If you have suffered a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition which would have been avoided had an acceptable level of care been provided for you by the health services in Ireland, you should seek legal counsel as to whether you could be eligible to a medical negligence claim to compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced, any additional care you require and to replace any loss of income you may have incurred.
Despite the best efforts to provide a good service by Ireland’s under-resourced health service, there are times when avoidable mistakes happen. These may include maintaining a poor level of hygiene or a failure to correctly diagnose an injury or illness. If you have suffered due to a mistake made by a member of medical staff, this entitles you to make medical negligence claims for compensation. It has been calculated that more than half of all hospital medical negligence cases in Ireland originate from events that take place in an emergency room – most commonly for an incorrect diagnosis or a failure to act. A State Claims Agency investigation revealed that the majority of these medical negligence cases arise due to the inexperience of junior doctors and the high pressure that hospital staff have to work under in busy casualty departments. However, mistakes can also be made by other members of medical staff, such as radiologists, technicians and administrators.
Any medical profession is a highly stressful career, and the consequences of even small mistakes result in very adverse outcomes. All medical practitioners and hospitals carry medical liability insurance to protect them from the risk of large financial loss when medical negligence claims against an individual or claims for hospital medical negligence in Ireland are made. Therefore, if it can be shown that you have suffered a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition that would have been prevented if a more appropriate course of action had been taken, or a higher level of care provided, any settlement of compensation for medical negligence is paid by the insurance company and not the hospital or individual who may have been trying their best in difficult circumstances.
Examples of What Constitutes as Medical Negligence
Medical negligence is commonly claimed in Ireland for any of the following incidents:
- A delay in diagnosing, a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis
- Incorrect test results or the failure to act on test results
- An error in performance during a surgical procedure
- An error in the prescription or administration of medicines
- Inadequate follow-up care of a patient after discharge
- The failure to communicate the risks associated with a surgical procedure
- Contracting a hospital infection such as MRSA due to poor hygiene
- The extraction of the wrong tooth or the oversight of a gum disease
- Experiencing anaesthetic awareness during a surgical procedure
- The lack of nursing care during recovery – commonly resulting in bedsores
More In-Depth Examples:
Misdiagnosis of a Disease:
Approximately 40% of all medical negligence claims for compensation in Ireland are due to failures by medical staff to diagnose a serious illnesses, or the misdiagnosis of diseases. These types of medical negligence claim are also some of the most serious claims faced by medical professionals. The failure to diagnose or the misdiagnosis a serious illness can have grave consequences for the victims. The wrong treatment is likely to be prescribed, and therefore the true health concern is left untreated. Furthermore, the disease can deteriorate significantly until the correct diagnosis is made. A common example of the most serious effects of a failure to diagnose a disease involve terminal diseases such as cancer. These require early treatment in order for a patient to have the best chance of recovery, and a failed cancer diagnosis can have devastating consequences.
Some of the most high-profile medical negligence claims covered by the press concern life-changing injuries to infants in the womb or immediately after their birth. Many of these involve the mother taking medication which had adverse effects on foetal development, or a lack of adequate care being made by medical staff at the time of birth which left the baby deprived of oxygen for a period of time. Medical negligence claims for birth injuries are often made on behalf of the child by its parents. Furthermore, mothers can also claim compensation if they are injured during the delivery process due to a lack of care.
There are many different mistakes which can be made in a surgical setting, and many different people involved in the procedure who can make them. For these reasons, compensation claims for surgical errors are particularly difficult. Often, it will not be the surgeon who is at fault for your injury, but possibly a member of their support team in the operating theatre, an administrator or a technician. A full investigation will have to be carried out to find out exactly what went wrong and how such a grave error was made. Some cases, such as wrong site surgery, may have devastating results for the victim. It is in these instances where the case for medical negligence are the most clear-cut.
In Ireland, the healthcare system usually succeeds in patients mostly receive a very high level of medical care. However medical professionals are working in a largely under-staffed and under-funded system, and are therefore prone to make mistakes. When these mistakes lead to health problems, or when health deteriorates as a result of a poor standard of treatment, it could constitute medical negligence. Due to the high-stress environment of working within the health system in Ireland, the standards of care provided by medical staff can occasionally fall to sub-standard. Claims are commonly made on behalf of the elderly-who are often not able to voice their concerns by themselves-regarding the standard of care provided to them in nursing homes.
There are many more reasons why people are eligible to make claims for medical negligence compensation. If you are unsure what constitutes medical negligence and whether an error has caused a health problem serious enough to warrant a claim for medical negligence compensation, you should seek legal advice immediately.
Making Medical Negligence Claims in Ireland
Making a claim for medical negligence in Ireland is a complicated process. Due to their complex nature, the Injuries Board will decline to assess any medical negligence claims submitted to them. Therefore, it is up to your solicitor to produce the strongest possible case on your behalf, provided that they believe you have a claim for medical negligence compensation which is worthwhile to pursue. Your solicitor will request your medical records and have them reviewed by independent experts in the field of the treatment you underwent. A parallel investigation should also be underway at the medical facility at which you received the negligent treatment. If there is no response to your claim within a reasonable amount of time, it is possible to request a Health Service Executive review into the incident.
It is the responsibility of the solicitor to present the case directly to the negligent medical practitioner or hospital, or their insurers, in the form of a “Letter of Claim”. If sufficient evidence of medical negligence is presented to them, the insurance company may make an offer to settle your claim immediately. The amount of compensation will be negotiated between the two legal teams involved in the case. However, it is unlikely that a full admission of liability will be forthcoming immediately.
If no appropriate offer of settlement for the medical negligence claim is received, or your medical negligence compensation claim is contested by the defendants, your medical solicitor will then issue court proceedings. This is often used as an incentive for the state or private medical insurers need to agree to a more appropriate settlement, and does not necessarily mean that a full court proceeding will be necessary. It is common that a settlement of your claim will be negotiated before a court appearance is necessary. Most solicitors will only go to court as a last resort, if the defendants refuse to accept liability or no reasonable offer of compensation is made.
There are other types of claim which can be made-such as claiming for an injury caused by a faulty medical device-which require different channels to be followed. Always consult your solicitor as to what is the best course of action considering your injury and personal circumstances.
Amount of Compensation for Medical Negligence in Ireland
Settlements of compensation for medical negligence cases in Ireland usually have four main components. The components which will be invoked into a claim depend on the specifics of the case. Furthermore, additional components may be included in your claim to ensure you receive a fair settlement. The four main components of medical negligence claims are:
Compensation for your Pain and Suffering – The Book of Quantum is used as an aid for calculating compensation for your pain and suffering. This is a volume used in medical negligence cases that lists a variety of injuries and allocates them a financial value. This value varies according to the severity and permanence of the injury, and how it may specifically affect certain aspects of the victim’s life.
Compensation for your Emotional Trauma – The amount of psychological injury you have sustained will have to be quantified by an appropriate specialist. This can vary considerably depending on the nature of the trauma experienced and how the victim copes with it. The value of compensation for emotional trauma is often contested by defendants in medical negligence cases. Under the Civil Liability Act 1962, medical negligence claims following the loss of a loved one will automatically request the maximum allowable for mental distress.
Compensation for your Loss of Amenity – This component of medical negligence compensation considers the impact on your quality of life that your injury has had, such as preventing you from partaking in certain activities you may have enjoyed before an injury prevented you from doing so. In general, it accounts for the non-financial changes you have had to make to your way of life to account for your injury.
Special Damages for Costs and Expenses – Special damages compensation your for costs that you have incurred – or may incur in the future for medical treatment – which can be directly attributed to your injury. If an injury prevents you from being able to return to work, this loss of income is accounted for by special damages. This is a very important factor, particularly in medical negligence cases.
It is also possible that the defendant may claim that you should accept some liability for the injury you sustained due to medical negligence. This “contributory negligence” may be as a result of you ineffectively communicating the symptoms of your illness to the medical staff, or failing to inform them of any pre-existing conditions. In these cases, there will be an appropriate amount deducted from your compensation due to your own lack of care.
Medical Negligence Claims for Children
If your child has suffered an injury due to a lack of care by a medical professional, they are not allowed to claim for medical negligence in Ireland until they reach the age of eighteen. Despite the Statute of Limitations (the two-year limit on making medical negligence claims) not beginning until the child reaches this age, meaning that they themselves could make a claim for a childhood injury, sufficient evidence may be difficult to obtain if the incident was many years prior. It is advised that parents should make a medical negligence compensation claim on behalf of their child acting as a “next friend”.
If a claim is made on behalf of a child, it cannot be settled in its entirety without making its way through the courts. The process of making a claim is similar to that outlined above, but the compensation must be approved by a judge to ensure that it is in the child’s best interests.
Once approved, the funds from the compensation settlement will be paid into court accounts, where they will remain in an interest-yielding account until the child reaches eighteen years of age and can access the funds themselves. By application to the court, it is possible for a parent to access these funds if they are needed to cover medical or health expenses.
No two medical negligence claims are the same. So even if you have suffered an injury due to medical negligence which is similar to someone you know, the only component of a compensation settlement that is likely to be comparable is the compensation for your pain and suffering. The components of compensation for medical negligence in Ireland can vary significantly. You should discuss the circumstances of your injury directly with an experienced solicitor.
Our solicitor will assess your case with care, advise you whether you have a compensation claim which is worth your while to pursue and answer any questions you may have regarding medical negligence claims against an individual practitioner or claims for hospital medical negligence in Ireland.