Medical Negligence Cases in Ireland
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. Many of these medical negligence cases arise due to the inexperience of junior doctors (1) and the high pressure that hospital staff have to work under in busy casualty departments; but mistakes can also be made by ‘background’ staff such as radiologists, technicians and administrators.
Medical negligence can occur in other areas of a hospital when the level of nursing care provided falls below an acceptable standard, when errors are made during surgery or when the incorrect treatment is administered. Faulty medical devices, poor hygiene and avoidable delays which result in the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition are further reasons why you or somebody close to you may be entitled to make medical negligence claims in Ireland.
(1) It was discovered following a recent State Claims Agency investigation that, in an emergency room setting, 74 percent of closed medical negligence cases in Ireland involved errors made by Senior House Officers (SHO’s); a grade of junior doctor.
Medical Negligence Claims Outside of a Hospital
It is also possible to make medical negligence claims for compensation if you or somebody close to you suffers an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition outside of a hospital. Patients who receive a sub-standard level of care from a GP, dentist, optician, chiropractor, psychologist or any other healthcare provider are also entitled to make claims for medical negligence compensation, provided that the injury that has been sustained could have been avoided ‘in the circumstances and at the time’ if a more appropriate course of action had been taken.
Irrespective of whether an injury has been sustained in a public hospital or in a private practice, any failure in a medical practitioner´s ‘duty of care’ to provide the best possible medical treatment will entitle you to claim compensation for medical negligence. However, as the Injuries Board has no remit to assess applications for compensation relating to negligent medical treatment, you will have to use the services of a solicitor to recover compensation for medical negligence.
Making a Claim for Medical Negligence
Medical negligence cases in Ireland usual start when a potential plaintiff first discusses the nature of their injury with a solicitor. Solicitors are conscious of the fact that anybody who comes to them seeking advice about medical negligence claims has just been through an exceptionally traumatic experience and may still be suffering from the consequences of negligent medical treatment. Therefore, the solicitor will ask you to explain the nature of the injury you sustained, how you believe it occurred and why you feel that it is attributable to the negligence of a medical practitioner who owed you – or somebody close to you – a duty of care.
If it is considered that there are grounds to start the medical negligence claims process, the solicitor will ask you for permission to access your medical records and to write to all the medical professionals who may have been involved in the negligent treatment you received. Your medical history and the responses from the medical professionals will then be reviewed by an independent medical expert to establish that you have suffered a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition which could have been avoided where it not for a poor professional performance.
Claiming Compensation for Medical Negligence
Once the independent expert confirms that you have sustained an avoidable injury due to medical negligence, your solicitor will make an official complaint – either to the hospital, the regulator of the medical practitioner or the Healthcare Ombudsman, depending on the nature of your injury and the circumstances in which it was sustained. Many potential plaintiffs contacting a solicitor only do so when they have been unable to obtain a satisfactory answer to their complaint, but it is often beneficial to have a solicitor prepare the complaint on your behalf to prevent contradictions later in the claims process.
A ‘Letter of Claim’ usually follows the official complaint depending on the nature of your injury and who the claim for medical negligence compensation is being made against. The Letter of Claim contains all the evidence of negligence compiled by the independent medical expert and, in certain circumstances, receipt of the letter will prompt the negligent party´s medical insurers to make an offer of settlement. If no offer is forthcoming, your solicitor will attempt to negotiate a settlement. It is the exception rather than the rule that medical negligence cases are resolved in court.
Compensation for Medical Negligence in Ireland
How much compensation medical negligence claims in Ireland are settled for depends on the severity of the injuries which have been sustained and how a medical negligence injury affects the victim’s quality of life. When calculating how much compensation for medical negligence you may be entitled to, your solicitor will conduct a thorough assessment of the physical and psychological trauma you have experienced and will factor in loss of amenity, pain, suffering and any financial expenses incurred as a result of medical negligence.
As such, it is difficult to calculate how much compensation medical negligence cases will be resolved for without a thorough investigation of each individual claim. Indeed, it may be a considerable period of time after a Letter of Claim is submitted and liability for your injuries is acknowledged before the full consequences of your injury is known. If this presents an issue for you financially, your solicitor may be able to apply for interim payments of compensation until your claim is ultimately concluded.
What Constitutes Medical Negligence in Ireland?
If you are in any doubt that you have suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition, you should contact our medical negligence claims helpline on Freephone 1800 848 814 to discuss your concerns directly with a solicitor. The following list is just a selection of circumstances in which it may be possible to make medical negligence claims for compensation, and the exclusion of your specific scenario does not imply that you will be unable to claim medical negligence compensation:
Medical Negligence Claims for Birth Injuries
Many of the medical negligence cases you may read about in the press concern life-changing injuries to infants in the womb or immediately after their birth. Medical negligence claims for birth injuries can also be made on behalf of your child for less severe injuries, or when you – as a mother – are injured during the delivery process due to a lack of care.
Medical Negligence Cases for Poor Nursing Care
Medical negligence cases for poor nursing care can arise from an inadequate standard of care provided at any stage of a patient´s life, but they are more commonly associated with the elderly – who may be unable to vocalise their concerns – and the care that is provided for them in hospitals and in nursing homes.
Compensation for an Adverse Reaction to Medication
If you are prescribed or administered medication, and you suffer from a side effect which causes an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition, you will be able to claim compensation for an adverse reaction to medication if it can be shown that the medication was inappropriate or would cause a reaction to drugs you were already taking.
Claiming Medical Negligence Compensation against a Dentist
Many people believe that it is only possible to claim medical negligence compensation against a dentist for something as obvious as extracting the wrong tooth. However, if a dentist performs any procedure without due cause, or overlooks an oral disease which then develops into something more serious, it will be possible to claim for medical negligence against a dentist.
Making a Compensation Claim for Surgical Errors
Compensation claims for surgical errors are particularly difficult when an incorrect procedure has been conducted. It may often 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.
Failure to Communicate the Risks involved in a Procedure
If you have undergone a procedure without being fully advised of the risks involved, and you sustain an injury as a consequence, you can claim medical negligence compensation. It does not matter whether it is a hospital procedure, a treatment at the dentists or laser eye surgery at the opticians. You must always have informed consent before undergoing a non-emergency procedure.
Cosmetic Surgery Compensation for Medical Negligence
Even when you are undergoing cosmetic surgery, you must still be advised of any risks associated with the procedure. Cosmetic surgeons have to adhere to the same medical standards as medical professionals in hospitals and, if you sustain an injury due to a cosmetic surgeon´s lack of care – or failure to communicate the risks involved with the surgery – you will be entitled to claim cosmetic surgery medical negligence compensation.
Anaesthetic Awareness Medical Negligence Compensation
Making a claim for anaesthetic awareness medical negligence compensation is also complex, because nobody will be able to quantify exactly what you went through while you were not completely anaesthetised. In most medical negligence cases involving anaesthetic awareness, victims have been partially numbed by the anaesthetic and have not experienced a great deal of physical pain; however the psychological trauma of being fully aware during a procedure can last forever.
Compensation for the Failure to Act on Test Results
A healthcare professional´s failure to act on test results can have devastating consequences for a patient. In the event that you or somebody close to you has suffered an avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to a healthcare professional´s failure in their duty of care, you will be eligible to receive compensation. This also applies to scenarios in which a healthcare professional has requested the wrong test, has delayed obtaining test results, or has failed to refer you to a consultant for an expert opinion.
Claim for Medical Negligence for Misdiagnosis
A claim for medical negligence for the delayed diagnosis of an illness or an injury can sometimes be attributable to the failure to act on test results, whereas medical negligence claims for a misdiagnosis are more commonly due to human error. In order for you to successfully claim medical negligence compensation for misdiagnosis, it has to be shown that “at the time and in the circumstances” that the wrong diagnosis was made, a competent healthcare professional would have made a correct diagnosis with the information that was available to them.
Free Assessment of Medical Negligence Cases in Ireland
Our medical negligence claims helpline has been set up to provide victims of substandard medical treatment with a free assessment of potential medical negligence cases in Ireland. If you believe that you have been caused harm as a result of negligence by any medical professional, we invite you to call our medical negligence claims helpline for free legal advice about making a claim for medical negligence compensation in Ireland.
We understand that you will have been through a highly emotional and traumatic experience, and we will treat your call with compassion and empathy. All preliminary assessments of medical negligence cases assessed by our medical negligence solicitors through our claims helpline are free of charge, and you will be under no pressure to make a claim or be under any obligation to use our medical negligence solicitors to do so.
Call our medical negligence claims helpline today on Freephone 1800 848 814, or request a call back by completing the contact form below.