More Articles

Frequently Asked Questions About South African Medical Negligence Cases

More and more South African medical negligence cases make the news. Patients suffer injuries such as brain damage at birth, complications after surgery because of items left in the body, strokes because of incorrect medication, and more.

Though patients have the right to reasonable standards of medical care, confidentiality of patient records, informed consent for medical treatments and the right to dignity, acknowledge complications do occur. When a mistake leads to serious injury and damages, the patient has the right to compensation.

To help you understand what medical negligence cases in South Africa, litigation and claims entails, we answer some frequently asked questions below.

Can only the patient claim for medical negligence?

No, the guardian of a minor and the dependant of a deceased patient can also claim compensation for damages suffered. In some cases, where the spouse is the main member of a medical aid, the spouse will also be part of the claim on medical expenses.

What about indemnity signs at a medical practitioner’s room?

The HPCSA has a strong stance on the ethical issue related to practitioners identifying themselves against medical negligence.

For what can a patient claim?

Past and future medical expenses. It also includes past, present and future loss of income because of the injury sustained. A dependant of the deceased patient can claim for loss of support subject to specific conditions. General Damages include compensation for pain and suffering and loss of life amenities as the result of the medical negligence.

Are all medical negligence cases heard in court?

No, out-of-court settlements can be reached. However, if the claim for compensation is more than R100 000.00 then the case is heard in the Regional Court and over R300 000.00 in the High Courts of South Africa. This can be a lengthy process which can take two to three years and even longer.

How does the court decide on the outcome of the case?

The court reviews past cases to determine reasonable compensation and rulings, in addition to reviewing the evidence, circumstances, and the testimonies given.

Which factors can hinder a successful outcome regarding the medical negligence claim?

Factors such the timeframe in which the patient takes legal steps, complications because the patient has not followed the aftercare procedures, lack of evidence, lack of medical expert testimony, and the lack of medical records and receipts for expenses etc. are hindering factors. 

What is the first step?

Make an appointment with Adele van der Walt Incorporated to review your particular situation. Bring as many records and evidence as you have available. Once reviewed and it is decided to take legal steps, our team will request all medical records on your behalf, assess the available evidence, and then forward a relevant letter of demand to the healthcare institution or doctor. The response we receive will determine whether an out-of-court settlement will be possible and whether litigation will be necessary.


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.

Contact us