This series will provide a concise set of guidelines to assist those considering bringing a claim in relation to treatment that they have received. Whilst these notes cannot countenance every potential scenario they will hopefully identify the fundamental stages and help to remove any uncertainty surrounding the process.
Should I claim?
Christian Beadell, senior solicitor at Fletchers writes about the decision around making a medical negligence claim in relation to Group B Strep.
In the circumstances where there has been a failure to diagnose or treat a GBS infection, it can be difficult to decide if a claim can or should be brought. Whilst the outcome of negligent misdiagnosis can sometimes be fatal, in some circumstances it can be unclear if any damage has been caused if a baby has still been delivered safe and well. In those circumstances, the decision can be less obvious.
A claim can be brought by any party that has suffered injury and/or loss as result of negligence. This can include primarily the child, the mother and less commonly a spouse or partner who may have witnessed traumatic events. Often it is the case that a claim by the mother who has suffered an mishandled pregnancy and potentially traumatic delivery is overlooked in favour of pursuing a claim on behalf of the child and it is important that this is considered from the outset.
Fortunately, even if you are concerned in relation to your treatment, an immediate decision on commencing legal action does not have to be taken.
Any claim for compensation must be brought within specified timescales and this varies depending upon whether or not the claimant is the mother or the child (or both).
The usual rule is that a claim must be brought within 3 years of the date when the negligence occurred or when you knew or ought to have known that there had been failings in the treatment and that this had caused an injury (whichever is the later date). Very often in GBS claims, this will be at the time of delivery but can be earlier.
As indicated above, an otherwise healthy child may go on to develop abnormalities which present at later stages. These are most often highlighted at the early developmental milestone checks. Sometimes the advice will be to wait for those milestones to be reached before a decision on pursuing a claim is made.
It is important to note that the 3 years’ time limit does not start until a child reaches the age of 18. In their case, the deadline for bringing a claim is usually their 21st birthday.
As this does not apply to an adult claimant, it is always our recommendation to seek legal advice as soon as possible, even if you are unsure if you have a claim. An experienced lawyer who has dealt with GBS claims will be able to tell you if the circumstances of your treatment merit investigation.