My husband developed an infection after a procedure at our local hospital which kept him from working for three months. Is it possible to make a surgery infection compensation claim against the hospital to recover his lost wages?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

Answer:

There are several conditions which have to be fulfilled before it can be confirmed that your husband is eligible to make a surgery infection compensation claim against the hospital – the first being that your husband actually contracted the infection due to – or after – surgery due to negligence at the hospital.

You fail to mention in your question whether your husband recovered from his procedure in the hospital or at your home. It would be improbable that your husband would have been discharged from the hospital if an infection had already been identified; however, if the infection from surgery developed after your husband was discharged from hospital, it does not necessarily mean that the infection was contracted at home either.

Furthermore, as some surgical infections are unavoidable, it does not necessarily follow that if your husband contracted a surgical infection that it was attributable to medical negligence at the hospital. Only if it can be proven that the hospital followed unhygienic practices or that a member of the hospital staff failed in their duty of care to prevent your husband from contracting an infection will it be possible to make a surgery infection claim for compensation.

In order to establish medical negligence, a solicitor would engage the services of a clinical expert to assess hygiene conditions in the hospital, determine whether they could have led to your husband sustaining an avoidable surgical infection and also to investigate whether other patients who have undergone a surgical procedure at your local hospital have also contracted infections after an operation. If “on the balance of probabilities” it can be established that your husband contracted a surgical infection due to medical negligence, your solicitor would then initiate a compensation claim for a surgery on your behalf.

How much compensation for surgery infection your husband would be entitled to claim would depend on the location and extent of the infection, how it affected his quality of life and any ongoing consequences to his long-term health. A claim for a surgery infection would also enable your husband to recover any income he lost while being unable to work and any expenses that you or he incurred as a direct result of your husband contracting the infection.

If liability for your husband´s infection is admitted by the hospital, it may be possible that you or he are approached directly by the hospital´s public liability insurers with an offer of compensation for a surgery infection. These offers should be greeted with caution, for although they are presented as a swift way of settling your surgery infection claim for compensation at a time when your finances may be depleted due to your husband´s inability to work, the amount of the compensation for a surgery infection offered may not represent a fair and adequate settlement.

If such an approach is received, it is in your best interests to advise your solicitor immediately. As an approach by an insurance company is effectively an admission of liability, your solicitor will be able to apply for interim payments of surgery infection compensation until such time as your claim is resolved. Indeed, it is recommended to speak with an experienced medical negligence solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity to establish as soon as possible whether your husband has a surgery infection compensation claim which is worth your while to pursue.