Liability Testing in Medical Negligence Case

Clinical or medical negligence claim which is also commonly called medical malpractice claim is used to refer to a process through which victim patients (who have suffered some substandard medical treatment) can legally sue their medical practitioners for negligence compensations. If claim is proved against accused medical practitioners, claimant receives compensations against their inflicted damages.If claimant cannot file negligence claim, as in the case of wrongful deaths caused by medical negligence, victim’s family or relatives can pursue legal claim and get compensations.

Establishing medical negligence in the court is however the core of the matter. In order to prove their claims claimants need to explain that doctor who was in charge of victims’ treatment owed an obligation of care towards patients, and that doctor had been negligent in performing his duties. Claimant must also show how this alleged medical negligence has caused him harms. For succeeding in getting compensation, both causation and liability must be proved.

  • Liability: It is a process of establishing that accused medical professional has been found practicing in a way that is substandard or negligent.
  • Causation: It is to show that alleged medical negligence has been the cause of injuries and harms that could have been otherwise avoided if practitioners had acted responsibly. It is assessed on the basis of ‘balance of probability’ that how much likely practitioner’s action was to have bring on injuries.

After having both of these parts of medical negligence claim proved, claimant’s damages are then evaluated in form of ‘quantum’ (present and future loss of earning, mental distress, physical damages and disabilities). It is assessed how much money will compensate all these inflicted losses.

For medical negligence cases, the liability of a medical practitioner is proved via two known tests namely: Bolitho and Bolam. Both of these tests differ in a way in which medical practice of accused practitioner is assessed. Below is an overview of these tests.

Bolitho Test: According to this test, the lords came to a decision that if the group of responsible medical professionals were not reasonable in their management, it will not be considered a defense against medical negligence claim. And if experts’ opinion used to support the defense case proved to be illogical in terms of logical evaluation, then it will be at court’s discretion to give verdict that expert body was not responsible or reasonable.Putting in simple words, if current medical practice is not up to logical or reasonable standards, it cannot be justified to defend a medical negligence case on its basis.

The advantage given to healthcare professionals through this test is that they are judged against the rules and standards specified by their own colleagues – they do not have to pass the healthcare standards laid out by third party experts.  Any ordinary medical practitioner responsibly acting in his field can define these standards.


Bolam Test: This test was originally recognized in ‘Bolam v. Friern Hospital Management Committee’ under the direction of Mr. McNair before a jury. According to this test, a medical practitioner is not considered guilty of medical negligence if his actions were in compliance with accepted practice and standards defined by a responsible group of skilled medical experts working in same specialty. medical negligence