Hospital Negligence and Hospital Accidents
There are many different scenarios under which it is possible to make hospital negligence compensation claims and two distinct paths for claiming hospital injury compensation.
1. Claims for personal injuries due to – for example – tripping on an uneven surface in the hospital car park or contracting food poisoning in the hospital canteen are what are known as public liability claims.
2. Claims for personal injuries due to a poor standard of treatment or poor nursing care are regarded as hospital based medical negligence claims.
This article focuses on the medical negligence injuries that can be sustained in a hospital or other medical facility.
Consult A Hospital Negligence Claims Expert
While we strive to ensure the articles on this site are factually accurate you should never rely on the information published below as the grounds for making hospital negligence claims. It is impossible to cover every conceivable circumstance that might result in an injury in hospital. Therefore you should always consult a solicitor before taking any action that may have legal consequences.
Hospital Negligence and The Injuries Board
You can apply to the Injuries Board for hospital injury compensation when you have suffered an injury in a public liability accident, but the Injuries Board will decline any applications for assessment when your claim concerns medical negligence as they are not authorised to conduct assessments of hospital negligence claims. For this type of injury you will need to use a solicitor to make your claim.
Claims for Medical Procedure Errors
Claims for medical procedure errors are among the most complex of hospital negligence compensation claims. Their success relies on an independent medical expert establishing that “in the circumstances and at the time” an alternative course of action would have prevented a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition from occurring (collectively known as an “adverse effect”).
Furthermore, in many cases, it may not have been the medical professional performing the procedure who was at fault. Mistakes made by administrators, technicians and auxiliary staff could have given the medical professional incorrect information which was acted upon in good faith. Therefore, all claims for hospital medical negligence have to be investigated thoroughly to identify exactly where the negligence occurred.
Claim against a Hospital Consultant
A claim against a hospital consultant is one such example of where you may have sustained an injury during a medical procedure, but the fault for the injury lay with a consultant who misdiagnosed the condition with which you were suffering, or who failed to act quickly when test results indicated that an emergency procedure was required – such scenarios most commonly occur in the misdiagnosis of cancer or in labour wards of Irish hospitals.
Errors also frequently occur in the consulting rooms of Accident and Emergency Departments, but it is important to remember that although you may have been a victim of hospital medical negligence*, you will not be eligible to make a claim for hospital injury compensation unless you have suffered an “adverse effect” (typically a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition) that could have been avoided at the time and in the circumstances with reasonable care.
Claim for a Pierced Bladder during Surgery
A claim for a pierced bladder during surgery is one of the rare hospital negligence compensation claims when there can be nobody other than the surgeon conducting the procedure at fault for your injury. Consequently, hospital negligence compensation claims of this nature are a good example to demonstrate how claims for hospital injury compensation are made.
- Following a formal complaint and investigation, your solicitor will have acquired (with your permission) the notes relating to the treatment you received in hospital. These will be reviewed by an independent medical expert, who will advise you whether or not you have a claim for hospital injury compensation which is worth your while to pursue.
- If you decide to proceed, your solicitor will send a “Letter of Claim” to the negligent party(s), supporting it with the evidence of negligence compiled by the independent medical expert and inviting an offer of settlement. Doctors in Ireland have to have medical insurance before they are allowed to practise, while other hospital employees are usually indemnified by the HSE.
- It could be several months before a reply is received, during which time (if your injury occurred in a private hospital) you may be approached by an insurance company with an unsolicited offer of hospital injury compensation. Such offers should always be referred to your solicitor to ensure they represent a fair settlement of your claim.
- How much compensation for hospital medical negligence* you are entitled to will depend on the nature and permanence of your injury and how it has affected your quality of life. Your solicitor should ask you to maintain a diary in which you keep a record of the times your injury prevented you from pursuing your regular social and leisure activities. The final settlement of your claim will be influenced by your age, your sex and your previous level of health.
Despite there being no defence against a claim for a pierced bladder during surgery, it may still take many months to resolve your claim. If your solicitor believes that an insurance company or the Health Service Executive/State Claims Agency are unreasonably slow in negotiating a settlement, he or she may initiate court proceedings on your behalf.
It is unlikely that a court appearance will be necessary to resolve your claim – particularly in a case when your surgeon has undoubtedly displayed a poor professional performance. However settlements of hospital negligence claims in which a child is the plaintiff have to be approved by a judge before payment of the settlement can be made into court.
Claim for a Medication Error by a Nurse in Hospital
Many grey areas exist in hospital negligence claims. A nurse may clearly have made a mistake in a giving you the wrong medicine, but a claim for a medication error by a nurse in hospital has to show you suffered an adverse effect from the avoidable error which resulted in an injury sufficiently significant to justify a claim.
Compensation for Being Given the Wrong Medicine by a Nurse
It might also be the case that it was not the nurse who was at fault for giving you the wrong medicine, but the doctor who prescribed it, or the pharmacist who dispensed it. Any claim for compensation for being given the wrong medication by a nurse has to demonstrate where the error was made and not just that it happened.
Compensation for Being Prescribed the Wrong Medicine
Any settlement of compensation for being prescribed the wrong medicine also has to take into account any contribution you made to the cause of your “adverse effect” or the extent of it. If you were inadvertently prescribed the wrong medicine, but you continued to take it even though it was making you ill, the settlement of your claim will likely be reduced to reflect your own lack of care.
Compensation for Accidents in Hospitals
There are certain circumstances when, as a patient, you may have suffered an injury in a hospital accident which may appear to be public liability claim (and therefore submitted to the Injuries Board) but which are, in fact, hospital medical negligence claims because they happened due to a lack of nursing care. We focus on two of these below.
Injury Claim for a Patient Slipping on the Floor
One such instance would be if you slipped and injured yourself while getting in or out of your hospital bed, or while walking around a ward. One of the main criteria for making an injury claim for a patient slipping on the floor would be whether or not a risk assessment had been conducted to establish if you were capable of getting in and out of bed independently.
Injury Claim for a Hospital Patient Slipping in the Shower
A similar scenario would exist if you were injured due to slipping in the shower in a hospital. The independent medical expert supporting your solicitor would want to know why you were allowed to have an unattended shower, and the negligent party in an injury claim for a hospital patient slipping in the shower could be an individual nurse who simply made an error of judgement, your consultant doctor who assessed that you were fit enough to take a shower independently or the hospital for not scheduling sufficient nursing staff to be available at the time of your shower.
Seek Legal Advice about Hospital Negligence Claims
There are many more hospital medical negligence scenarios that have not been covered in this article, but the information above should have provided an overview of the problems that exist determining between accidents in hospitals that are public liability issues and hospital negligence compensation claims that are due to a lack of care in the treatment that you received in hospital.
More general information about hospital negligence compensation claims can be found on our medical negligence claims page but, for specific legal advice relating to your individual circumstances, you should speak with a solicitor at the first possible opportunity; explaining to him or her why you were in hospital, what treatment you received, what injury you sustained in hospital, and why you believe it was attributable to hospital medical negligence.