As a continuation of our guide to medical negligence claims related to surgery, our senior Medical Negligence Solicitor, Daniel Comerford, examines 2 successful NHS medical negligence cases involving negligent surgery:
- The case of Miss C
- The case of Master P
Using these NHS medical negligence claims cases as examples, Daniel explains that sometimes significantly worse injuries caused by medical negligence do not result in significantly more compensation for the patient.
1. Miss C’s Negligent Surgery (2014)
Miss C suffered with an ongoing nasal obstruction. When she was 11 years old when she was admitted to hospital for an elective procedure to:
- Remove her tonsils (tonsillectomy)
- Remove her adenoids (adenoidectomy)
- Pass a probe (diathermy) emitting heat energy just below the surface of the turbinate bones to shrink these (sub-mucosal diathermy to inferior turbinates).
The procedure itself was uneventful. At the end of the procedure, the surgeon withdrew the diathermy needle out of Miss C’s nostrils. Unfortunately the diathermy was still engaged whilst it was withdrawn and, as a result, emitted heat energy causing burns to both nostrils.
Miss C was treated in a burns unit and underwent reconstructive surgery 4 months after the negligence. Miss C was left with a scar to the right nostril measuring around 1mm and no scar could be seen to the left nostril.
Miss C instructed specialist Medical Negligence Solicitors who advised her on bringing an NHS medical negligence claim and helped her secure a compensation payout of £9,159.
2. Master P’s Negligent Surgery (2013)
Master P suffered an inadvertent laceration to his neck at birth as a result of the improper use of forceps. P was delivered with the use of forceps. The laceration was 3-5cm long on the right side of his neck. The laceration was full thickness through the subcutaneous layer, revealing the muscle below.
Master P underwent closure of the wound under general anaesthesia the following day. He was left with a permanent, visible scar that was approximately 5.5cm long. The scar was quite visible as it had adhered to the underlying muscle, causing it to dimple when he moved his head. During the next one to two years, he would require revision surgery under general anaesthetic to excise the scar and remove its tethering to the underlying muscle.
The judge awarded General Damages of £11,500.
In our Medical Negligence Claims Guide we looked at the 2 different components of compensation and the different factors that affect how much medical negligence compensation is paid. In our review of these cases we are only looking at general damages.
Both of the above medical negligence cases involve young people left with scarring. Both claims settled for very similar amounts however there are a number of factors that, at first glance, would point towards Master P being entitled to more compensation than Miss C:
- Master P’s scarring was 5.5 cm, Miss C’s was only 1mm (Master P’s scarring was over 50 times the length of Miss C’s)
- Master P’s scarring was very noticeable but Miss C’s wasn’t
- Master P underwent 2 further procedures under general anesthetic as a result of the negligence whereas Miss C only underwent 1
- Because of their ages at the time of injury, Master P will live with the scar for longer than Miss C
Surprisingly, the reason Master P did not recover significantly more compensation than Miss C was simply because he is male. By way of example, the tariff system for these damages in 2013 was as follows:
|Extent of facial disfigurement||Range for males||Range for females|
|Very Severe Scarring||£24,090 to £53,075||£39,160 to £78,650|
|Less Severe Scarring||£14,520 to £24,310||£24,350 to £39,160|
|Significant Scarring||£7,370 to £14,520||£14,520 to £24,310|
|Less Significant Scarring||£3,190 to £7,370||£3,190 to £11,110|
|Trivial Scarring||£1,375 to £2,860||£1,375 to £2,860|
Until recently, in medical negligence cases involving scarring, females would recover more for the same injuries. Happily, the Judicial College (who issues the guidelines for general damages) now suggest that the distinction between male and female can no longer be justified and, as a result, the different ranges have now been merged.
Hopefully the above illustrates some of the difficulties involved in calculating how much medical negligence compensation a client should recover and why it is essential to instruct a specialist Medical Negligence Solicitor to help you navigate the claims process.
At Co-op Legal Services our client’s information always remains confidential. The above cases were not dealt with by our Medical Negligence Solicitors but were reported in the Personal Injuries Quantum Database of Lawtel.