Compensation If Doctor Makes A Mistake
If you’ve been harmed by a medical professional, you might be entitled to compensation. We spoke to Robert Bryden, Australia’s leading medical negligence lawyer, to find out what you can claim for.
It is devastating when you’re injured by a medical professional that you trust. One mistake can have a ripple effect on your entire life, impacting your career, family, home life and your mental health.
Understandably, you may want to seek compensation if you’ve been impacted. These kinds of cases fall under an area of law called medical negligence.
What does medical negligence mean?
When a medical professional causes you harm, this is called medical negligence. In legal terms, medical negligence is where treatment by a medical practitioner falls below an acceptable standard and causes you injury or harm. It’s also known as medical malpractice. This isn’t just limited to doctors, it applies to a range of medical professionals including dentists, nurses, surgeons and midwives.
Some examples of medical negligence include misdiagnosis, surgical errors, pregnancy and birth complications and issues with informed consent.
I’ve been injured, what should I do next? Do I actually need a medical lawyer?
You may be wondering if you need a special medical lawyer. The short answer is yes! You should be looking for a senior lawyer who is experienced in medical negligence cases. “Medical negligence is the most complex area of compensation law. Just like you wouldn’t see a dentist for surgery on a broken leg, you wouldn’t see a family lawyer for a medical negligence case,” says Robert.
There’s a number of reasons you need an experienced senior negligence lawyer. Firstly, in these cases you are up against a big insurer with a team of senior lawyers, who are fighting to protect their client. Insurers fight hard and have deep pockets. Junior lawyers just won’t stand a chance against them.
Secondly, all medical negligence cases are unique, so you also need an experienced lawyer who can think outside the box to come up with solutions for your specific situation. For example, Robert Bryden has over 40 years’ experience and has handled over 32,000 cases. He is an experienced litigator who knows how to get the best outcomes for his clients.
Robert also points out that you want to consider the values of the firm when choosing a lawyer. “An injury is so deeply personal. I see firsthand the huge impact of these injuries on my clients’ lives. Personally, I wouldn’t hire a lawyer who is simply trying to meet their targets and move on. At Robert Bryden Lawyers, we care about making our clients’ lives better and we fight to get the best outcomes. My family business is here to look after your family.”
What does the compensation cover?
Anyone who has suffered an injury at the hands of a medical professional knows that the damage can extend far beyond medical bills. A number of things are considered when calculating compensation.
Loss of past and future earnings
This isn’t just for your current job either – it factors in potential promotions, pay rises and career growth for the rest of your working life. The loss of superannuation on your wage and other financial losses are also considered.
Here’s an example: an apprentice plumber had a routine surgery that went wrong. Before the injury, they planned to set up their own business and employ staff. Now they have to do a desk job because they cannot bend or lift any more. Their future earnings are calculated with this in mind. For example, at 65 years old, they would have been turning over $X and would be set up for retirement. This loss takes into consideration what could have been, not what was.
Medically acquired injuries can make it difficult to do household chores and look after your family. Think: shopping, cooking, gardening, cleaning, laundry or driving the kids to school. You can be compensated for volunteer assistance, such as family members helping out, or for paid care and services like taxis, meal delivery and transport.
You can claim compensation if you need your home modified for easier access, like your bathroom set up differently, mobility aids and the like.
Along with past medical expenses from the injury, future medical costs are also factored in. This includes both mental and physical health care and associated costs, like medications.
“When calculating compensation, you are essentially entitled to compensation for the loss you have suffered in all areas of your life. That’s why you may be compensated for non-economic loss, like pain and suffering,” explains Robert. “Determining compensation is incredibly complex, which is why it pays to have a legal expert on your side.”
Can you get much compensation? Is it worth pursuing a claim?
It’s worth pursuing a medical negligence claim if your life has been impacted. Compensation is dependent on how serious your injuries are and the impact they have on your life. Very serious injury cases can be worth many millions of dollars. Of course, it won’t take away the pain and distress from your injury. However, getting the compensation you deserve can help set you up for the future.
“Regardless of the severity of your injury, you are often entitled to a benefit of some sort, so it’s worth seeking legal advice,” says Robert. “At our firm, it’s free to get advice – so you never know what you can get until you ask.”
Does your lawyer get a percentage of your compensation?
It’s a common misconception that your lawyer will take a percentage of your medical negligence compensation. “In NSW, fees cannot be set as a percentage of the settlement – it’s against the law! Instead, they are billed on an hourly basis by each member of the team who works on the case,” explains Robert. “As a result, the larger cases will have a larger cost. Senior lawyers will understandably have a higher rate than admin staff, for instance.”
“At Robert Bryden Lawyers, we offer most services on a No Win No Fee basis. So, if we do not win your case, we will not invoice you for our time. Another interesting point to note is that the insurer typically pays most of your legal costs anyway when you win a case against the defendant.” Much like Medicare pays your medicals, there is a small gap you are liable for.
Will I have to go to court?
The thought of going to court can be really intimidating. However, the good news is that most cases settle through mediation. Only a small percentage need to go to court and that is usually when the insurer is not making reasonable offers.
“In my experience, over 98% of cases go to mediation,” says Robert. “Regardless, we would never go to court without the full team’s approval – that means the client, the barrister and myself. Either way, I always fight to get the best outcome for my client. An interesting fact is that most insurers make decent offers 48 hours before court!”
As you can see, medical negligence cases can be complicated, so it’s worth seeking legal advice if you’ve been injured or harmed by a medical professional. While it may seem overwhelming, it’s your lawyer’s job to guide you through the process and get you the compensation that you deserve.