Cosmetic surgery lawyer, Oliver Thorne, outlines some steps that victims of medical accidents can take before seeking legal advice
Following a medical accident, it's a good idea to consider the outcome you desire at an early stage. Court proceedings can be a lengthy and complex process, and although this is often the most effective way to hold the medical profession accountable, you may not be ready to approach a lawyer immediately. Many people prefer to seek answers themselves before turning to the law. In these circumstances, there are a number of things you can do.
Obtain copies of your medical records.
You have a legal right to see your medical records, unless very unusual circumstances apply. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, trusts and GPs must provide you with copies of your records within 40 days. They can make a charge, but the fee must be reasonable and cannot exceed £50. You can request the records by writing a simple letter in your own words. If you are requesting records for someone else, you should include a signed note of their consent.
however, medical records can be extensive, sometimes stretching to thousands of pages. If you are struggling to make sense of them, it’s worth remembering that many specialist medical negligence solicitors like ourselves are willing to look through medical records free of charge to help assess the strength of a potential claim.
Make a complaint.
This is a good starting point - whether you want to take legal action or not. In some cases, the GP or hospital trust will make an admission of liability and apologise for the error. In my experience this is generally uncommon, but for many people opening a dialogue is a key part of the process of coming to terms with what has happened. A response to a complaint also gives a useful insight into the way that your case is being viewed by the medical professionals involved. It can also be used as evidence should you decide to go to law. I have dealt with numerous cases where a client has received a negative response to a complaint and then gone onto successfully win the legal claim.
Join a patient support group.
There is a huge range of support groups out there, from those concerned with particular medical conditions to general patient safety organisations. They can be good forums for sharing knowledge and experience, and often include people who have been in a similar position to you. This can be a real boost if you have been left feeling isolated and may help you to plan your own strategy.
Seek the advice of an experienced cosmetic surgery lawyer.
Once you decide you want to make a legal claim then it is important you speak to a lawyer who is a medical negligence specialist and experienced in handling cosmetic surgery claims. I often take over cases from lawyers who initially pass themselves off as 'experts' but soon get out of their depth and realise that they are no longer able to assist the client. Worse still are those who continue running the case and either lose, or under-settle the claim.
If in doubt why not make use of our FREE cosmetic surgery helpline to talk it over with me in complete confidence.
Call Freephone 0800 975 8091