What is Clinical Negligence in Ireland?

The terms medical malpractice, medical negligence and clinical negligence in Ireland are often used interchangeably when describing “professional negligence by act or omission by a healthcare provider in which the care provided deviates from accepted standards of practice in the medical community and causes injury or death to the patient”. In Ireland, clinical negligence can be extended to include cases where a breach of duty by a healthcare provider has resulted in the deterioration of an existing condition which could have been avoided with due diligence.

In Ireland, clinical negligence can occur in practically all areas of medicine – a hospital, a doctor’s surgery, a dentist’s surgery, a chiropractor´s treatment room, a nursing home and even in your own home when being attended by a doctor on call or midwife. When clinical negligence occurs, and you sustain an avoidable injury, loss, or the deterioration of an existing condition as a result, you are entitled to claim compensation for clinical negligence in Ireland and should speak with a clinical negligence solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity.

Establishing Clinical Negligence in Ireland

Medical injuries, losses and the deterioration of an existing condition can happen for many different reasons – and in many cases are not attributable to clinical negligence. To establish clinical negligence in Ireland, it has to be shown that “on the balance of probabilities” an avoidable injury, loss or deterioration occurred due to a poor professional performance by a healthcare provider due to a lack of skill or the inability to demonstrate that skill.

Furthermore, the testimony of medical experts will be used in a clinical negligence compensation claim in Ireland to prove that the injury, loss or deterioration would have been avoided by a competent doctor “in the circumstances and at the time” had a different course of action been taken. The burden of proof to prove clinical negligence always rests with the claimant in clinical negligence claims in Ireland, and this is why engaging a specialist clinical negligence solicitor is so important to the success of your claim.

Making a Clinical Negligence Claim in Ireland

If you wish to claim compensation for clinical negligence in Ireland, you will have to use a solicitor to help prepare and present your claim. Because clinical negligence is established by medical opinion, the Injuries Board Ireland will decline any applications for the assessment of clinical negligence compensation and if they have accepted an application in error, will refund your application fee and issue you with an authorisation to pursue your clinical negligence compensation claim through the courts.

Court action is not always necessary, for when a clinical negligence solicitor compiles a sufficiently strong claim on your behalf, the party responsible for causing your injury, loss or deterioration may admit liability and compensation for clinical negligence will be settled out of court by negotiation. On the rare occasions when a claim for clinical negligence compensation has to be litigated in court, your solicitor will guide you through the process which is required.

Examples of Clinical Negligence in Ireland

Clinical negligence can occur in any medical environment and be executed by any healthcare provider. Among the most frequent examples of clinical negligence in Ireland are:-

1. Failure to Diagnose a Heart Attack
2. Failure to Diagnose Cancer
3. Failure to Diagnose Appendicitis
4. Birth Injuries and Neonatal Injuries
5. Wrong Site Surgery and Foreign Objects left in Patients
6. Prescription or Administration of Wrong Medication
7. Unnecessary or Incorrect Treatment by a Dentist
8. Mistakes Made by a Plastic Surgeon
9. Nursing Negligence – particularly Nursing Home Negligence
10. The Failure to Act or a Delay in Administering Treatment

There are many, many more examples of how clinical negligence can occur in Ireland and to determine whether you have a claim for clinical negligence compensation which is worth your while to pursue, you are advised to speak with an experienced solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity.

How Much Compensation is Awarded for Clinical Negligence in Ireland?

How much compensation for clinical negligence in Ireland you may be entitled to receive is going to depend on the extent and severity of your injury and the consequences it has on your future health and quality of life. For example, a claim for compensation after a swab has been left inside of you during surgery will result in a very small clinical negligence compensation settlement if you did not notice that the swab was present in your body for a number of years, and you suffered no side-effects as a result.

Conversely, a claim for failure to diagnose cancer, when you may have responded well to a correct diagnosis in stage 0 or stage 1 of the disease, could result in a significant compensation settlement if the disease has now deteriorated to stage 3 or stage 4. Inasmuch as no amount of compensation for failure to diagnose cancer will ever make up for the loss of health and ultimate loss of life, how much compensation for clinical negligence you receive will ease any financial stress you may be under and assure you of the best possible level of care in the future.

How is Compensation for Clinical Negligence in Ireland Determined?

The main consideration when determining how much compensation for clinical negligence you may be entitled to receive will be the extent and severity of your injury in relation to your age, gender and physical condition. As mentioned above, the consequences to your quality of life and “loss of amenity” are also taken into account, as are any psychological injury you have sustained due to a healthcare provider´s lack of care, and any financial costs which are directly attributable to your injury.

With so many potential variables, it is easy to see that no two claims for clinical negligence compensation in Ireland are identical – even if the injuries sustained are similar – and this is why you should always discuss your clinical negligence compensation claim with an experienced solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity. Under the Statute of Limitations, you only have two years from the “date of knowledge” that clinical negligence has occurred in order to make a claim for compensation.

Children and Clinical Negligence Claims in Ireland

Children are not permitted to make claims for clinical negligence in Ireland before they reach the age of eighteen. However, it is not advised that a compensation claim for clinical negligence is delayed any longer than is absolutely necessary in order to provide funds for special care and education needs. Therefore, solicitors advise that a parent or guardian act as the children´s “next friend” and represent the child in an action against the negligent healthcare provider.

If an admission of negligence can be accomplished in a short space of time, but the value of the compensation settlement still needs to be agreed, a solicitor can petition the courts to have interim compensation payments made to the claimant in order to provide medical treatment. Once the final clinical negligence compensation settlement has been negotiated, it will have to be approved by a judge before payment – which is usually held in trust by the court – can be made.

It is important to note that there can be many more factors which affect each claim for clinical negligence in Ireland and, if you feel that you have recently suffered an injury, a loss or the deterioration of an existing condition due to clinical negligence, you are advised to discuss the points raised in the preceding article with a clinical negligence solicitor at the earliest opportunity.