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Understanding the Basics of Medical Negligence Claims in South Africa

Medical negligence claims are claims against healthcare providers to obtain compensation for damages and injury suffered. This could be as the result of the healthcare provider’s actions or failure to act according to the reasonable standard for medical care.

A common misconception is that a doctor can be held responsible for all complications related to a medical procedure. Only if the doctor could have foreseen the complication, and only if the doctor did not follow correct procedure, can it be called negligence. The doctor must warn the patient of possible side effects and risks that occur frequently. In addition, the practitioner must inform the patient about reasonable alternatives to the treatment and explain risks associated with such.

A test to determine the validity of a medical negligence claim is to assess whether a trained doctor in the same discipline with the same knowledge of the patient’s medical history, would have followed the same procedure.

If the doctor has failed to take all reasonable factors into consideration before making a diagnosis, it can also be seen as negligence. If the patient did not inform the doctor of important symptoms or medical history before the doctor made a diagnosis, it would be difficult to prove negligence.

Acknowledged complications do occur. This is why it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible after injury and damages have been suffered. The medical law attorney will be able to assist in reviewing the evidence and situation to determine whether there is enough evidence, sufficient injury and damages, and reasonable cause for taking legal action against the practitioner.

Another factor that must be present is that of the doctor-patient relationship. This means that the doctor must have a duty of care regarding the patient.

Out-of-court settlements are not uncommon. If the case is not settled out-of-court, then litigation follows. This can be a lengthy process and the patient will be required to testify in court. A judge decides, after hearing all relevant testimonies and reviewing the evidence submitted, whether the claim has merits and what compensation should be awarded.

Compensation for damages suffered includes loss of income and medical expenses. The patient’s attorney will request the patient’s medical records from the relevant parties, ask the patient to provide receipts for medical expenses, review the medical aid history and statements, consult with experts, and will also review the patient’s statements. Compensation for such claims are reasonable according to the level of injury suffered and damages related to legal costs and expenses incurred.

Call Adele van der Walt Incorporated for legal advice regarding your rights as a patient and to assist in further legal action.


Note that the information in this article is for information purposes only and should not be seen as an attempt to provide legal advice. We strongly recommend that you contact us at Adele van der Walt Incorporated for professional legal advice.

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