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Clinical Negligence Law Guide

Clinical negligence law can be both incredibly complex and heart-wrenching. Cases can involve difficult medical issues as well as patients that suffer life-long injuries after wrongful treatment. But it’s all worth it for clinical negligence lawyers when they are able to obtain compensation for their clients.

For those lawyers acting for the defendants (the health care providers), the work can be just as rewarding. They protect hospitals from having to make payments to every patient that is unhappy about their treatment. Surely, this would put a huge strain on the NHS and the whole health care system. 

If you are interested in working in this exciting field, keep reading. 

What is Clinical Negligence Law?

Clinical negligence law is an area of tort that provides legislation to protect both medical patients and providers. Clinical negligence occurs when a healthcare provider has done something wrong during the treatment of their patient. For example, a doctor may have misdiagnosed a patient or made a mistake when operating. Victims of negligent medical treatment can claim compensation in these kinds of circumstances. 

As with all legal claims, some elements must be present for the claim to be successful. Suffering an injury because of medical treatment is not sufficient to take legal action. The claimant must establish two things:

  1. That, on the balance of probabilities, the treatment did not comply with medically acceptable standards
  2. That the treatment was a direct cause of the injury

If the claimant can establish these elements they can receive compensation. This includes payment for the pain they have suffered, for ongoing treatment needed and for psychological suffering, among others. 

How to Become a Clinical Negligence Lawyer

The first step is to complete an LLB degree. You should consider studying modules such as medical law to get early exposure to clinical negligence. 

In addition, you should apply for vacation schemes with firms that offer medical negligence seats or mini-pupillages with chambers that specialise in this sort of work. It would be even better if you could do both as you will then acquire insight into the work of clinical negligence lawyers both in the courtroom and outside.

Depending on whether you want to become a clinical negligence solicitor or barrister, you will go through different training. Prospective solicitors must do the Legal Practice Course while barristers will do the BPTC. If you are going down the solicitor route you will hopefully move on to do a training contract afterwards. Some law firms that specialise in medical negligence are Slater and Gordon, Fieldfisher and Irwin Mitchell. 

If you want to become a barrister, you should apply for pupillages with chambers such as Temple Garden Chambers, 3PB and Exchange Chambers. Once you manage to get through either of these routes, you can finally call yourself a clinical negligence lawyer. 

Salaries

Now that you know how to become a clinical negligence lawyer, you probably want to know how much money you could potentially make. The average salary of a fully qualified solicitor specialising in this area is around £43,000 annually. You’ll average around £55,000 if you practice medical negligence law in London. 

Predictably, partners make more. In fact, some of them can make as much as £300,000 a year. At the other end of the scale we find the trainees. They usually make something in between £25,000-£28,000 with those practicing in London making around £36,000-£38,000. 

Documenting barristers’ salaries is more difficult as it varies a lot. They are self-employed which means that the amount of work they do vary from barrister to barrister. Other factors that impact their salaries are which chambers they practice at and location. Still, we know that the average salary of a barrister in their first year practising medical negligence could be everything from £20,000-£50,000. This rises to about £40,000-£100,000 in year two. 

Relevant Books

Want to learn more about clinical negligence? Have a look at these books:

NameAuthorPrice (Approximate)
Medical Law and EthicsShaun D. Pattinson£34
APIL Guide to Clinical NegligencePaul Balen£40
Clinical Negligence Made Clear: A Guide for Patients & ProfessionalsNigel Poole QC£20
Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence Litigation 2019 - CLP Legal Practice GuidesJulie Mardell and Kate Serfozo£36

Words: Kristin Klungtveit

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