If I want to make a GP negligence compensation claim, do I have to use a solicitor?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

Answer:

As a GP negligence compensation claim is resolved by medical opinion rather than tangible evidence, you will need a solicitor to assist you with your claim – even when your GP has made a straightforward mistake. Under the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003, the Injuries Board Ireland will assess applications for all types of personal injury compensation “other than a personal injury arising out of medical negligence”. Consequently the Injuries Board Ireland will decline any application for the assessment of a claim for GP negligence compensation submitted to them.

One of the major issues when making a GP negligence compensation claim is establishing that negligence has actually occurred. Whereas – as mentioned above – some straightforward mistakes occur, there are many occasions when “at the time and in the circumstances” a competent doctor would have followed the same course of action.

There are also issues concerning whether you may not have communicated your full range of symptoms to your GP or whether an administrative or technical problem caused your GP to receive incorrect data about your health on which he or she based a diagnosis. These are typical issues which a medical negligence solicitor will have to consider before making a claim for GP negligence compensation.

A GP negligence claim for compensation also has to show that a quantifiable and avoidable injury occurred because of your doctor´s negligence. Therefore, if your GP misdiagnosed you with an illness, and you returned to him or her within a week and a correct diagnosis was made, it may not be worth your while to make a GP negligence compensation claim as the extent of the injury or deterioration in your existing condition would have been very slight.

There is also the possibility that you have contributed to your illness or condition due to your own lack of care if – for example – you requested a repeat prescription, and the prescription written by your GP was wrong, but you continued to take the incorrect medicine regardless. A scenario such as this – where it might be considered reasonable that you would notice the difference in medication and bring it to the attention of your GP – might not disqualify you from making a GP negligence claim for compensation, but it may reduce how much compensation for GP negligence you receive to reflect your own contributory negligence.

With so many potential pitfalls to making a GP negligence compensation claim – plus the additional complication that your GP may not have followed a certain course of action because the practise could not afford it – you would be best advised to discuss your personal situation with an experienced medical negligence solicitor at the first possible opportunity.