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How long does it take to make a medical negligence claim?

How long do medical negligence claims take? It’s a question people ask when considering starting a claim. You might need help paying for urgent care or treatment, or perhaps you simply want closure on a stressful period of your life. Unfortunately, the short answer is that every case is different. Some claims settle in months while others take several years due to delays at certain stages.

While we can’t give you an accurate timeframe from the outset, we can offer guidance based on our in-depth knowledge of the claims process. Plus, if you do decide to claim, be assured our experts will strive to reach a settlement as quickly and painlessly as possible. We’ll keep you updated every step of the way too, so you’re never left guessing.

In this section of our medical negligence claims guide, read on to learn:

How long do you have to claim for medical negligence?

Our healthcare system normally does a fantastic job but sometimes things do go wrong. Whether it’s GP negligence or hospital negligence  if something has gone wrong you may be able to make a medical negligence claim,  but you’ve only got a limited time to do so.

The general time limit for these cases is three years on from the date of the negligent treatment  – or three years from when you became aware of the negligence. However, the rules can be complicated, which means in certain cases you could claim long after three years have passed. It’s always best to contact a solicitor in these cases and they can advise you on whether or not the time limit has passed.

There are other limits to bear in mind too. For example, if a child receives negligent treatment, then a claim can be made on their behalf at any time until their 18th birthday. Once they reach 18 years old, the three-year timeline will begin. Those who don’t have the mental capacity to make a claim will not have the three-year rule applied to them at all. Should their mental capacity be regained, then they will have three years from this date to make a claim.

We can offer guidance based on our in-depth knowledge of the claims process. We’ll be with you every step of the way if you decide to claim and will strive to reach a settlement as quickly as possible. For more information on how to make a medical negligence claim, get in touch using our online form or speak to us directly.

You can read more in our guide to medical negligence claim time limits.

How long do medical negligence claims take to settle?

No two claims are the same, which means it’s difficult to give an accurate time scale for how long your medical negligence claim will take. Rest assured we will do our best to make your claim as efficient as possible, so you can get the compensation you deserve.

In general the most straightforward and quickest of claims will take around 1½ years. However most claims will take a lot longer than this due to the complexities of bringing a medical negligence claim.

Stages of the medical negligence claim process

Once funding has been put in place the first stage will be to gather evidence. Medical records will be obtained from the GP and any hospitals attended. Possibly a witness statement will be taken detailing what has happened.

On the proviso that there continue to be prospects of success, consideration will be given to instructing an expert to comment on liability. Given complexity of clinical negligence cases it may be necessary to instruct a number of experts to determine whether there have been any failings in care causing injury.

On the basis that the evidence is supportive then a ‘letter of claim’ setting out the criticisms of care will be sent to the care provider. They will then have a period of time withing which to carry out their own investigations, after which they should provide a ‘letter of response’. Within this they should either admit or dispute liability. If liability is disputed then reasons must be given.

The steps taken thereafter are very much dependent on what the letter of response says. As long at the liability expert evidence obtained continues to support a claim then further expert evidence on the injuries caused by the alleged failings in care will be obtained, and consideration given to commencing court proceedings.

Once court proceedings have been started the court will set out a list of steps the parties have to take before the case gets to trial. These steps will usually take place over a 1½ year period, although it can be longer or shorter than this dependent on the case’s complexity.

It is very rare for clinical negligence cases to proceed to trial, as there will generally be multiple opportunities for the parties to consider settlement.

Read our guide to making a medical negligence claim for extra detail on the claim process.

What are the key factors that influence how long a claim takes?

Some factors that can influence how long a medical negligence claim will take include:

  1. The severity of the injury
  2. Whether it was caused by a private medical practice or the NHS
  3. How easy it is to gather strong evidence
  4. The number of experts needed, and their waiting lists
  5. How quickly the other party accept blame and agree a settlement amount
  6. Whether treatment is recommended before an accurate prognosis can be determined

Can I get support while my case progresses?

Yes, at Hugh James we routinely deal with persons who find themselves in very difficult and traumatic situations. We will support you as best as we can in guiding your claim, and helping you through such a difficult time.

We work closely with a number of charities also, and can put you in touch with them so that you can get the assistance and support you need.

During the course of investigations independent experts will be instructed, who may identify treatment needs. This will enable you to be aware of treatment options and to seek this on the NHS.

If liability is admitted then it may be possible to secure an early part payment of the compensation that can go towards supporting you, as well as implementing any treatment so as to enable you to recover as quickly as possible.

By your side every step of the way

We hope that our guide to how long medical negligence claims take has given you a better understanding of potential timescales and the various steps involved.

It’s important to remember that each case is different and there is no one-size-fits-all timeframe. But more important is knowing that our award-winning solicitors will be by your side at every stage, keeping you in the loop while answering any questions you might have. And in the meantime, they’ll be striving to reach a satisfactory settlement as quickly as possible.

So, whether you’re confident you have a claim or you’re unsure, please get in touch as soon as you feel ready. Our initial conversation comes free of charge and with no obligation to pursue a claim. We’ll explain your options and what’s next, including likely timescales, so you can move forward with confidence.

Key contact

Ruth Powell


Ruth is a Partner and Head of our Clinical Negligence Department. She has exclusively practised in clinical negligence since qualifying in 1995 and has a wealth of experience in complex and high value clinical negligence claims.

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