In Irish law today, medical negligence is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of clinical malpractice. Previously, medical negligence related specifically to incidents occurring in a GP surgery or hospital, but the definition has expanded over time to encompass other forms of healthcare including dentistry and optometry.

Understanding the different areas of medical negligence can be tricky. If you are considering making a medical negligence claim for compensation,you should contact a solicitor with experience in cases of a similar nature.

Hughes & Associates Solicitors operate out of Dublin and can provide advice and assessments on cases of medical negligence. Talk to us about your case by emailing info@hughessolicitors.ie or phoning +353 1 891 0020.

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What is Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence occurs when an action carried out by a medical professional does not reach an appropriate standard of care, and directly results in a patient’s condition deteriorating.

The term medical professional can refer to GPs, clinicians, surgeons, members of hospital staff or anyone working in healthcare who carries a duty of care.

Importantly, in cases where a practitioner’s care is substandard, but does not directly influence a patient’s condition, it can be difficult to prove any legal case for compensation.

For example, if you are prescribed the wrong dosage of medicine to treat an illness, but the prescription can’t be proven to have caused any excess damage, medical negligence may not have occurred.

It will help your cause to offer as much evidence as possible in order to prove you have suffered medical negligence. Examples of this can include official medical records, witness statements and statements from a third-party expert.

How Do You Prove Medical Negligence in Ireland?

Proving medical negligence can be a daunting task, but in a legal case, there is an onus on the plaintiff to establish certain facts. To form the basis of a claim, you must be able to demonstrate two things:

  • A relationship existed between the practitioner and the patient.
  • The injury or damage suffered was the direct result of the practitioner’s negligence.

Proof of a pre-existent doctor-patient relationship can come in the form of records such as dated medical bills or prescriptions.

Once that history has been recognised, a solicitor can order an independent third-party medical review, from a medical expert, of the treatment you received.

They will decide on the balance of probability whether the practitioner acted unreasonably to the extent that their negligence was the direct cause of injury.

Steps Involved in Making a Medical Negligence Claim

It can be difficult to find a clear guide on how best to go about filing a medical negligence claim. Proving malpractice and liability can be difficult, but your chances of filing a successful claim will be improved by following the steps below:

  1. Seek Legal Guidance – while you can begin the legal process yourself by filing an official complaint, you will likely give yourself a better chance of making a successful claim if you go through an experienced solicitor. Hughes & Associates boast a team of specialist solicitors with vast knowledge of the area of medical negligence.
  2. Obtain Medical Records and Expert, Third-Party Reports – your solicitor will benefit from access to medical records and any documentation relevant to your medical negligence case. Once that evidence has been examined, they can make contact with a third-party expert to lend further support and credibility to your case. The faster your legal representative receives the medical records, the better your chances are of filing a successful claim.
  3. Assess the Extent of Your Claim for Compensation – compensation for medical negligence can vary dramatically based on a multitude of factors. It is important for a solicitor to examine the impact of the accident or injury their client has suffered before mounting a case for appropriate compensation.
  4. Begin Court Proceedings – as soon as that case has been established, your solicitor can begin issuing the correct court papers to put your case in motion. In Ireland, the statute of limitations dictates that a plaintiff has up to two years to file a claim for compensation once the damage they have suffered has been established. Court proceedings can often drag on, sometimes for more than a year, but the case must be initiated within that two-year period.

Compensation for Medical Negligence in Ireland

Compensation in cases of medical negligence varies from case to case. There are deciding factors that generally influence the amount of compensation a plaintiff may be entitled to if they are successful in proving negligence. These include but are not limited to:

  • Liability and the claimant’s contribution – to what extent, if any, did your own actions contribute to your own injury? Apportioning blame is crucial to any medical negligence claim. This can refer to the initial injury as well as the standard of follow-up care received. For instance, did you fail to properly follow rehabilitation guidelines for your injury in the aftermath of your treatment?
  • Extent of the injury – oftentimes, the compensation will reflect the severity of the injury itself. Generally, the more your condition suffers as a result of medical negligence, the more compensation you are likely to receive. Another contributing factor is the ease with which an injury can be proven. The impact of a broken bone, for instance, may be easier to demonstrate than extent of chronic back pain.
  • Length of prognosis – the period of time in which the injury affects the claimant plays an important role. The longer an injury is set to impact the patient, the more compensation they may be entitled to receive. This can be impacted by the injured party’s age too. For example, a teenager that suffers brain damage due to medical negligence may receive more compensation than someone in their seventies.
  • Loss of earnings – there may have been a period in which the claimant was unable to work because of their injury. In this instance, they will have incurred a financial cost arising from an involuntary leave of absence, and they should be compensated for that loss of earnings.
  • Medical history – does the patient have a history of similar injuries? If medical records show that the exacerbated injury is something you have previously suffered with, the case for a practitioner acting reasonably may be strengthened. In that instance, chances of compensation may be reduced as it becomes more difficult to prove the direct impact of your doctor’s negligence.

Special vs General Damages

The main difference between special and general damages is that special damages can be accurately quantified, while general damages have no specific financial value.

Special damages include medical bills, an involuntary loss of earnings and necessary travel expenses – essentially any expenses you incur due to medical negligence that can be recorded and documented.

There is no limit on what you can potentially claim as special damages so ensure you log all financial records associated with your accident or injury.

General damages refer to the intangibles. They can include physical and mental pain and suffering, a deterioration in your quality of life, a loss of ability to perform certain functions and a loss of companionship, which applies to bereaved family members in the event of a death caused by medical negligence.

Types of Injuries that Can Constitute Medical Negligence

Medical negligence covers all manner of malpractice, but certain cases that can be considered typical of the topic include:

  • Misdiagnosis resulting in a patient not receiving the correct treatment for their condition.
  • Errors in surgery exacerbating a patient’s injury.
  • Errors with prescriptions resulting in a patient receiving the wrong medicine or an incorrect dosage.
  • Birth and pregnancy issues that can cause an injury to either mother or child.
  • Dental negligence, for instance a poorly administered tooth extraction that can cause immense pain and long-term damage.
  • Failure to communicate the risks involved in an operation or form of treatment.
  • Inadequate administration of anaesthetic.

Claiming Medical Negligence in Ireland

If you suffered an accident as a result of inadequate or incompetent care from a medical professional, it may help your chances of a successful compensation claim to contact a solicitor with experience in medical negligence.

At Hughes & Associates Solicitors, we offer plenty of knowledge in the area of clinical negligence and can assess your case for compensation with care and attention to detail.

Based in Dublin and serving Irish claimants, we are available for enquiries via email at info@hughessolicitors.ie or by phoning us on +353 1 891 0020.

Contact the Hughes & Associates Team