In Ireland, the general standard of nursing care is excellent and, for many people, nurses are regarded as angels. However, they are human too, and nursing negligence can occur when a nurse who has a “duty of care” towards you or a loved one neglects that duty, or demonstrates a poor professional performance which results in an injury.
An “injury” can be any unfavourable outcome which results from the nurses lack of care. Nursing negligence can range from writing a patient´s notes incorrectly, to administering the wrong or an incorrect dosage of medicine, to failing to maintain hygiene which results in an MRSA infection. Nursing negligence can lead to serious injury or fatality in the wrong circumstances.
Nursing Negligence Outside the Hospital
Instances of nursing negligence are not only confined to hospitals. They can occur when a midwife visits your home, when a nurse makes a school visit or when somebody with a duty of care in a nursing home exhibits either a lack of skill or the failure to apply it.
Nurses are a doctor´s eyes and ears when doctors are not with their patients, and are trained to identify the symptoms of various ailments. When they fail to report symptoms – or changes in symptoms – to a doctor, they are guilty of nursing negligence.
Determining Nursing Negligence
For a nursing negligence compensation claim to be successful, an injury has to have occurred as a result of an action – or lack of an action – that was avoidable at the time. Where the symptoms of an injury due to the dereliction of duty are not apparent for a long time, or where incomplete notes have been made, proving that nursing negligence has occurred can be difficult.
Further complications exist in busy general hospitals, where one of any number of staff could be responsible for the lack of care which has resulted in an injury. At a time when you are in poor health, or emotionally traumatised because a loved one is hospitalised, your focus is not going to be on the person administering treatment, but on the end result of that treatment.
Making a Nursing Negligence Claim
Once you have been diagnosed as having an injury which has been caused by nursing negligence, you should speak with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity. A nursing negligence claim is resolved on medical opinion rather than physical evidence, so the Injuries Board Ireland will decline to assess your application for nursing negligence compensation and you will have to pursue your nursing negligence claim through the court system.
Your solicitor will apply for your medical records and lodge a formal complaint with the hospital, clinic or nursing home at which the injury due to nursing negligence was sustained, or from where the nurse responsible for your injury is based. You will need to undergo an examination by an independent medical expert to assess the degree of nursing negligence and what effect it has made to your health and quality of life.
Nursing Negligence Compensation
How much nursing negligence compensation you will be entitled to will depend on the degree of injury that has been sustained. Your solicitor will construct the strongest possible claim for nursing negligence compensation to include any psychological effect of your injury, any ongoing costs of treatment you will incur, and any loss of earnings you will experience as a result of the nursing negligence.
When liability has been proved and liability admitted, it will usually not be necessary to attend court. Except in the case of nursing negligence compensation settlements for children – which have to be approved by a judge before payment can be made – an out of court settlement can be negotiated which will provide fair and adequate nursing negligence compensation for the trauma you have experienced.
Nursing Negligence and the Statute of Limitations
Under the Statute of Limitations, you have two years from the “date of knowledge” that nursing negligence has occurred in which to make a nursing negligence compensation claim. This means that you have two years from the date on which you discover that an injury has occurred due to nursing negligence – not the date on which the negligence occurred, or even when you discovered that you had an injury.
Different rules apply to children, who have two years from their eighteenth birthdays in which to make a claim for nursing negligence compensation. They can, of course, make a claim prior to reaching the age of majority, however it will have to made through a parent or guardian acting as their “next friend” and, as mentioned above, any awards of nursing negligence compensation will have to be approved in court before funds can be released.
- The standard of nursing in Ireland is generally excellent but nurses are not machines and, on some occasions, nursing negligence occurs.
- Nursing negligence is not confined to hospital wards and can happen in any environment where a duty of care is due towards a patient.
- Determining who is liable in a nursing negligence compensation claim is not always straightforward as one of many people may be responsible for an injury to you or a loved one.
- The Injuries Board Ireland will decline to assess a claim for nursing negligence compensation and you will have to pursue your claim through the court system.
- How much nursing negligence compensation you receive is subject to a number of factors – importantly the extent of your injury and the effect it has made to your quality of life.
- Claims for nursing negligence compensation are often resolved without the need for litigation in court, but subject to your solicitor building the strongest possible case on your behalf.
Nursing negligence can be responsible lifelong health issues and even death. If you believe that you or a loved one have been the victim of nursing negligence, you should contact a solicitor at your earliest opportunity to discuss the points raised in the above article.
It is important to note that each case is unique. If you or a member of your family have been unfortunate enough to have suffered from nursing negligence and feel that you have a potential compensation claim, you are advised to discuss all of the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.
Copyright © 2009-2015 Eoin Campbell
About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose 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.