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Medical Negligence

Some reports indicate that over 50% of all hospital medical negligence cases in Ireland are linked to an experience in an emergency room like an incorrect diagnosis or a failure to take a certain course of action. Normally such cases of negligence come about due to a lack of experience on the part of junior doctors or the pressure that hospital staff try to treat people under. In addition to these errors can also be made by ‘background’ staff including radiologists, technicians and hospital administrators.

Medical negligence can also be encountered in other areas of a hospital when the level of nursing care provided drops below an acceptable level, when mistakes are made during surgery or when the incorrect treatment is being administered. Damaged medical devices, unacceptable hygiene levels and avoidable delays which lead to an the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition are other reasons why you or somebody close to you may be able to initiate medical negligence claims in Ireland.

It was found after a recent State Claims Agency review that, in an emergency room setting, 74% of closed medical negligence cases in Ireland involved mistakes made by Senior House Officers (SHO’s); a grade of junior doctor.

It may also be the case that medical negligence claims for compensation can be made if you or somebody close to you experiences an injury or the preventable deterioration of an existing condition outside of a hospital. Patients who are given a sub-standard level of care from a family doctor, dentist, optician, chiropractor, psychologist or any other healthcare supplier are also entitled to make claims for hospital negligence compensation, if the injury that has been sustained could have been prevented ‘in the circumstances and at the time’ if a better course of action had been employed.

Regardless of whether an injury has been suffered in a public hospital or in a private practice, any absence of a medical practitioner´s ‘duty of care’ to provide the best possible medical treatment will allow you to submit a claim compensation for medical negligence compensation. However, as the Injuries Board has no power to review applications for compensation relating to negligent medical treatment, you will have to employ the services of a solicitor to receive compensation for medical negligence.

Medical negligence legal actions in Ireland normally begin when a potential plaintiff first speaks about the nature of their injury with a solicitor. Solicitors are aware of the fact that anybody who comes to them for advice about medical negligence claims has just been through a traumatic incident and may still be suffering from the effects of negligent medical treatment. Therefore, the solicitor will get you to explain the nature of the injury you suffered, how you believe it happened and why you feel that it happened due to the negligence of a medical practitioner who owed you – or somebody close to you – a duty of care.

If it is seen that there are grounds to begin the medical negligence claims process, the solicitor will seek permission to access your medical records and to write to all the medical professionals who may have played a part in the negligent treatment you received. Your medical records and the responses from the medical professionals will then be examined by an independent medical expert to decidedif you have suffered a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition which could have been prevented where it not for an unacceptable professional performance.

Once the independent expert establishes that you have suffered an avoidable injury due to medical negligence, your solicitor will register an official complaint – either to the hospital, the regulator of the medical practitioner or the Healthcare Ombudsman, depending on the fashion of your injury and the circumstances in which it was suffered. Many possible plaintiffs getting in touch with a solicitor only do this when they have been unable to receive a satisfactory answer to their complaint, but it is often wise to have a solicitor prepare the complaint on your behalf to avoid contradictions later in the claims process.

A ‘Letter of Claim’ normally comes after the official complaint depending on the manner of your injury and who the claim for medical negligence compensation is being taken against. The Letter of Claim includes all the evidence of negligence gathered by the independent medical specialist and, in some circumstances, receipt of the letter will lead to the negligent party´s medical insurers to make an offer of settlement. If no offer comes, your solicitor will try to negotiate a compensation settlement.

The amount of medical negligence compensation that you might receive in a settlement depends on the extent of the injuries which have been suffered and how a medical negligence injury impacts the victim’s quality of life. When calculating the amount of compensation for medical negligence you may be awarded, your solicitor will complete a thorough assessment of the physical and psychological trauma you have suffered and will factor in loss of amenity, pain, suffering and any financial expenses incurred due to the medical negligence.

Due to this, it is difficult to come up with a figure as to how much compensation you will be awarded in medical negligence cases, without an in-depth investigation of each separate claim. It could even be a significant duration of time after a Letter of Claim is sent and liability for your injuries is accepted before the true consequences of your injury are known. Should this be a problem for you from a financial point of view, your solicitor may be able to apply for interim payments of medical negligence compensation until your claim is finally concluded.