Medical Negligence Glossary

Adverse Incident

Healthcare professionals have taken a dislike to the expression 'medical accident' and tend to refer to 'adverse incidents' instead. In effect, the terms mean the same thing.

Balance of probabilities

The standard of proof is that of the "balance of probabilities", i.e. the patient must show that a particular event or its consequences are more likely to have occurred than not (in other words probable rather than possible, more than 50% chance, etc)

Breach of duty

If your care falls below a reasonable standard, the healthcare professional is in breach of his or her duty to you. It is however a defence in medical claims if the healthcare professional can show that there is a responsible body of practitioners who would support the care/treatment as being reasonable in the circumstances, even if it is a minority view. The healthcare professional"s competence is to be judged by the standards and practices prevailing at the time of the treatment

Burden of proof

The onus is on the patent to prove on the balance of probabilities both that the practitioner's conduct fell below proper standards; and also that it was as a result of that failure that he/she suffered injury


It is not enough to show that a practitioner's conduct fell below a reasonable standard. It is also necessary to show that, but for the failure, the patient would not have suffered the injury of which he/she now complains

Clinical Negligence

The terms "clinical negligence" and "medical negligence" are essentially interchangeable. The expression "medical negligence" was changed to "clinical negligence" in the legal world following pressure from Doctors, who felt that the word "medical" implied that claims could only be brought against Doctors, whereas the word "clinical" embraces all other health professionals as well, such as nurses, therapists, opticians and dentists.


There are 2 types of compensation:

Duty of care

All healthcare professionals have a duty to their patients to provide care to the standard of a reasonably competent practitioner, occupying an equivalent post.


This means the statutory time limit within which a claim must be brought. This is a very complex subject but the general rule in clinical negligence cases is that court proceedings must be issued within 3 years from the date of the alleged negligent medical treatment. However, if you did not know about the negligence until a later date, it may be possible to satisfy the court that the 3 year time limit does not begin to run until the date on which you knew (or ought reasonably to have known) tha

Medical accident

See 'medical negligence'. Not all medical accidents are as a result of negligence. There may be a non negligent explanation for a poor outcome, such as unavoidable complications, in which case it is not possible to make a claim.

Medical negligence

Medical negligence is a 'medical accident' where a patient has been harmed because a doctor or other healthcare professional has not given the proper standard of care (i.e. is in breach of his/her 'duty of care'.).


To succeed in a negligence claim, you must prove 3 things:


This is the legal term meaning the financial value of the claim in terms of damages.

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