These are the questions we are asked most often, click a question to read the answer. If there are any other questions you would like to see answered here please let us know and we would be happy to include them:
- What are medical claims?
We receive medical treatment from a variety of different people including our local GP and the doctors and nurses in our hospitals. If you receive unacceptable treatment from them and this causes you an injury then you have a medical claim.
There are strict time limits for bringing medical claims. If you think you have a claim, then it is important you take action as soon as possible.
In order to be successful in these cases, you must first obtain evidence from an independent expert who is willing to confirm that the treatment you received was substandard. Unless you receive a favourable expert report you do not have a case.
- What legal information about the firm are you obliged to supply?
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Solicitors Regulation Authority
Armstrong Foulkes is a law firm practising in England & Wales authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (No. 75630). Further details of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and their role can be found on their website www.sra.org.uk
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has a code of professional conduct which all solicitors’ firms and their employees practicing in England & Wales are required to follow. This set of rules governing professional conduct can be viewed at www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/handbook/code/content.page
- Why use a solicitor?
If you think you have a medical claim, you will need a solicitor to help you. These cases can be very complicated. Our expert solicitor will guide you through the case smoothly.
You should take care when you come to choose a solicitor. You should use a specialist solicitor who deals with these cases all the time and has some medical knowledge. You would not ask your doctor for financial advice and in the same way, you should not ask a solicitor who normally deals with accidents or divorces about medical claims.
We at Armstrong Foulkes know that you would not have contacted us if you had not been through an upsetting experience with the medical profession. That is why we endeavor to make your case run as smoothly as we can, explaining everything as we proceed.
- Can I afford it?
There are three main ways of paying for the claim:
- Firstly, Community Legal Service funding (formerly known as Legal Aid). Only a very limited number of children now qualify for this.
- Secondly, you may have a legal expense insurance policy.
- Thirdly, we may be able to take your case on a “no win no fee” basis.
- Am I eligible for Community Legal Service Funding/Legal Aid?
From 01/04/2013 Community Legal Service Funding (The new name for Legal Aid) will only be available to a very limited number of applicants. No adult will be eligible for Legal Aid in a potential clinical negligence claim and only children who suffer severe brain injuries in very limited circumstances will qualify. We always recommend that you speak free of charge to one of our specially trained solicitors who can assess your case and your potential eligibility confirming whether this type of funding is available to you or your family.
- What is a “No Win, No Fee” Agreement / Conditional Fee Agreement?
This is one of the ways in which you can fund an investigation into your case . If we are able to offer you a “No Win, No Fee” Agreement (formally known as a Conditional Fee Agreement). Essentially, the ” No Win No Fee” Agreement provides that we will not be charging you if you lose your case.
If your case is successful then you will receive your compensation (less any agreed deductions for treatment or items you may need for your recovery as the case progresses). Most of our costs are paid by the Defendant or their insurers. Unfortunately due to reforms brought in over recent years we are no longer able to claim all of the costs involved in your case from them. Therefore from your compensation there will be some small charges that you have to pay. However, we will go through these with you before you sign any agreement.
If your case is unsuccessful we will be unable to recover any compensation. Provided you have co-operated with us you will not owe us any money for the work we have done in pursuing your claim and we will write off all of the costs we have incurred in reaching that point.
Basically we are paid only if you win your case which is why it is called “No Win, No Fee,”. Although strictly speaking once the case is won you owe us the fees we have incurred, in practice most of the payment is made by the defendants/their insurers with a small deduction from your compensation. This is a very basic explanation of how this funding works and before you decide on this type of funding we ensure that you have received detailed information on how it works and the terms & conditions involved. If you would like further information or a more in-depth explanation as to how this works now please telephone us and one of our specialist solicitors would be happy to go through this with you in more detail.
- How do you investigate my claim?
The initial stages in these cases involve obtaining evidence. As specialist solicitors our expertise includes finding the best expert and asking them the right questions. The typical stages are:
- Obtaining the medical records – this may take 1-2 months depending upon where they are kept and how many there are.
- Sorting the medical records – this may take 4-6 weeks. It is vital that the records are in a suitable order for the expert as this will make their job easier.
- Locating an expert – once we have the records we will approach suitable experts and ask them if they are willing to be involved. If they agree to help, that does not mean that they agree to support the case when it comes to looking at the papers. It just means that they believe that the case falls within their area of expertise.
- Instructing an expert – we send all of the papers to the expert including the medical records and our client’s statement. It may take the expert anything up to 4-5 months to produce their report.
Once we receive the report from our medical expert we will be able to advise you on the strength of your case. In some claims we will require the views of further experts from different areas of medicine before the medical evidence is finalised and we can tell you the likely prospects of recovering compensation in your claim. Without the support of independent medical experts clinical negligence claims cannot succeed.
- What happens after the investigation is complete?
Once we have obtained reports from independent medical experts in your case it is time to approach the Defendant Doctor, Dentist or NHS Trust. The following steps will occur:
- Putting the case to the defendants – if the expert is sure that substandard treatment took place, we will then need to put the allegations to the defendants. They normally have 4 months to investigate and reply. If the defendants admit that they were at fault we may be able to negotiate a settlement at this point.
- Starting court proceedings – if the defendants do not admit fault then we notify the court formally of the disagreement through the issue of court proceedings.
- Proceed to trial – the court will give us and the defendants a timetable of events in order to prepare for trial. A settlement can occur at any time, as most cases settle before the trial. Otherwise the trial will take place approximately 18 months after court proceedings have started. At the trial the judge will decide who has proven their case to his satisfaction.
- What is a “Limitation Period”/How long do I have to bring a claim?
In all clinical negligence claims a “Limitation Period” applies. This is the date by which the law says that your claim should be investigated and court proceedings issued. This is generally 3 years from the date of the alleged negligent treatment/mistake. However, if you are not aware until months or years later that a mistake has occurred it may be possible to argue that this 3 year time limit does not begin to run until that point. Following recent cases that have been heard at Court, even if this 3 year period has expired it may still be possible to pursue your claim.
Assessment of the limitation period can be a complicated issue and we recommend that if you are concerned about this you speak to one of our specialist solicitors who would be happy to advise you based on the specific facts of your case.
- What is your Complaints Handling policy?
A: When something goes wrong we need you to tell us about it. This will help us improve our standards. If you have any problem with our service, the level of fees, or the way in which we have dealt with any matter please contact the lawyer dealing handling your case by telephone, email or by post. If you are not happy with the response given then we will ask that you put it in writing and we will then deal with it as follows:
1. We will send you a letter acknowledging receipt of your complaint within 3 days of receiving your letter or email, enclosing a copy of this procedure.
2. We will investigate your complaint. This will normally involve passing your complaint to a Partner, providing this Partner is not the subject of the complaint. This Partner will then review your matter file and speak to the lawyer who acted for you.
3. The Partner will then invite you to a meeting to discuss and hopefully resolve your complaint. He/she will do this within 14 days of sending you the acknowledgement letter.
4. Within 3 days of the meeting, you will receive a letter to confirm what took place and any solutions he/she has agreed with you.
5. If you do not want a meeting or it is not possible, we will send you a detailed written reply to your complaint, including our suggestions for resolving the matter, within 21 days of sending you the acknowledgement letter.
6. At this stage, if you are still not satisfied, you should write to us again and we will arrange for our Managing Partner to review the decision. If the Managing Partner dealt with the initial complaint then at this stage they will refer it to another Partner, again provided they are not the subject of the complaint.
- I want people to hear what happened to me - can you put me in touch with newspapers/media?
A: People often contact us and tell us that they want the public to hear about what happened to them, often to raise awareness of the problems in the NHS. One way to do this is to share what happened with a newspaper or TV journalist and people often ask us how to go about doing this. If this is something you are interested in we can put you in touch with local and national newspapers. This can happen at the start of the case, during the case or at the end depending on the individual circumstances. Our solicitors are happy to advise you how best to go about this and at what stage, please don’t hesitate contact us about this if you would like assistance of this type.