The greatest emotional barrier to bringing any legal claim is often the considerable amount of time it can take to bring the matter to an end. When it comes to medical negligence claims, the added stress of being injured and often restricted in some aspects of the activities of your daily living, means that a prompt resolution is often a primary concern.
When it comes to medical negligence claims, the truth is that there is no set timeframe in which they are finalised. Each claim is different, and the associated timeframe depends on the unique issues each claim presents. These issues require an extremely detailed assessment from the outset to determine the best way forward and so that the claim can be resolved on the best possible terms.
Below are some aspects of a medical negligence claim that can alter the time taken to resolve a claim.
Investigating whether a claim exists
Depending on the sequence of events that take place in the lead up to an injury, investigating whether a claim exists has the potential to be a lengthy process.
After seeing your solicitor for an initial consultation, your solicitor will begin to collate resources used to determine what has taken place and whether the injury or damage was caused as a result of negligence.
This stage involves:
- Obtaining a copy of all the relevant clinical notes;
- Reading and understanding the relevant clinical notes; and
- Obtaining an expert opinion as to whether a claim has arisen in negligence.
There are many factors that can influence how long this stage can take. These include the ease in which the clinical notes are obtained, the quantity of the notes produced, and the availability of experts of the relevant speciality to discuss your situation and/or produce a written report.
Depending on the difficulty and the complexity of issues in a claim, investigating whether a claim exists often takes 12 months, and up to 24 months in complex cases.
Obtaining damages evidence
Once it is established that there is an arguable claim, the next stage is to collate evidence that seeks to quantify the nature and extent of the injury or damage caused.
This will require the injured person to be examined by a doctor who is able to provide a report setting out the injuries or detailing the impact these have had both now and in the future.
These appointments are usually organised weeks or months in advance, and not attending a scheduled appointment can significantly delay the resolution of a claim. Non-attendance of a medical appointment organised by your solicitor can result in a delay of up to 6 months and will sometimes incur a hefty non-attendance fee.
Commencing proceedings in Court
To get the best results for our clients, it is usually necessary for Court proceedings to be commenced against the party at fault.
With personal injury claims in New South Wales, Court proceedings generally cannot be commenced without the support of an expert’s opinion that a claim in negligence exists.
Before proceedings are commenced, you would have begun receiving details of medical appointments with doctors to obtain your damages evidence explained above.
After commencing proceedings in Court, the other party will have engaged lawyers (known as the Defendant’s solicitors) who will begin preparing a defence to the claim.
The following factors can influence how long this stage in your claim can take:
- The date of any medical appointment the defendant’s solicitors have scheduled for you to attend;
- Any issues which are raised by the defendant’s solicitors; and
- Any delays the defendant’s solicitors might face in preparing their case.
Settlement negotiations generally start taking place about 12 to 18 months after proceedings are commenced in Court.
Obtaining a hearing date in New South Wales
If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, the next step would be to have the matter set down for a hearing to have a judge determine the issues in the case.
Obtaining a hearing date in a Court within New South Wales is dependant on the following:
- The current volume of cases in New South Wales Courts;
- The length of the hearing required in the case (depending on the complexity of the issues); and
- The availability of the parties involved the case (including solicitors, barristers and experts).
You expect to be allocated a hearing date in a New South Wales Court between 12 and 24 months after commencing proceedings.
Getting professional help
Navigating a medical negligence requires specialist expertise and experience. At Stacks Goudkamp our medical negligence solicitors have the expertise and experience to professionally bring a resolution to your claim.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a case of medical negligence you may be entitled to compensation. For more information and to arrange a free consultation please contact Stacks Goudkamp on 1800 25 1800 or alternatively make an online enquiry.
Written by Mark Crollos.