Is it right that in order to claim compensation for being given the wrong medicine by a nurse I have to prove they were negligent? Isn´t it obvious that they made a mistake?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

You personally will not have to prove negligence if you wish to claim compensation for being given the wrong medicine by a nurse, as this is something a solicitor would do in preparation of a claim for a nursing medication error. However, as it may not have been the nurse´s fault that you were given the wrong medicine, but rather a technical error or an administrative mix-up, an investigation will still have to be conducted to determine how the medication error occurred.

Furthermore, before making a claim for a nursing medication error, it has to be established that you actually sustained an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to the medication error, which was sufficiently significant that it was entered into your medical history and remedial medical action had to be taken to reverse the effect of the incorrect drug.

Thereafter, a solicitor would write to every person who may have possibly been involved in your treatment to find out how your medication error happened and to establish negligence at a specific point in the chain of events. It may indeed be possible that the nurse who was administering your medicine made an error due to carelessness or negligence, but it is a dangerous assumption to make and – if wrong – would damage the credibility of your claim for being administered the wrong medicine.

Once the relevant medical notes have been received by your solicitor, they will be reviewed by an independent medical specialist. He or she will locate where the mistake in your treatment was made and advise your solicitor whether ‘at the time and under the circumstances’ the medication error could have been avoided with greater care.

Only when it is established that you have suffered an injury due to the negligence of a specific person who owed you a ‘duty of care’ will your solicitor send a ‘Letter of Claim’ to the hospital, and support the claim for being administered the wrong medicine with the evidence that has been collected and reviewed by the independent medical expert.

Therefore, in answer to your question, it is not always obvious who has made the mistake which led to you being given the wrong medicine but, provided that you suffered a quantifiable injury due to the mistake, you personally will not have to prove negligence in a claim for compensation for being given the wrong medicine by a nurse, as a solicitor will start the process for establishing where the fault lies.