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What is a duty to warn & informed consent?

In order to undertake any treatment patients must provide their informed consent.

Medical practitioners owe a duty of care to their patients, and practitioners have an overriding duty is the duty to warn patients of risks associated with treatments and procedures.

In order to have given informed consent patients must be warned of risks associated with treatment or procedure.

Can I make a claim if the doctor failed to warn or obtain my informed consent?

If treatment or a procedure is done without informed consent it is known as trespass to the person and is compensable at law. Noting the exception for emergency treatment.

When must a practitioner warn a patient?

All medical negligence / medical malpractice claims are governed by the Civil Liability Act 2002 (CLA). Section 5H of the Act provides that a practitioner does not have a proactive duty to warn a patient of an obvious risk. An obvious risk is defined by legislation as a “common knowledge” risk.

It was established in Rogers v Whitaker (1992) 175 CLR 479 that practitioners must warn their patients of risks that would in that particular circumstances be of significance to that patient.

How does the duty to warn apply?

If you suffer an injury as a result of an obvious risk and you were not warned you will not be able to make a medical negligence claim as you will be precluded under section 5H.

While it is well established in case law that a practitioner has a duty to warn, duty to warn cases are very difficult to win as the risks that the practitioner has a duty to warn about depend solely on the individual circumstances of the particular case.

There is no set list of risks that practitioners must warn patients of.

Therefore, each case must be assessed on an individual basis. For example, the duty to warn in emergencies is very different to the duty to warn of risks associated with elective treatment.

How to win my case?

To be successful in your failure to warn case you will need to prove the following:

  1. The practitioner owed you a duty to warn
    • You will need to prove that the duty was not an obvious risk
    • You will need to prove that in your circumstances the risk was of significance to you
  2. The practitioner breached that duty to warn
    • You will need to prove that the practitioner did not warn you and you were not informed
  3. The risk was not insignificant, and that injury was sustained
    • You will need to prove that the risk suffered was directly caused by the materialisation of the risk and not some other complication or condition/comorbidity
  4. You would not have agreed to the surgery had you been informed of the risk

See our article What do I Need to Prove to be Successful in my Medical Negligence case?

Why are these cases so difficult?

There are numerous elements that must be satisfied to be successful in a failure to warn case.

The element that makes these cases so difficulty to win is the fourth element, that you would not have undergone the surgery had you know of the risk.

In effect you need to prove your “pre-injury mindset” which is very difficult to do, as in hindsight most people would wish things to have gone differently, but at the time lacked the foresight to actively make an alternate decision.

This evidence is crucial to your claim. This evidence cannot be given by way of a written statement or an oral submission. Strong evidence must be adduced to support the position that had you known you would not have had the treatment.

If you cannot prove the fourth element you will lose your case.

Duty to warn cases are very complex and are often difficult to win. If you believe you have a failure to warn case contact Garling & Co Lawyers for a free case assessment.

About Matthew Garling

Matthew Garling, Founder of Garling & Co is a NSW Law Society Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law. He specialises in compensation law and has acted on behalf of thousands of injured people in work accidents, motor vehicle accidents and negligence cases over the last 20 years.

Zee
14:20 15 Jan 22
I would like to thank the entire team at Garling and Co for being in my corner throughout the worst years I've experienced in my life.I chose Garling and Co in the end after being seriously injured... at work and needing representation, something I should have done years prior.I met with over 12 other legal firms in Sydney. Large,medium, small and all in between. Some were friends, some family, some were sharks, many were pressuring, many promised the world, Matthew was not like that.Matthew was the benchmark as he was one of the first I spoke with and ultimately he stood out in the end as I felt he was the most genuine.From the outset to the conclusion, I found Matthew to be very polite, easy to communicate with and extremely down to earth.He explained everything simply, he had answers for any questions along the way. He told me it how it was, not just what I wanted to hear.Matthew is a genuine nice guy that runs a very efficient and professional law firm. I made the correct choice engaging him in my claims and would not hesitate in recommending him.Renee was also terrific in handling my TPD claim which was literally finalised faster then international postage.Allison, Rebecca and Kelli were all great, always.Thanks again Garling and Co.read more
mark S.
06:30 23 Dec 21
I found from my very first meeting With Matthew that he was upfront honest and to the point . He thoroughly investigated my claim and we agreed too proceed.The staff at Garling and Co are wonderful... and helpful and I was kept informed and upto date from day one till the end .They made me feel confident and secure and I know I had the best team possible for my best outcome .I can’t thank Matthew and the team for their wonderful serviceread more
Daniel F.
08:48 10 Nov 21
My wife suffered psychological injury.Never having similar experience she had to get legal advice.Workers compensation law is complex and she needed someone to help her navigate her way through.... There are many compensation lawyers but not all with enough experience and strong reputation . We have finally decided to go with Matthew and his team based on the independent website reviews .Looking back now we have made the right choice .There is lot of hurdles and having trustworthy lawyer with great communication skills on your side can make huge difference .My wife can now try to move on with the compensation she deserved.Thanks to Matthew ,Allison ,Emma,Rebecca and rest of the team. Thank you again.Daniel and Veerayaread more
K B.
07:35 28 Oct 21
When you work for an employer for a number of decades and suffer a debilitating injury, you expect compassion, support and belief that you are genuine. When you don’t get that and then also have to... deal with Workers Compensation Insurers it slowly breaks you.That's when you need amazing support like Matthew Garling and his team. From my first meeting with Matthew I was confident I was referred to the right guy. I couldn’t be more pleased with my outcome. Matthew is the Guru of workers compensation, he is professional, easy to work with, nothings a bother and most importantly he gets great results. Do not think twice about using Garling and Co Lawyers.Thank you Matthew, Renee, Allison and Kelli for your invaluable support.read more
Moussa I.
14:23 20 Sep 21
Great attitude! they return my call every time I callI'm very confident I will reach something good with garling &co
Dulce L.
08:48 23 Aug 21
Garling & Co have been exceptional. Matthew was always professional attentive clear and concise, I felt up most confidence in his management dealing with my matter always had my best interest. i... highly recommend Garling & Co Lawyersread more
Melissa H
11:53 10 Aug 21
I am grateful to have had Matthew represent me on my motor vehicle compensation claim.After meeting with two lawyers previous to deciding on Garling and co, I was left unsure and confused as to... where I stood regarding my claim. Matthew and Allison were incredibly helpful, put my mind at ease, and took the worry and stress out of an already difficult situation.Through the settlement process they would always keep me informed and made time to answer all of my questions. I am really pleased with the outcome of the settlement.Thank you to the team at Garling and Coread more
Violeta C.
07:30 05 Aug 21
My experience with Garling & Co was great. Matthew was always professional, attentive and communicated in a clear manner. I felt confident in his management of my matter & always had my best interest... in mind.I have no reservation in recommending Matthew & the Garling & Co team.read more
Sonia C.
03:04 05 Aug 21
Ann F.
04:11 04 Aug 21
Professional and helpful
READ ALL TESTIMONIALS

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Zee
14:20 15 Jan 22
I would like to thank the entire team at Garling and Co for being in my corner throughout the worst years I've experienced in my life.I chose Garling and Co in the end after being seriously injured... at work and needing representation, something I should have done years prior.I met with over 12 other legal firms in Sydney. Large,medium, small and all in between. Some were friends, some family, some were sharks, many were pressuring, many promised the world, Matthew was not like that.Matthew was the benchmark as he was one of the first I spoke with and ultimately he stood out in the end as I felt he was the most genuine.From the outset to the conclusion, I found Matthew to be very polite, easy to communicate with and extremely down to earth.He explained everything simply, he had answers for any questions along the way. He told me it how it was, not just what I wanted to hear.Matthew is a genuine nice guy that runs a very efficient and professional law firm. I made the correct choice engaging him in my claims and would not hesitate in recommending him.Renee was also terrific in handling my TPD claim which was literally finalised faster then international postage.Allison, Rebecca and Kelli were all great, always.Thanks again Garling and Co.read more
mark S.
06:30 23 Dec 21
I found from my very first meeting With Matthew that he was upfront honest and to the point . He thoroughly investigated my claim and we agreed too proceed.The staff at Garling and Co are wonderful... and helpful and I was kept informed and upto date from day one till the end .They made me feel confident and secure and I know I had the best team possible for my best outcome .I can’t thank Matthew and the team for their wonderful serviceread more
Daniel F.
08:48 10 Nov 21
My wife suffered psychological injury.Never having similar experience she had to get legal advice.Workers compensation law is complex and she needed someone to help her navigate her way through.... There are many compensation lawyers but not all with enough experience and strong reputation . We have finally decided to go with Matthew and his team based on the independent website reviews .Looking back now we have made the right choice .There is lot of hurdles and having trustworthy lawyer with great communication skills on your side can make huge difference .My wife can now try to move on with the compensation she deserved.Thanks to Matthew ,Allison ,Emma,Rebecca and rest of the team. Thank you again.Daniel and Veerayaread more
K B.
07:35 28 Oct 21
When you work for an employer for a number of decades and suffer a debilitating injury, you expect compassion, support and belief that you are genuine. When you don’t get that and then also have to... deal with Workers Compensation Insurers it slowly breaks you.That's when you need amazing support like Matthew Garling and his team. From my first meeting with Matthew I was confident I was referred to the right guy. I couldn’t be more pleased with my outcome. Matthew is the Guru of workers compensation, he is professional, easy to work with, nothings a bother and most importantly he gets great results. Do not think twice about using Garling and Co Lawyers.Thank you Matthew, Renee, Allison and Kelli for your invaluable support.read more
Moussa I.
14:23 20 Sep 21
Great attitude! they return my call every time I callI'm very confident I will reach something good with garling &co
Dulce L.
08:48 23 Aug 21
Garling & Co have been exceptional. Matthew was always professional attentive clear and concise, I felt up most confidence in his management dealing with my matter always had my best interest. i... highly recommend Garling & Co Lawyersread more
Melissa H
11:53 10 Aug 21
I am grateful to have had Matthew represent me on my motor vehicle compensation claim.After meeting with two lawyers previous to deciding on Garling and co, I was left unsure and confused as to... where I stood regarding my claim. Matthew and Allison were incredibly helpful, put my mind at ease, and took the worry and stress out of an already difficult situation.Through the settlement process they would always keep me informed and made time to answer all of my questions. I am really pleased with the outcome of the settlement.Thank you to the team at Garling and Coread more
Violeta C.
07:30 05 Aug 21
My experience with Garling & Co was great. Matthew was always professional, attentive and communicated in a clear manner. I felt confident in his management of my matter & always had my best interest... in mind.I have no reservation in recommending Matthew & the Garling & Co team.read more
Sonia C.
03:04 05 Aug 21
Ann F.
04:11 04 Aug 21
Professional and helpful
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