Clinical Negligence & Inquests Team

Who We Are

The Clinical Negligence (CN) Team of the Directorate of Legal Services (DLS) is the sole provider of advice, representation and training to the Public Health and Social Care sector in Northern Ireland.  The section is made up of a highly professional team of Solicitors and administrative staff who work with selected Barristers and experts to deliver a comprehensive, high quality and cost effective legal service to our valued clients in relation to clinical negligence litigation and inquests.

What We Do

In Clinical Negligence, upon initial instruction, Solicitors in the CN team work closely with Trust litigation departments, involved clinicians and staff across Trusts gathering medical records, reports, consulting with clinicians, senior Trust personnel and carrying out an extensive investigation into the treatment or care in question. Advice is given by the team in relation to breach of duty, causation and also quantum (the value of the case). This assists Trusts in determining whether to repudiate liability and defend the case where the treatment appears to be reasonable, in accordance with a body of responsible medical opinion and withstands logical analysis. Detailed advice from the team on quantum is regularly provided to help clients with financial forecasting. 

In the event that court proceedings are commenced, DLS deals with all matters which arise during the course of litigation, including:

  • Drafting court pleadings
  • Instructing counsel and experts
  • Interlocutory hearings
  • Consultations with witnesses and experts
  • Attending reviews
  • Negotiations, (where appropriate)
  • Trials in the High Court and County Court.
  • Robustly challenging third party costs including attendance at taxation hearings

Some examples of claims include;

  • Birth Injury: cerebral palsy, brachial plexus
  • Misdiagnosis/delay in diagnosis
  • Failure to refer to appropriate specialist
  • Delay in surgery/Surgical complications
  • Failure to obtain informed consent
  • Treatment pursuant to Waiting List Initiatives

The team also deal with Coroner’s Inquests. There are approximately 15,000 deaths per year in Northern Ireland and some of these deaths, due to the circumstances involved, are referred to the Coroner for preliminary investigation and may result in the need for an Inquest.

Inquests are a fact finding inquiry to establish the identity of the deceased as well as how, when and where they died. It is not to establish criminal or civil liability. DLS consult with witnesses, attend preliminary hearings, instruct counsel (if appropriate), seek expert reports and attend final hearings, providing advice and support to witnesses who are required to attend what can be a daunting process.

Training

The CN team strive to keep clients up to date with any developments in the law relating to Clinical Negligence & Inquests and provide comprehensive training in key areas such as consent, report writing, clinical negligence practice and procedure, capacity and Coroner’s law.   

DLS works with the Northern Ireland Medical & Dental Training Agency and in conjunction with the GMC to provide up to date legal training across the Health Service to junior and senior Trust staff.  Specialised training is also provided, on request, to departments within Trust hospitals such as Dermatology, Ophthalmology, Maternity Units and Intensive Care Units.  Through workshops and bespoke training, DLS engages with Trust staff in a more informal setting to share knowledge and learning and discuss relevant legal developments in this complex area.

Memberships

The CN team are all members of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Practitioners Group which offers a network to exchange information through lectures, meetings and events. The team is also represented on a number of influential groups, including the Queen's Bench Liaison Committee chaired by the Senior Queen’s Bench Judge and the Clinical Negligence subcommittee.