Medical practitioners in Ireland do a magnificent job in general, but like an employee in any other profession, they are capable of making errors of judgement. These errors may result in medical accidents and, because the consequences have a far greater impact than if a mistake had been made in a less responsible profession, you are entitled to make a medical accidents claim for compensation when you have sustained an injury in a medical accident caused by professional negligence.
All medical practitioners undertake a “duty of care” when they examine you after an accident or treat you for an illness. For a medical accidents compensation claim to be successful, it has to be demonstrated that the medical practitioner failed in that duty of care. This medical “accident” must also have caused you to sustain an injury which could have been avoided with greater care and attention. As judgement on this particular point is based on medical opinion, the Injuries Board Ireland declines all applications for the assessment of compensation for medical accidents.
Types of Medical Accidents
There are as many different types of medical accidents as there are medical disciplines. Your claim from medical accidents compensation could arise as the result of surgical negligence in the operating theatre, the misdiagnosis of an illness or by your dentist performing an unnecessary and expensive tooth extraction. MRSA infections or other hospital-acquired diseases are also considered to be medical accidents.
In Ireland, one of the biggest medical “accidents” was the Anti-D/Hepatitis C blood transfusion scandal which placed almost 200,000 women at risk of infection. The Health Services Executive (HSE) has already paid out in excess of 250 million Euros for their negligence. The HSE may have also relinquished their “duty of care” in the current DePuy hip replacement recall, which is expected to affect the lives of more than 3,500 Irish citizens.
Diagnosing Medical Accidents
One of the major problems in bringing a medical accidents claim for compensation is discovering what has happened and how it has happened. For example, in the case of the Anti-D/Hepatitis C blood transfusion scandal, many of the symptoms associated with Hepatitis C are similar to those which manifest in cases of alcoholism and, as Hepatitis C infection can take many years to manifest, it can be difficult to accurately diagnose the disease and the reason behind it.
The date on which a medical accident is discovered is important in terms of bringing a medical accident compensation claim. Under the Statute of Limitations, you are only allowed two years from the “date of knowledge” of a medical accident in which to make a claim for medical accidents compensation. As your medical accidents claim will have to be supported by expert medical opinion, it is conceivable that a claim for medical accidents compensation could be disqualified if starting the claim was delayed.
Liability for Medical Accidents
A further potential issue with a claim for medical accidents compensation is establishing who is liable for the medical accident. Should your dentist remove a perfectly healthy tooth due to his own error, then he is clearly liable for medical accidents compensation. But there have been cases where a healthy kidney has been removed, or limb amputated, because the surgeon performing the operation had been provided with incorrect information.
Therefore, the liability for the medical accident could be a technician or other support staff who has failed in their “duty of care” and not the medical practitioner at all. A medical accidents claim for compensation has to take all these factors into consideration and your solicitor has to prepare the strongest possible case to present in court to ensure that you receive the maximum amount of medical accidents compensation.
Compensation for Medical Accidents
Compensation for medical accidents is usually paid by an insurance company representing the practice or health authority for whom the medical practitioner works, and is decided upon by the court – unless settlement of the medical accidents claim is reached previously by negotiation. Therefore, you do not have to be concerned about suing a midwife or doctor with whom you may have developed a friendly relationship, but need to be aware that the insurance company may attempt to short-change your medical accidents compensation claim with an offer of early settlement.
When your solicitor has prepared the strongest possible medical accidents claim, insurance companies are usually happy to agree to an adequate amount of medical accidents compensation. However, a court appearance may still be necessary should the medical accident concern your child, as all compensation payments for minors have to be approved in court before payment can be made.
Legal Advice for Medical Accidents
As mentioned above, the Injuries Board Ireland will decline any application for the assessment of compensation for medical accidents due to the claim having to show that the action – or inaction – of the medical practitioner was avoidable and displayed a lack of care. All claims for medical accidents compensation have to be processed by the courts – unless a suitable arrangement is agreed by negotiation beforehand.
Consequently, it is in your best interests to speak with a solicitor as soon as you are aware that you have been injured in a medical accident. A solicitor will not only be familiar with the exact process that has to be followed in a medical accidents claim, but will have accurate and up-to-date information relating to how much medical accidents compensation you should be entitled to receive.
Medical Accidents Summary
- Medical accidents can occur in all branches of medicine and in any medical centre where a medical practitioner has a duty of care towards you
- Discovering that you have been the victim of a medical accident can take many years if the symptoms are slow to manifest or resemble other illnesses
- Claims for medical accidents compensation have to show that an injury was sustained due to a lack of skill or lack of ability to apply that skill
- The liable party in a medical accidents claim may not be the medical practitioner who operated on you, but an auxiliary health worker or support staff
- Your solicitor will compile the strongest possible case on your behalf with the assistance of a medical expert
- Medical accidents compensation is claimed from the insurance company through the courts if a negotiated settlement cannot be agreed upon beforehand
Errors which cause medical accidents can lead to life-long health problems or deny you the opportunity to recover from an illness that was not identified in time. Where these medical accidents involve children at birth, they will never know a better life and will require permanent care – something which not only justifies the payment of medical accidents compensation but is financially necessary for adequate care to be provided.
If you, or a loved one, have been the victim of a medical accident and would like to discuss your entitlement to medical accidents compensation with an experienced solicitor, you are invited to call our free claims advice helpline on 1-800 989 900. Our solicitors are happy to offer practical advice and valuable information in total confidentiality and without any obligation on you to proceed with a claim for medical accidents compensation.
Discovering that you are the victim of a medical accident can be a truly worrying time – not least because you fear for the financial security of your family or the drain that will be placed upon their resources. Speak with us to find out more about your entitlement to make a medical accidents compensation claim.
Copyright © 2009-2015 Eoin Campbell
About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose primary professional experience is in the area of litigation and in particular personal injury claims. Eoin P. Campbell is currently lecturing in law at two universities in Lyon, France.