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Civil Law, Health and Safety Law, and Medical Negligence in the UK

Frequently, people who contact medical negligence solicitors are confused about the organisation’s civil law obligations and their health and safety requirements.  While medical negligence compensation is receivable by anyone who has suffered a personal injury as a result of the negligent actions of a healthcare professional who was acting within the terms of their employment, claimants can often be uncertain about where the failings that led to their injury arose and whether they have a criminal case as well as a civil one.

Health and safety regulations in clinical negligence claims

Breaches of health and safety regulations can be a criminal matter – the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, for instance, is a criminal law that is aimed at protecting a company’s workers and those who can be affected by their activities. Hospitals, therefore, will be obliged to protect patients, visitors and the general public, as well as doctors, nurses, porters and any other member of staff.

These health and safety regulations generally do not impose responsibilities on anyone other than employers, members of staff and self-employed people who are working for the business. Employers and the self-employed are called ‘duty holders’ for the purposes of these regulations, and the act spells out a number of responsibilities they have for the public, customers and the workforce. They are considered to have a duty to ensure the wellbeing of other people and should take all ‘reasonably practicable’ steps to ensure that their business is as safe as possible.

Although people cannot claim for clinical negligence compensation or accident at work compensation under the Health and Safety at Work Act, breaches of this act can be brought up during compensation cases as evidence that an individual or organisation has failed in its statutory duties.

Risk managements fall under the provisions of this act. Duty holders must identify any dangers in their business and take sensible steps to deal with these problems. This could include staff training, personal protective equipment, reducing the need for employees to complete hazardous tasks and ensuring that staff and the public are not put in danger at any point. In a hospital, for instance, these risk assessments may involve ensuring that sharps are disposed in a safe manner, that checks are put in place to ensure prescription errors do not occur, or investing in hoists and wheelchairs to protect patients that are being moved around.

The duty of care, civil law, and medical negligence compensation

For clinical negligence claims to succeed, claimants must be able to demonstrate that they suffered a personal injury that was caused by the negligent actions of a healthcare provider who had a duty of care towards them. Medical negligence solicitors must also be able to show that the claimant’s injuries or losses were a foreseeable result of the breach of the healthcare provider’s duty of care.

The size of a clinical negligence compensation payout can be reduced if the court believes that the injured person behaved in a negligent way and that this contributed to their injuries or losses. Patients who refuse to engage with their doctors or who do not take responsibility for their post-operative care could therefore find that they receive less money in their medical negligence claim than they otherwise would have.

As the duty of care is part of civil law, people who breach it but who do not breach the health and safety regulations in the Health and Safety at Work Act will not face criminal sanctions. However, the cost of clinical negligence compensation can be particularly high in some cases, and the responsible party will have to pay these expenses. Because of this, healthcare providers in the UK are obliged to have professional indemnity cover or insurance policies that will pay out in medical negligence claims. Those who fail in this regard are likely to find themselves struck off the medical register and unable to work in the UK again.

If you have been a victim of clinical negligence, medical negligence solicitors can help you receive the compensation you need to get your life back on track and can advise you about pursuing criminal charges, if this is relevant to your case. They can help you understand who is liable for your injuries and who you should pursue your case against, and can give you a good idea of what you could expect if you succeed in your case.

You have the right to expect a good standard of treatment when receiving medical help and for the professionals who treat you to act with your best interests at heart. If you believe your treatment fell short in this regard, you should speak to clinical negligence solicitors as soon as possible.

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