If you have suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to the actions of a medical professional, medical negligence claims allow you to recover compensation for the pain and suffering you have experienced, the impact that the injury has had on your quality of life, and the financial implications of somebody else´s lack of care.
Making a claim for medical negligence in Ireland is a complicated process. Negligent medical professionals, hospitals and their agents are not quick to admit that they have made a mistake. Your medical negligence compensation claim may be challenged, and it might even be the case that seemingly negligent actions were taken, which although causing you an injury were the most appropriate in the circumstances.
For these reasons, it is always in your best interests to seek professional legal advice from medical negligence solicitors before making a claim with medical negligence cases in Ireland. An experienced medical negligence solicitor will be able to advise you of the most effective way to pursue compensation for medical negligence in Ireland relative to your personal circumstances and help you to receive an appropriate settlement of your claim.
It is important to note that no two medical negligence claims are the same. You may know of somebody who has suffered a similar injury to you, and you may even be expecting a comparable settlement of your medical negligence claim. However, the circumstances in which you suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition – and the impact that the negligence of a medical professional has had on your quality of life – may be significantly different. For this reason, we offer a committed client-focused legal service that treats you as an individual.
Making Medical Negligence Claims in Ireland
Unlike personal injury* claims for a car accident or an injury sustained at work, the Injuries Board does not assess medical negligence claim in Ireland. This is because liability is established on the basis of medical opinion; and, in order for you to successfully claim for medical negligence cases in Ireland, it has to be shown that the medical professional(s) treating you showed a lack of skill or the inability to demonstrate that skill “in the circumstances and at the time”.
As mentioned above, medical professionals, hospitals and their agents are not quick to admit to the fault of malpractice, if you inadvertently apply to the Injuries Board for an assessment of compensation for medical negligence in Ireland, your application will be rejected and you will be issued with an “Authorisation” to pursue your claim through other channels.
Consequently, a claim for medical negligence in Ireland is made directly against the Health Service Executive (HSE) or the practice where you underwent your treatment in the case of medical negligence claims against dentists, chiropractors, plastic surgeons, psychologists and opticians. Your medical negligence solicitors will be able to advise you of whether the medical negligence claim should be made against the state, a clinic or an individual depending on the nature of the treatment you received.
If you have suffered an injury due to a faulty medical device, your medical negligence compensation claim will usually be made against the manufacturer of the device. Although such a claim is strictly speaking a product liability claim, it will be rejected by the Injuries Board due to their being no benchmark for assessing how much compensation you would be entitled to in these circumstances. It may also be the case that the manufacturer of the faulty medical device is located outside of Ireland, in which case your medical negligence claim may have to be made in an overseas jurisdiction.
Eligibility to Make a Medical Negligence Compensation Claim
Your eligibility to claim compensation for medical negligence in Ireland is subject to you having suffered a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition due to medical negligence. It is sometimes the case that an injury was unavoidable “in the circumstances and at the time” or that medical negligence has undoubtedly occurred, but you suffered no injury as a result.
To claim compensation for medical negligence in Ireland, it has to be demonstrated that the treatment you received (or lack of treatment) was performed negligently by a medical professional or due to the negligent actions (or lack of actions) of an employee or agent of a health facility, and that the negligence of somebody who owed you a “duty of care” contributed to your injury.
The above conditions include the possibility that a medical professional who conducted a procedure was acting on incorrect information he or she had been presented with. Although this does not affect your eligibility to compensation for medical negligence in Ireland, it can complicate the process of making medical negligence claims when it first has to be determined who is actually responsible for your injuries. Examples of what medical negligence includes:
• When there has been an avoidable delay in the processing of a test
• When incorrect test results have been delivered to the medical professional
• When administrative errors have resulted in wrong site surgery
• When errors have been made in making follow-up appointments
Filing a medical negligence claim can often be further complicated if you have contributed to the cause or the extent of your injury due to your own lack of care. Such scenarios would include failing to communicate the symptoms of an illness or injury, ignoring advice given to you by a medical professional or declining to take medication prescribed for you.
Although contributory negligence is not a common factor in medical negligence cases, it is something that you need to be aware of – and advise your medical negligence solicitor of – if you believe that you may be partly responsible for the cause or the extent of your injury. Depending on the level of your contributory negligence, you may be excluded from making a claim for medical negligence cases in Ireland, or the value of your settlement may be reduced to reflect your own lack of care.
The Process for Recovering Compensation for Medical Negligence in Ireland
The process for recovering medical negligence compensation in Ireland begins when you first speak with a qualified personal injury solicitor. If your solicitor believes that you have a medical negligence case which is worth your while to pursue, he or she will send a letter of complaint to the hospital, practice or private individual responsible for your treatment, and request the release of your medical records.
Your medical records will then be reviewed by an independent medical expert who will determine whether or not the hospital, practice or private individual responsible for your treatment acted negligently. The expert will assist your medical negligence solicitor in compiling a “Letter of Claim”, which will be sent to the negligent party – justifying your medical negligence compensation claims and inviting them to settle.
If no appropriate offer of settlement for the medical negligence claim is received, or your medical negligence compensation claim is contested, your medical solicitor will then issue court proceedings. This does not necessarily mean that your case will be heard in court – it is often the incentive that the state or private medical insurers need to agree to a more appropriate settlement.
Only as a last resort will a solicitor pursue a claim for medical negligence in Ireland through the courts. The experience of a court appearance is not one that will assist your recovery and a court hearing is expensive. Although the cost of a successful court hearing will be awarded to you as part of your settlement package, there is no guarantee that your medical negligence claim will be successful if it goes to trial – no matter how well it has been prepared.
How Much Compensation for Medical Negligence in Ireland?
Settlements of compensation for medical negligence cases in Ireland usually have four main components. Not every component will apply in every medical negligence compensation claim and, on occasions, 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 – Wherever possible, compensation for your pain and suffering is calculated according to the Book of Quantum – a publication for medical negligence cases that lists a variety of injuries and allocates them a financial value according to the severity and permanence of the injury.
Compensation for your Emotional Trauma – The amount of psychological injury you have sustained will have to be quantified, and it can vary considerably depending on the nature of the trauma you have experienced and how you cope with it. Medical negligence claims following the loss of a loved one will automatically request the maximum allowable for mental distress under the Civil Liability Act 1962.
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, and 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 replace costs that you have incurred – or may incur in the future for medical treatment – which can be directly attributed to your injury. Special damages also account for a loss of income through being unable to work and are an important factor to consider in medical negligence cases.
As we stated earlier, 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 three other main components of compensation for medical negligence in Ireland can vary significantly.
How to Claim for Medical Negligence in Ireland on Behalf of a Child
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. As evidence of negligence may be difficult to obtain by then, parents should make a medical negligence compensation claim on behalf of their child acting as a “next friend”.
The appointment of a “next friend” has to be approved by a court in order to confirm that the parent is acting in the child´s best interest and to ensure that there is no conflict of interest – for example if the child has had a tooth needlessly extracted by their dentist parent. Once approval is received, the process for recovering compensation for medical negligence in Ireland follows the same path as when as adult makes a medical negligence compensation claim.
Once a settlement of medical negligence compensation is agreed, it must first be approved by a judge before the claim can be resolved. Approval is most commonly handled at District Court level; although in the case of substantial medical negligence cases you may be required to attend the Circuit Civil Court or the High Court. Judges at these hearings ensure that the settlement of compensation for medical negligence in Ireland is in the child´s best interests or seek an amendment it if they believe it is inappropriate.
Once the settlement is approved by a judge, the proceeds from the medical negligence compensation claim are paid into court funds, where they remain until your child becomes a legal adult. If you need access to the proceeds for educational or medical requirements, you can apply to the court where the settlement was approved. Reasonable requests are usually granted in these medical negligence cases.
Medical Negligence Claims and Insurance Companies
When making medical negligence claims against private medical facilities, it may be the case that you are approached by the facility´s insurance company with an unsolicited offer of compensation. Although these offers may appear attractive and represent a swift conclusion to your claim for medical negligence in Ireland, every offer should be referred to a medical negligence solicitor.
Medical insurance companies are in business to make a profit. They have no interest in your physical health, emotional health or financial health, and the offer of compensation they make to you will be the lowest possible. If you inadvertently accept a settlement of compensation which proves to be insufficient for you to pay your medical bills and support your family, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more.
However, although not an admission of liability in the eyes of the law, an unsolicited offer of compensation indicates that the insurance company is keen to settle your medical negligence claim quickly. Your medical solicitors will use this fact to your advantage in order to obtain the maximum settlement possible of your medical negligence compensation claim.
If negotiations about how much compensation for medical negligence you are entitled to are protracted, and liability has been conceded, your medical negligence solicitor can arrange for you to receive interim payments of compensation until your claim for medical negligence in Ireland is resolved – releasing any financial pressure from you and allowing you to recover from your injury without worrying about money.
Medical Negligence Claims Time Limit in Ireland
A time limit exists on how long you have to claim for medical negligence in Ireland from the date on which you find out that you have suffered a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition due to a medical professional´s lack of care. The date you become aware of an injury is known as the “date of knowledge” and, under Ireland´s Statute of Limitations, you have two years from that date for your medical negligence claim to be filed.
The “date of knowledge” is an important factor in medical negligence cases. In many instances it will be a date fairly close to the day on which you received negligent treatment, but it could be the case that your injury or a gradual deterioration of an existing condition is not attributed to medical negligence until many years later.
It is also important to note that the “date of knowledge” in medical negligence claims for children is not until the child´s eighteenth birthday – from when the two-year limit commences However, as mentioned above, it is not recommended that you delay a medical negligence compensation claim on behalf of a child, as it is essential that evidence of negligence is compiled as quickly as possible.
The two-year limit for making a claim for medical negligence in Ireland is not an excuse to delay speaking with a medical negligence solicitor any longer than possible. Indeed, it may take the full two years to construct cases to support medical negligence claims when liability is disputed or contributory negligence is a factor. For this reason, we recommend that you contact our medical negligence solicitors at the earliest possible moment to discuss the nature of your medical negligence claim and to establish your eligibility to claim compensation for medical negligence in Ireland.