How do you prove medical negligence?

Reviewed by
Peter Rigby, Director of Medical Neglience

In simple terms, medical negligence means that a medical professional acted below an acceptable standard of care, and caused avoidable harm through their actions or decisions.

As simple as that explanation may be, when it comes to proving medical negligence; this can be a more complicated beast. Often the doctor or medical organisation, such as the NHS, is not willing to admit the mistake, which means that you are left to gather evidence that proves that the negligence took place.

Without a lawyer by your side, this information-gathering process can be stressful and exhausting – particularly when you are already recovering from a medical mistake and the wider impacts of that mistake.

Here, we break-down how you can prove that medical negligence took place, how a solicitor can help you, and what evidence we will need to obtain, in order to successfully fight your case.

Breaching a duty of care and the wider impacts

In order to make a successful medical negligence claim, it is important to prove more likely than not that that you suffered an injury or illness, or that your condition worsened, because of a breach of duty of care. Medical professionals; whether that be a doctor, nurse, dentist, surgeon – or any other medical professional within the NHS or private sector, have a duty of care to act in accordance with acceptable standards and to do no harm.

When a medic breaches that duty of care and acts in a way that is harmful to their patient – harm that could have been avoided if the medic acted in a more appropriate way – there can be many wide-reaching consequences of that action. For example, if you visit your GP who fails or delays referring you to a specialist, and that delay or failure results in your condition becoming worse; you could be entitled to pursue a medical negligence claim.

The success of the claim and the value of the compensation settlement would depend on why the injury was caused, and what the wider impacts have on you. For example – if the delay in referral results in the worsening of your condition (increased pain, long-term complications or even an avoidable surgery) this would all be considered in the investigation and valuation of the claim.

The impact of a medical mistake doesn’t just rest with immediate worsening of the condition. Dependant on the severity of your suffering, there may be financial implications – if you are unable to work for an extended period of time, for example. There may be some emotional distresses and development of mental health complications. Your long-term health could deteriorate, and there may be further medical interventions in order to correct the mistake.

And of course, the distress is not just limited to yourself. When you suffer medical negligence, your friends and family are also affected. You may rely on those closest to you for support, financial help, transport and general day-to-day activities; and this can also be compensated.

Starting the medical negligence investigation

When you begin the journey towards justice, you will first need to obtain sufficient evidence that the negligence took place. This includes specialist medical opinion(s) and maybe photographs of injuries sustained, a timeline of your appointment history and a detailed statement from you about your experiences. There may be other records and accounts required, dependant on the type and complexity of the negligence you experienced, but all of these records are crucial to proving your case.

In some cases, family members may also be asked to provide their statements about what took place. This may be particularly important during times of impaired consciousness, if you suffered some drowsiness or confusion due to the side effects of any medication. Often when we are experiencing a medical trauma, we are unable to remember all of the details that took place, and that is where the help of family and friends comes into play.

The benefits of working with a medical expert

When you enlist the support of a medical negligence lawyer to gather this information on your behalf, you immediately make the process much easier for yourself. As medical negligence solicitors, we will source your medical records on your behalf. We will also gather evidence from independent medical experts who prepare reports on your treatment and the results of that treatment.

These experts weigh in on whether your treatment was below the usual and expected standard of care, and if that substandard care resulted in your illness or injury. Each of these components is necessary in proving a medical negligence case. Again, your legal team will arrange these expert assessments and will ensure you will not have to pay for these.

Our specialist team will assess your information and let you know if you are eligible to make a medical negligence claim. It can be difficult to understand your rights without the help of an expert, and often the doctor or medical body will not admit fault for the distress or injury caused.

We will investigate the evidence on your behalf, and help you to assess if you have a medical negligence case.

Meet our medical negligence team

Peter Rigby

Peter Rigby
Director of Medical Negligence

Peter leads the Medical Negligence Serious Injury department, which now boasts some of our most knowledgeable, dedicated and hardworking team members.

Peter is dedicated to supporting victims of catastrophic medical negligence injuries and endeavours to provide a clear and coherent approach to claims. He recognises the effects serious injuries can have and therefore ensures his customers’ need for support is met. Peter also has a vast amount of experience working with customers who have been injured abroad and is able to act under international law to provide the best outcomes.

Read profile
Christian Beadell

Christian Beadell
Partner, Head of Strategy and Legal Operations

Christian is Head of Medical Negligence at Patient Claim Line and has specialised in clinical negligence claims since qualifying in 1998; having dealt with a wide variety of claims throughout his career. He is also featured in the Legal 500 as a recommended claimant solicitor in the North West.

Christian qualified as a solicitor in 1998, specialising in clinical negligence. From 2010 onward he has had a particular interest in gynaecological and urogynaecological claims, having represented several hundred claimants in the George Rowland Litigation against the Liverpool Women’s and Aintree Hospitals. This investigated the treatment given to women in the Merseyside area over several decades, and in particular focused on the introduction and development of mesh into the UK in both the treatment of stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. The development of this area involved pursuing claims under a unique ADR protocol with the NHS and also looking to develop the current thinking on the valuation of compensation for complex urinary symptoms. He has successfully recovered hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation on behalf of my clients.

Christian was also involved in setting up and chairing a Claimant Support Group for those involved in the Rowland litigation, which provided a discussion forum for the many women who were left isolated and damaged by negligent gynaecological treatment. He now co-ordinates the firm’s mesh claims and has delivered training and commented extensively on the medico-legal implications of urogynaecological / mesh complications. He is a member of APIL, Liverpool Law Society and Legal 500 recommended.

Read profile
Francesca Paul

Francesca Paul
Associate Solicitor

Francesca Paul is an Associate, Senior Solicitor and Team Leader within the Clinical Negligence Department.  She is one of the driving Solicitors in the Group Litigation Team dealing with this niche and specialist area of work that Fletchers undertakes.   

Francesca previously worked in Nottingham, dealing with Group Action work.  She now works at Fletchers, bringing with her those years of experience heading up a team of 10 people.  Francesca is involved in the early identification of potential new Group Litigation Work and analyses information from the collective pool of new enquiries into the business, of which there are hundreds per week looking for hot spots or recurrent issues which might suggest a potential pool of Claimants.   

One of the highlights for Francesca and her team is that they have successfully recovered over a million pounds in compensation for clients who have received treatment from a single orthopaedic surgeon who was operating in the Colchester area.  Her role requires a specific set of skills, patience and a forensic approach to detail whilst being able to see the wider picture.   

Francesca has previously acted for a claimant in a case that reached the Supreme Court in the case of NA v Nottinghamshire County Council. 

Read profile
Sion Wynne

Sion Wynne
Senior Solicitor

Sion is a team leader and senior solicitor with many years’ experience in dealing with a wide range of medical specialisms and different types of injuries. He is an experienced medical negligence solicitor and manages a team of lawyers within our department.

Sion joined Fletchers in 2018 as a Team Leader in the Medical Negligence Department. Throughout his 24 year legal career, he has specialised in conducting medical negligence claims on behalf of Claimants, previously working for other highly ranked leading firms in the field.

He has undertaken claims covering the full spectrum of medical specialisms, clinical settings, categories of defendant and types of negligent medical care and treatment.
These include high value and complex maximum severity cases, such as those involving limb amputations and permanent neurological injuries.

Sion is experienced at representing bereaved families at inquests and has a particular interest in fatal accident claims.


Notable Cases

JI v Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Trust: £1.25m recovered for client left paraplegic after spinal anaesthesia.

RS v Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: £150,000 recovered for client in respect of a failure to recognise complications after a kidney transplant, where her father was the donor.

JN v MA: £100,000 recovered for a client who suffered 2 years persistent pain and disability after knee replacement surgery undertaken as a private patient.

CS v Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust: £400,000 recovered for a child who sustained Erb’s palsy during her delivery.

WO’C (Deceased) v Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; £450,000 recovered for the family of the deceased who died as a result of a delay in diagnosing a brain tumour.


Read profile

Sarah's Story

"Now we have peace of mind"

My husband, Nick, went back and forth to the doctors for a long time and tried everything the doctor recommended. But his illness got worse, to the point that he was in agony.

In the end we got so desperate that we asked for a referral. The doctor was reluctant, so we had to consult a private hospital. That’s when we found out there was a tumour. It took years from the onset of his illness to finally start cancer treatment.

He used to be a man with a lot to live for, but in the end he was in so much pain that he withdrew from the family. He became angry that nobody had helped him sooner, and the legal team were able to give him the validation that he was desperately seeking. The NHS confirmed if they had done more, Nick would still be alive today.