Old Age and Medical Negligence – Can you be too old to Claim?

 

Today is the International Day of Older Persons.

Although you can suffer medical negligence at any time of your life, the UK’s legal system severely limits the compensation available to older people. Here we look at how this works, and consider the other difficulties which you might face as an older victim of medical negligence.

The Differences for Older People

When you bring a claim for medical negligence, there are several different components which make up your damages. The part of your claim which deals with the pain and suffering your injury caused is likely to be one of the financially smaller aspects. Unless it’s a significant injury, a large part of the damages will be made up of your financial losses, both now and in the future. This is where it can become more difficult for you as an older claimant.

If you are already retired, you won’t be able to claim for any loss of earnings, and this can significantly impact the amount of compensation you will receive. If you are still working, the losses will be calculated to the age at which you could have reasonably been expected to stop working, and that may not be far away.

Medical Negligence in the Elderly

Although you may have been fit and able before your negligent treatment, you may have multiple chronic conditions which increase the likelihood that you will have to be admitted to hospital, and the amount of time you will have to stay once there. Of course this then increases the chances that you will be given negligent treatment.

If a loved one has been admitted to hospital because of a condition associated with old age and been poorly treated while they were there, you may be able to bring a claim on their behalf. Read more about our work with claims for vulnerable adults.

There is also the question of mental capacity. If you have been appointed as an attorney by someone who does not have capacity and is subsequently injured by medical negligence, the Lasting Power of Attorney may allow you to claim on their behalf, even if you are not a relative.

Legal Hurdles

When pursuing a legal claim, it is a requirement of the Court that the costs should be kept to a proportionate level, and this is where as an older person, you might struggle to justify bringing legal action – without a severe injury, there is a good chance that legal and Court fees will be much greater than the damages awarded if you are successful.

If aren’t sure whether or not you have a claim, it is always better to check with a specialist law firm. In most cases you only have three years from the date of injury in which to claim, so it’s important to give your chosen firm as much time as possible to investigate for you.

What if I’m a Carer?

Even if you have retired you may still be acting as a carer for a spouse, a child or grandchild or even a parent. If your injury is affecting your ability to perform those duties, it is possible to claim for damages which can be used to employ a professional carer to fulfill those duties for you.

What if an older loved one has died?

If a loved one dies, even from medical negligence, the statutory bereavement damages in England and Wales are just £12,980, and if the deceased is an adult they can only be claimed by a spouse or civil partner. Again, if they had duties above those which might be reasonably expected of a spouse or parent, you may be able to claim additional damages which make bringing the claim proportionate.

Time Limits to Claim

There are strict time limits to bringing a claim for medical negligence. You have three years from the date the alleged negligence occurred, or if you are bringing the case on behalf of a deceased loved one, the date on which they died of the alleged negligence. If you believe their human rights have been breached, you have one year in which to issue the claim in court.

Talking to a Solicitor

If you have questions about potential medical negligence and would like more information, our team of legal experts are here to help you. Contact us now to find out how.