Introduction to Compensation for Incorrect Medication

If you have been given wrong pills by a pharmacist, nurse or doctor, you may be entitled to make claim for compensation for incorrect medication to receive recompense for your injuries and to recover cost and expenses that have been incurred. Incorrect medication claims can be made for being given another patient’s medicine, for receiving an incorrect dose, for mistakenly being given an incorrect treatment and in some cases, for allergic reactions to pills and medicines.

Regardless of the type of medication error that occurred in order to be eligible to make an injury compensation for a medication error, a health condition must have deteriorated (due to a delay in receiving the correct treatment), an injury must have been caused (such as kidney damage) or a health complaint must have developed (an allergic reaction, for example). If no ‘injury’ from the wrong medication has resulted from the error, compensation cannot be recovered.

As with all claims for personal injury compensation, a claim for health problems from incorrect medication must have involved negligence of a third party and a failure in a duty of care. While it is clear that both of these apply to being given incorrect drugs or antibiotics, the person responsible must be identified. It is not always the doctor who has been negligent when incorrect drugs have been given to a patient; a nurse or pharmacist may have made an error. In hospital, simple administration mistakes and procedural errors can also lead to a mix up between two patients’ medicines.

Establishing eligibility to make a medication error compensation claim and the identification of the negligent third party – or third parties – responsible is not always straightforward, and a medical negligence solicitor must be consulted in this regard. Since compensation for incorrect medication will not be calculated by the Injuries Board, a solicitor will also be required to calculate the amount of damages applicable, based on the individual circumstances of a particular case.

Compensation for Given Wrong Pills in Hospital

Before it is possible to make incorrect medication claims for being given wrong pills in hospital, an investigation into the cause of the error must be conducted by the HSE or private health care trust. It must be established that a medical mistake occurred, and that this error was the cause of a patient’s injuries. The persons responsible must also be identified and held accountable for the error.

An investigation will not automatically be conducted unless a highly serious injury has been suffered or if the mistake resulted in a fatality. A written ‘letter of complaint’ must therefore be made to HSE (or health care trust) requesting an explanation for the mistake; even if the hospital has already been notified of the injury from the wrong medication which has been caused.

The HSE is duty bound to investigate all complaints within 30 days and private hospitals will also be quick to investigate medication mistakes. A complaint will not result in compensation for incorrect medication being awarded, but it is a pre-requisite for making a claim for health problems from incorrect medication.

In addition to the internal investigation, a medical negligence solicitor must be used to conduct an independent enquiry into the cause of an error to prove that it involved medical negligence. Evidence will be collected to support an injury compensation for a medication error, and appropriate medical experts will be consulted by a solicitor to assist in the investigation as well as to confirm the extent of injury caused.

Incorrect Medication Claims for Being Prescribed the Wrong Medicine by a Doctor

Not only must a doctor be aware of the myriad causes of illness, but also the correct drugs to treat them, the health implications from prescribing drugs, the correct dosages and all possible interactions between different medications. Even though doctors in Ireland are high skilled and usually perform an exceptional job under difficult circumstances, mistakes can be made with the prescription of drugs leading to patients being injured. If a mistake in treatment results in an injury or the deterioration of an existing health problem, compensation for incorrect medication can usually be claimed.

A doctor may make a mistake when writing a prescription or use abbreviations or misspell drug names resulting in a patient being given wrong pills by a pharmacist. A failure to check a patient’s medical records can also cause an injury from the wrong medication, such as an allergic reaction or dangerous drug interaction. Even though there may be mitigating circumstances as to why a patient was prescribed the wrong medicine by a doctor, a legitimate defence against medication error compensation claim can rarely be made.

To claim injury compensation for a medication error against a doctor’s medical negligence insurance policy – or the HSE/hospital – it must be proven that poor professional judgement was exercised or a serious error of judgement was made. However, it may not be possible to claim for health problems from incorrect medication when a doctor prescribes a non-standard treatment, if there were legitimate reasons for that choice being made.

Injury Compensation for a Medication Error if Given Wrong Pills by a Nurse in a Hospital

Although nurses in Ireland are highly trained and provide an exceptional standard of care, on occasions mistakes are made which result in a patient being given wrong pills. Nurses receive extensive training, but not to the same extent as doctors and pharmacists with regard to drug interactions, the latest pharmaceutical products and the correct dosage to administer for a particular health problem.

It may therefore be unreasonable for a nurse to be expected to notice an incorrectly prescribed drug, even when it was the nurse that physically gave pills to a patient, and liability for an injury from the wrong medication may lie elsewhere. This is why it is important that a claim for health problems from incorrect medication is thoroughly investigated by a medical negligence solicitor, to ensure the correct negligent third party can be identified.

Claims for compensation for incorrect medication administered by a nurse in hospital may also be made for mix ups with prescriptions resulting in a patient being given pills intended for someone else. The consequences of such a simple mistake can be grave, and if the mistake is not realised promptly it can have potentially fatal implications for the patient.

In addition to a medication error compensation claim being made when a patient is given the wrong pills by a nurse, claims can also be made for medication errors resulting from incorrect techniques used to administer intravenous or intramuscular injections, as well when a nurse incorrectly dilutes drugs before giving them to a patient.

Compensation for Incorrect Medication for Being Given Wrong Pills by a Chemist

Chemists receive extensive training on the effects of drugs and their mode of action, and errors made by doctors are usually identified and corrected – preventing a patient being given wrong pills.

However, tiredness can lead to a lack of concentration, which can result in a patient being given an incorrect dose of medication causing health problems to develop, or an injury from the wrong medication. Health problems are not always suffered immediately after taking incorrect drugs, and internal organs can be damaged without a patient being aware of the damage taking place inside of them until irreversible injuries have been sustained. Such serious injuries would naturally warrant incorrect medication claims against the chemist for dispensing the wrong pills and medicines.

A claim for health problems from incorrect medication dispensed by a pharmacist or chemist has the potential to be complicated when side effects are experienced or ill health is suffered, yet a patient continues to take the medication dispensed by the chemist. A medication error compensation claim against a chemist has considerable potential to be affected by contributory negligence of the plaintiff and, when this is the case, the amount of compensation for incorrect medication that can be recovered is likely to be affected.

Contributory Negligence and Claims for a Dispensing Error by a Pharmacy

It is possible to claim compensation for a dispensing error by a pharmacy, as being given wrong pills in a pharmacy constitutes medical negligence. However, one of the most common issues affecting incorrect medication claims against pharmacists is that of contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff. This can see the amount of injury compensation for a medication error reduced, and may even prevent a claim from being possible.

A dispensing error by a pharmacy requires an injury to have been sustained, a health complaint to be suffered or the deterioration of an existing condition to occur. If side effects are suffered or a patient’s health deteriorates after taking medication, a doctor (or the pharmacist) must be consulted promptly. Failure to seek medical attention and continuing to take pills which are having adverse effects would certainly see the severity of an injury from the wrong medication increase, which could be argued was the fault of the patient.

A defence against a medication error compensation claim may also be made if a patient failed to read the leaflet supplied with medication if this would have prevented an injury from being sustained. Because there may be a legitimate defence against a claim for health problems from incorrect medication from a pharmacy error, this type of medical negligence claim has potential to be highly complex.

Legal advice must be sought to determine whether a claim is possible under the circumstances, with consideration to the extent to which the contributory negligence of a plaintiff is likely to affect the outcome of the case, in addition to the amount of compensation for incorrect medication that can be recovered.

Compensation Claims for a Pharmacy Dispensing Incorrect Medicine for Children

A claim for a pharmacy dispensing incorrect medicine can be made when a child becomes ill from being given wrong pills or medicine, or when health problems are suffered from being given an adult dose of medication. Although a parent should always check the dosage and type of medication given – as far as is reasonably possible – liability of the health problems will lie with the pharmacist. A pharmacist should always ask who the prescription is for to prevent medication and dosage errors from being made.

A child is entitled to injury compensation for a medication error by a pharmacist, although legal action can only be taken by the child once the age of consent has been reached. Delaying a claim for a number of years until the affected child reaches adulthood would be is unwise. Instead, it is preferable for an adult (usually a parent or legal guardian) to take legal action on behalf of the child by making incorrect medication claims as a ‘Next Friend’. After the right to claim for health problems from incorrect medication from a pharmacist has been confirmed by a medical negligence solicitor, an application can be made to the courts to authorise the appointment of parent or legal guardian as a ‘Next Friend’.

The compensation award in a medication error compensation claim made by a Next Friend will be held by the courts and released directly to the child when the age of consent is reached. However, medical bills and other essential expenses can be covered if an application is made to the courts to release of an interim payment of compensation for incorrect medication; in which case this would be paid to a parent or legal guardian directly.

Further Information on Claiming for an Injury from the Wrong Medication

If you were given wrong pills by a pharmacist, nurse or doctor and have suffered health complications due to the error, it is vital that you seek legal advice promptly about making incorrect medication claims to recover personal injury compensation.

A personal injury solicitor must be used to pursue a claim to ensure a strong case is prepared, and since the Injuries Board will not assess claims for injury compensation for a medication error as they involve medical negligence, a solicitor will be required to calculate how much compensation for an injury from the wrong medication can be claimed.

Even if you are unsure whether a claim for health problems from incorrect medication will be possible, or you are not sure if it will be worth your while taking legal action, you should still seek legal advice from a solicitor. There are many scenarios under which compensation for incorrect medication can be claimed, and it is better to be told that a claim is not possible than to miss out on the opportunity to be compensated for an injury. Most solicitors offer an initial consultation without charge, and you will receive important legal advice which will ensure that your right to make a medication error compensation claim is not lost.