Only a relatively small number of cases go to court. The majority are settled beforehand. Not all cases are suitable for claims in medical negligence because of a number of factors including:
1) A claim is unlikely to succeed
- The treatment was less than optimal or caused injury but it falls short of unacceptable medical treatment;
- Even if the practitioner made a mistake, they acted with reasonable skill and care.
- Although you can prove that the treatment was negligent, it can’t be established that it caused or materially contributed to the harm or injury suffered.
- The claim is brought after the time limit has expired.
- The work involved to finalise the claim exceeds the likely amount of compensation.
2) You are seeking something other than compensation
- An investigation or more information.
- An explanation or an apology.
- An assurance that the same thing won’t happen in the future.
3) You want to avoid the time, expense, uncertainty and stress of suing a health practitioner or health organisation.
In such circumstances, you or a solicitor on your behalf can make a formal written complaint to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) or the relevant health Council of NSW, both of which deal jointly with complaints about the conduct, health or performance of health practitioners in NSW. You can also make your complaint to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency or the National Board for the relevant profession however ultimately it is the HCCC (in consultation with the relevant Council) which handles the investigation of complaints about healthcare providers.
The HCCC has many powers but it cannot order compensation. Outcomes of complaints referred to the HCCC include:
- No further action
- Imposing restrictions on a practitioner’s registration
- Making public comments to improve future practice or treatment
- Prosecuting complaints at a disciplinary tribunal
Further information is available on the HCCC website. See also our information sheets on regulation of practitioners across a variety of health professions.
How can we help?
If you are looking for assistance with making a complaint about a health practitioner or a health organisation, we can help you navigate the process.
*The material provided in our information sheets is for general knowledge only and is not a substitute for independent legal advice. For further information about the issues affecting you, please contact one of our experienced and professional lawyers for expert advice.