Compensation for Medical Malpractice in Hospitals in Ireland

The standard of patient care in hospitals in Ireland is usually first rate, although each year there are numerous cases of medical malpractice in hospitals in Ireland – many of which result in compensation being awarded.

Medical malpractice (often referred to as clinical malpractice or medical negligence) is a term used when care standards fall below an acceptable level and a patient sustains an injury (or is otherwise harmed) as a direct result. This can be when the actions of a medical processional cause an injury to be sustained to a patient or due to a failure of a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional to act in time to prevent a patient from coming to harm.

With cutbacks to Health Service Executive (HSE) funding of €1.75 billion in 2010 and 2011, and a further reduction of €750m in 2012, nurses, doctors, hospital managers and administration staff all are placed under increasing financial pressure. The same high standards of medical care are expected to be provided even with this substantial cut in public funding. It is therefore understandable that in spite of the best efforts of hospital managers and staff, lapses in standards do occur.

Medical mistakes are frequently made as a result of understaffing in hospitals, and a lack of available resources may explain why a mistake has been allowed to occur; however it is not a valid defence against claim for medical malpractice in Ireland. If an injury has been sustained due to an inability of the hospital to provide an adequate level of patient care, hospital medical malpractice compensation can often be claimed.
Whether you have come to harm as a result of a failure to diagnose an illness, had an illness misdiagnosed causing deterioration of your health or have otherwise suffered due to the actions of a medical professional, it may be possible to make medical negligence compensation claims. It is important that legal advice is sought in this regard to find out if compensation for medical negligence can be claimed.

Claiming for Hospital Medical Malpractice Compensation

Not all cases of medical malpractice in hospitals in Ireland will result in compensation being awarded. In order for a successful claim for medical malpractice in Ireland to be made, it must be established and proven that an injury was sustained (or health was allowed to deteriorate) as a direct consequence of an act of medical negligence.

It is rarely possible to prove with absolute certainty that the actions – or inaction – of a medical professional caused a patient to come to harm. Because, absolute proof of the consequence of negligence cannot be collected, it is only necessary to prove ‘on the balance of probabilities’ that an act of negligence caused a patient to suffer unnecessarily.

Claiming compensation for a medical error can be complicated, and a specialist medical negligence solicitor must always be used. Before a claim is made for hospital medical malpractice compensation, a solicitor will painstakingly prepare the case; obtaining statements from all parties concerned including hospital administrative staff, doctors, nurses and hospital managers to build a picture of the sequence of events that led to a patient coming to harm.

If there appear to be grounds for making medical negligence compensation claims based on the information and evidence collected, the case will be assessed by an independent expert doctor with experience in the medical field in question. Provided that it can be proven ‘on the balance of probabilities’ that an injury or health problem was avoidable under the circumstances, and a competent doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional could have – and should have – taken a different course of action and thus avoid harm coming to a patient, it should be possible to recover compensation for medical negligence.

Claiming for Medical Malpractice by a Hospital Specialist

A hospital doctor is required to deal with a wide range of health problems, illnesses and injuries on a day to day basis, and cannot be expected to have an in depth working knowledge of the intricacies of every possible illness and bodily system. For this reason, hospitals employ specialist medical professionals to ensure that patients can receive the best possible level of medical care.

A general doctor will refer a patient to a hospital specialist when an illness of specific injury is suspected outside the realm of expertise of the doctor in question. If you have been referred to a hospital specialist who subsequently failed to correctly diagnose an illness or misdiagnosed a disease or injury, this could be classed as medical negligence and a claim for medical malpractice in Ireland could potentially be made.

Typically claims can only be made for a serious error of judgement, which a competent doctor (in the same field of medicine) would not have made under the circumstances. If a competent hospital specialist could not have made the correct diagnosis under the circumstances, medical negligence compensation claims are unlikely to be possible as the failure to diagnose would not be considered to represent medical negligence.

Claiming for medical malpractice by a hospital specialist for misdiagnosed and undiagnosed health problems can be highly complex if consultations with medical specialists have been arranged, and health conditions could not be diagnosed even with specialist medical attention. To find out if you can potentially make a claim for hospital malpractice compensation by a specialist doctor, you will need to speak to a highly experienced medical negligence solicitor about your case.

Compensation for Medical Malpractice by a Dentist

Although there are many cases of medical malpractice in hospitals in Ireland, a failure of any medical professional to provide a reasonable standard of care can form the basis of a claim for medical malpractice in Ireland. When a dentist fails to perform treatment to an acceptable standard or causes an injury to a patient through carelessness, this is also classed as medical malpractice.

Medical negligence compensation claims often need to be made against dentists to ensure that restorative dental treatments can be afforded. When a dentist makes a serious error such as extracting a healthy tooth, the cost of dental treatment to correct the mistake can cost many thousands of Euros; this is often beyond the financial means of many victims of dentist malpractice. Failed dental treatment can also cause excruciating pain and considerable loss of amenity, both of which are covered by in a claim for compensation for medical malpractice by a dentist under general damages.

Even when a dentist offers to correct a mistake without charge, it is usually preferable to take legal action to recover compensation for medical negligence. Dental treatments rarely last a lifetime, and a patient should not have to bear the cost of replacing a bridge or crown which would not have been necessary to have fitted were it not for the act of dental negligence.

Claiming for Medical Malpractice by a Plastic Surgeon

It is not always worthwhile claiming compensation for medical malpractice by a plastic surgeon, especially if the surgeon offers to perform a second operation without charge to correct a mistake. However, when a serious error of judgement has been made which leaves a patient disfigured or with a serious injury, a claim for compensation for medical negligence should be given serious consideration.

Claiming for medical malpractice by a plastic surgeon solely on the basis of a plastic surgery procedure failing to produce the desired results may not be possible. A plastic surgeon is unlikely to have given a guarantee that a procedure would be effective, and frequently a contract is signed by a patient to this effect prior to the procedure being performed.

Medical negligence compensation claims for failed plastic surgery may therefore need to be made on the grounds of the potential outcomes not being fully explained by the surgeon, if the risks of a particular plastic surgery procedure were not discussed prior to the operation of if the probability of success was greatly overestimated.

A claim for medical malpractice in Ireland for plastic surgery gone wrong is possible for an avoidable injury sustained due to the negligence of a plastic surgeon; however it is vital that compensation for plastic surgery is discussed with a specialist medical negligence solicitor as these cases can be highly complex.

Medical Malpractice During Birth

There are many reasons why compensation for medical malpractice in hospitals in Ireland is claimed, although injuries suffered by babies during childbirth and claims made against HSE hospitals capture many of the headlines. Medical malpractice during birth can cause life-changing disabilities to be suffered by newborn babies, in addition to causing injuries to the mother, and hospital medical malpractice compensation may be essential to ensure that appropriate medical care can be afforded.

Due to the importance of recovering compensation for medical negligence after a birth injury has been suffered, it is essential that a medical negligence solicitor is consulted as soon as possible. When a claim is investigated promptly it can increase the probability of successfully being able to recover compensation.

A claim for medical malpractice in Ireland for a birth injury to either mother or child can only be resolved by professional medical opinion, and an in-depth investigation into the case must be conducted. Birth Injuries are often outside the control of the delivery room staff and hospital doctors. If it cannot be established ‘on the balance of probabilities’ that an injury was avoidable under the circumstances, medical negligence compensation claims will not be successful.

Compensation for a Birth Injury to a Newborn Baby

Provided that a birth injury was caused by the actions of a midwife, doctor, anaesthetist or other medical professional, a claim for medical malpractice in hospitals in Ireland should be possible. Preventable injuries resulting from a failure of the hospital staff to provide appropriate pre-natal and post-natal care, inadequate monitoring of the vital signs of the baby or negligent use of forceps and other hospital equipment can also form the basis of medical malpractice claims in Ireland.

The amount of hospital medical malpractice compensation that can be recovered will depend on the severity of injury sustained, the duration that it must be suffered by the victim and how the victim’s quality of life will change. Compensation for medical negligence during birth can also cover future medical costs, changes to a home or mode of transport, home help, education costs and any other legitimate expense which would not have been incurred were it not for an act of medical malpractice.

You should seek legal advice about making medical negligence compensation claims if your baby has suffered any of the following health problems to establish whether claim for medical malpractice in Ireland can be made:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Erb’s palsy
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Brain damage
  • Umbilical cord strangulation
  • Crania injuries during childbirth
  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Fractured bones
  • Paralysis
  • Spinal cord injuries

Compensation for a Birth Injury to a Mother

It is not only babies who suffer as a result of medical negligence, and a mother can also come to harm when childbirth is mismanaged in hospital. Claims for compensation for medical negligence during childbirth for injuries to the mother can be complex, as it must be established that the injuries were sustained due to negligence, and not simply from the act of childbirth. If an injury could not have been avoided, or it would be unreasonable to expect doctors or nurses delivery room staff to have taken the relevant actions or precautions to prevent a birth injury to the mother, hospital medical malpractice compensation cannot be claimed.

After a solicitor has investigated a claim for medical malpractice in Ireland and the case has been assessed by an appropriate independent medical professional, it will be possible to have the right to claim compensation confirmed. If you or a loved one has experienced medical complications during a managed birth in hospital, and any of the following injuries have been sustained, you should speak with a medical negligence solicitor to find out if medical negligence compensation claims can be made.

  • Vaginal tearing
  • Incorrectly performed episiotomy
  • Failure to perform an episiotomy resulting in second and third degree tearing
  • Excessive perineal tearing
  • Septicaemia
  • Maternal diabetes
  • Uterine rupture
  • Placental abruption

Further Information on Claims for Clinical and Medical Malpractice

If you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice in hospitals in Ireland, it is vital that you seek legal advice from a specialist medical negligence solicitor to find out if you are entitled to claim compensation.

The Injuries Board is not involved in the assessment of hospital medical malpractice compensation claims, and a solicitor must be used to determine the amount of compensation that can be recovered, and to confirm eligibility to make a claim for medical malpractice in Ireland under the circumstances. Medical negligence compensation claims can be made for injuries or health problems suffered due to the action of any medical professional, so no matter how and where you sustained your injury, it may be possible to claim compensation.

An award of compensation for medical negligence will not make up for a serious injury caused by the negligence of a medical professional, but it will go a long way towards ensuring that you can lead as normal a life as is possible.