Successful hospital abuse compensation claim
If you have suffered hospital abuse and would like to know if you can claim compensation, then contact our free confidential helpline on 0333 888 0404 or send an email to us at [email protected]
We were recently contacted by a woman who wanted legal guidance about making a compensation claim for sexual abuse she had suffered while she was in an NHS psychiatric unit.
Abused while in hospital
She was being treated as an in-patient and was under the care of many medical professionals while in hospital, including an Occupational Therapist. Within days of being admitted to hospital the Occupational Therapist began flirting with her. He called her ‘beautiful’ and told her that she did not look like a patient. The flirting escalated. The Occupational Therapist started grooming the patient, who was confused and unable to properly deal with what was happening. The abuse began in a pottery room when the Occupational Therapist took her top off and kissed her. He then continued the abuse by entering her private room and having sex with her on numerous occasions.
As a result of her frail mental state and the position of trust that the Occupational Therapist held, the woman was unable to legally consent to the sexual acts committed. She felt very confused by what was happening to her and did not know how to make it stop or how to tell anyone.
The abuse continued even after she was discharged from hospital, with the Occupational Therapist continuing to contact and visit her.
Complaints brushed off
Eventually the woman found the courage to complain about the conduct of the Occupational Therapist to the NHS Trust. However her concerns were brushed off. She felt so strongly that what had happened to her was wrong that she reported it to the police. The police were unable to bring charges against the Occupational Therapist though, which she was bitterly disappointed about.
When facing the likelihood of readmission to a psychiatric unit some time later she realised that she was very scared and worried about returning for treatment because of what the Occupational Therapist had done to her previously. She therefore made a further report to the police, but again, no criminal charges were brought against the Occupational Therapist.
Making a no win, no fee compensation claim
It was against this background that she contacted our legal helpline many years later for a free consultation. She told us that she had never been able to forget what had happened to her in hospital and felt that it continued to interfere with her ongoing psychiatric treatment and ability to engage with that treatment.
Having listened to her experiences we felt that she would be entitled to make a claim for the hospital abuse she had suffered and offered to deal with her case on a No Win, No Fee basis.
Overcoming the delay in making a claim
The law says that an employer is responsible for the actions of its staff if they are committed and connected to the course of their employment. We therefore felt sure that the NHS would be found legally liable for what the Occupational Therapist had done.
However a major difficulty our client faced was the time delay. When she contacted us it was already over 10 years since the hospital abuse had begun. The usual rule is that claims for injury or abuse involving adults must be made within three years, so she was therefore outside the usual time limit. But because we are experts in the specialised area of abuse claims we know that the courts will often be understanding of why those who have suffered abuse are unable to bring their claims within the standard three year period. The courts will consider a range of factors when deciding whether to allow a claim to be brought late, including the reason for the delay and whether it is still possible for there to be a fair trial.
We therefore pressed on with the claim, formally setting out the reasons for the delay and the evidence we had available to support the claim, including information from medical notes and police records. This resulted in the claim being accepted and the NHS admitting that they were legally liable for what the Occupational Therapist, their employee, had done.
This was excellent news and a huge relief for our client. It meant that we could focus on determining the amount of compensation she was entitled to receive. This involved presenting details of the impact which the abuse had on her life, both in terms of her health and happiness and also her ability to work, her requirement for treatment and so on.
She had a complicated medical past and had obviously been very unwell when the abuse happened. Therefore it was difficult to pick apart what difficulties and harm was caused by the abuse and what was part of her underlying difficulties and other adverse life events. We therefore arranged for her to be examined by an independent consultant psychiatrist who prepared a helpful report on these issues.
Out of court settlement
We then arranged for her to meet with a specialist abuse barrister to discuss the value of her claim, the evidence and tactics. This led to a period of negotiation with the lawyers representing the NHS and we achieved an out of court compensation settlement of £70,000.
For guidance on making a hospital abuse claim contact our free confidential helpline by phone or email.