There are four legal steps that have to be overcome if you are to stand a good chance of gaining compensation following a spinal cord injury. In today’s blog we explore the issues of ‘duty of care’, ‘breaches of duty’, and ‘loss’.
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Were you owed a duty of care?
The first is to prove that you were owed a duty of care. This may be hard to comprehend after suffering potentially life changing injuries. In some cases, this is obvious, for example all road users have a duty of care to avoid causing injury to others and all healthcare professionals have a duty of care to their patients. In other cases, a particular duty may be imposed by statute, for example, in the work place, health and safety legislation.
Was there a breach of duty?
If you were owed a duty of care, the next hurdle is to prove that there was a breach of that duty. Breach of duty by a road user may be evidenced by a conviction for dangerous driving or breach of the Highway Code. In a claim for clinical negligence, there may be a failure to diagnose a spinal haematoma leading to spinal cord compression for example, or failure to refer to a specialist, such as a spinal surgeon, for proper diagnosis of the spinal cord injury.
Not all errors in the medical setting amount to negligence. Some conditions are particularly difficult to diagnose or treat and all surgery carries risks even in the best of surgical hands.
The test is whether the doctor or other healthcare provider acted in accordance with a reasonable body of opinion. Proving that the standard of care of the potential defendant fell below that to which a patient was entitled requires expert evidence from an independent medical expert used to preparing reports that comply with strict court rules. We are connected with many such experts, of whom we call upon for assistance.
Was it a breach of duty that caused your injury?
The next hurdle to overcome is proving that an injury is caused by those breaches of duty of care. This can be difficult hurdle to overcome. Despite there being a breach of duty, it is often extremely difficult to prove that the incident has caused all of the current symptoms, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.
Evidence from independent medical experts is often required to establish the connection between the negligence and the injuries sustained.
If a claimant can prove that they have sustained an injury through negligence, we can then undergo the often complex task of arriving at a financial valuation for the claim. The aim of compensation is to, as far as possible, put you in the position you would have been in had the accident or incident not occurred. This will include compensation for pain and suffering and past and future financial losses, including loss of earnings and the cost of care and private medical treatment. In many cases for spinal injuries this can include the cost of specially adapted accommodation and vehicles, professional care and aids and equipment. Of course it is impossible to take away the pain and suffering but a significant financial award can help the injured person and their families cope better with the consequences and life changes following their injury.
This article forms part of a series written for the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) ‘Ask the experts’ blog. As a Gold Corporate Partner of the SIA you can rest assured that we are legal experts in spinal cord injuries. We have many connections in the Spinal Injury world and have a great deal of experience and success in gaining appropriate compensation for our clients who have sustained a spinal cord injury. Follow our #spinalinjuryjourney on Twitter.