer. Courtenay, what should people personally do in these types of matters?

 

Courtenay:

Well, it’s promptly getting advice quickly. A lot of people are under the misconception that every failed medical procedure is due to negligence but they need to find out whether there’s something the doctor or the hospital or the nursing services have done that really is more than just one of the normal consequences of a medical procedure.

 

Dan:

How do they find this information? Is it, do they access reports or what do they do?

 

Courtenay:

The first step’s to get hold of the records from the various doctors who are involved or hospitals that have been involved, have them reviewed initially by lawyers such as us, and then ultimately refer them off to an independent doctor who can comment on the performance of the doctor or the hospital involved.

 

Dan:

Courtenay, is it the case that prior to your first consult with a person that may have suffered a potential medically negligence matter that they should acquire all those files through freedom of information first and then bring them to you?

 

Courtenay:

No, no, no, we’ll do all that for them. What we need people to do is contact us, let us have a general discussion and meet with them to talk about what’s happened. Then, if we decide that the case is worth investigating we’ll go ahead and get all of those for them.

 

Dan:

What about time frames? Now I know generally personal injury matters are very, very tight. In medical negligence matters, generally is there a time frame?

Courtenay:

It’s pretty much the same. They’re governed by the Civil Liability Act which is a general rule imposed at the three year limitation period. That’s not three years necessarily from the date of the medical procedure or hospital admissions, that’s three years from the date that you know you’ve got a case, when your cause of action is what the law calls discoverable. When you’re at that stage your three years start and it’s pretty strict from then on so it’s not the sort of thing to mark around and put out of your mind and think you can come back to it three or four years down the track.

 

Dan:

How long do these matters typically take? If there’s an action when would people start to see a damages payout?

 

Courtenay:

Well, that depends pretty much on the complexity. There’s some pretty easy cases where if you went in the hospital and you had to have your left leg operated on and they did your right, that would be a pretty easy case because there’d be no dispute about fault and those types of things. Mostly in medical negligence sort of cases the issues are pretty complex. The reason for that is that most people go into hospital or go and see a doctor when they’ve already got a problem. What we’re talking about is the extent to which that problem has been made worse or you’ve got other additional complications.

 

It’s normally not as easy as some other cases where someone starts all afresh without any injuries like a car accident. In these sort of cases you’ve got to take into account the fact that you had a problem in the first place, that’s why you went to the doctor. That’s why it makes it a little bit more complex than your sort of run of the mill court cases or compensation cases.

 

Dan:

These cases don’t always involve surgery do they? I suppose that by and large that they take up a fair proportion of them but …

 

Courtenay:

Well, I wouldn’t say that. I think for the by and large it’s not surgical type cases.

 

Dan:

Okay.

 

Courtenay:

The ones we most commonly see involve failure to perform surgery or failure to intervene when there’s been investigations done that should have indicated to a doctor to do something or where the investigations weren’t done at all because the doctor didn’t think that that test was necessary. Rather than it being so much the result of some active procedure it’s often a failure to act. Pretty common cases, for example, are late diagnosis of cancer. You go along to a doctor or a hospital, have a number of tests done which you show later down the track should have been an indication of the early incidence of cancer, for example.

 

If that’s so, that’s the failure of anybody to intervene an act that might be the negligent act.

 

Dan:

I suppose a take on message, Courtenay, is for people to get advice very promptly on these matters.

 

Courtenay:

That’s certainly the case because records should be obtained early. If there’s witnesses who are not doctors such as other family members who were present, their statements and evidence become vital so, yeah, there’s no reason to delay at all. On the contrary, you should get onto it quickly so that you also get some peace of mind as well, I think that’s pretty important for most people who are suffering sickness or illness.

 

Dan:

In terms of BPC, a free initial consult and no obligation consultation?

 

Courtenay:

Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely we will see someone. We will make a decision from an early … We do a bit of our own which doctor type inquiries from people we do know. We speak to doctors who we’ve had in cases over the years, just if to get a general idea whether a matter’s worth investigating. If so, yeah, we’ll do all those investigations at no cost. Of course, if the matter goes ahead they’ll be a fee arrangement, if it doesn’t it’s nice to have been able to help you and best wishes.

 

Dan:

Courtenay, thanks for joining me.

 

Courtenay:

My pleasure.