Is it true that the medical negligence Statute of Limitations in Ireland means my son cannot claim for the misdiagnosis of a fracture until he is eighteen?
Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor
Editor in Chief
Inasmuch as it is true that children have until they are legal adults before the time limit imposed by the medical negligence Statute of Limitations in Ireland begins, it does not necessarily mean that your son cannot make a claim for the misdiagnosis of a fracture before he reaches adulthood.
Claims for injuries to children caused by medical negligence can be initiated by a parent or guardian acting on the child´s behalf at any time before the child reaches eighteen years of age, provided that there is no conflict of interest – such as if you were the attending doctor who made the misdiagnosis – and the parent or guardian is prepared to accept the financial consequences if the claim for the misdiagnosis of a fracture is unsuccessful.
The parent or guardian acting on behalf of your son would be granted the status of “next friend” by the District Court (a solicitor would usually arrange this for you) and the “next friend” would then be able to instruct a solicitor to start the process to claim for the misdiagnosis of a fracture on behalf of your son.
Claims for injuries to children caused by medical negligence are not always straightforward – even when it is apparent that a medical error has been made. The solicitor would write to each individual involved in your son´s treatment to ascertain where in the chain of events the misdiagnosis occurred; as it is always possible that it was not the attending doctor who made a mistake if, for example, the x-rays given to him were for somebody else.
Once the reason for the error is established, your solicitor will issue a ‘Letter of Claim’ to the negligent party – most often claims for injuries to children caused by medical negligence in Ireland are addressed to the Health Service Executive – and, once an admission of liability is received, your solicitor will negotiate a suitable settlement of your son´s claim for the misdiagnosis of a fracture.
Because the medical negligence Statute of Limitations in Ireland does not start for your son until he becomes a legal adult, this procedure can be commenced any time from now until your son´s twentieth birthday; however, it will improve the likelihood of a successful claim if the process is initiated sooner rather than later.
The whole purpose of the medical negligence Statute of Limitations in Ireland is to encourage the making of injury claims while evidence of negligence is still recent, and therefore it is advisable that you speak with a solicitor on behalf of your son at the first possible opportunity.