Patient complaints that lead to litigation are a common problem in obstetrics, and cost the NHS approximately £4.2 billion in 2020/21. Individuals resort to litigation for a number of reasons, including a desire to have questions answered and the need for financial recompense for damages. Litigation proceeds following a standard process through the civil courts, in which a judge determines the outcome if a case reaches court. The burden of proof required for successful litigation is the balance of probabilities rather than beyond all reasonable doubt. There are three core principles governing medical litigation: Bolam. Bolitho and Montgomery. Some legal cases could be avoided by a transparent response to complaints. Good record keeping and an honest approach to problems and adverse outcomes are recommended for all involved in clinical care.
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Published online: March 17, 2022
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