Claim against a Consultant Doctor

Can I make a compensation claim against a consultant doctor if a delay in diagnosing my illness made my condition worse?

Answer:

In order to make a claim against a consultant doctor for a delay in diagnosis, it has to be proven that “in the circumstances and at the time” the delay in diagnosis could have been avoided, and that because of the delay in diagnosis you suffered a deterioration of your health which would not have otherwise occurred. Although the two conditions for making a compensation claim against a consultant doctor are connected, and would both have to be fulfilled for your claim to be successful, they would be addressed individually.

An expert in the field of medicine related to your illness would first have to review your relevant medical records to establish which examinations were carried out, when they were carried out and why they were carried out. The expert would then ascertain whether an alternative interpretation could have been made of any test results which would have facilitated an earlier correct diagnosis of your illness and enabled treatment to have been provided sooner.

The expert would also look at the “background” of the examinations and test results to see if a compensation claim against a consultant doctor is the most appropriate course of action or whether negligence had occurred elsewhere in the process – for example if a laboratory had been slow in performing a test or if the results had been delayed by an administrative process. Once it has been established that negligence has occurred which has been responsible for the delay in diagnosis, it then has to be shown that you sustained an injury as a result.

This time the medical expert would review your medical notes to determine the length of the delay in diagnosing your illness and the consequences of the delay. A short delay may have made a minimal difference which would not justify a claim against a consultant doctor – or one of the support staff – being made. It might also be the case that your health may have deteriorated irrespective of when the diagnosis had been made – in which case you would not qualify for compensation for a consultant doctor error.

Only when the two conditions of negligence and a quantifiable injury are established will it be possible to make a compensation claim against a consultant, and you will have two years from the date of knowledge that an injury has been sustained in which to make your claim. However, as the Injuries Board Ireland will not assess claims which are determined by medical opinion, you will have to engage a solicitor to pursue compensation for a consultant doctor error on your behalf.

This does not necessarily mean that your claim against a consultant doctor will have to be presented in court. If your solicitor and the medical expert have constructed a strong case in your favour, it may be possible to resolve your compensation claim against a consultant doctor by negotiating with the doctor´s medical insurance company. This often has the result of obtaining a settlement of compensation for a consultant doctor error within a short space of time and, even if the full consequences of the delayed diagnosis are not yet known, an admission of liability will enable your solicitor to apply for interim payments of compensation until such time as your claim against a consultant doctor is resolved.

Ideally you should make contact with an experienced medical negligence solicitor as soon as possible, for although it has not yet been determined that you have sustained an avoidable injury – and therefore the two year period not yet begun – establishing negligence in your potential claim against a consultant doctor should be done sooner rather than earlier to give your claim the strongest likelihood of success.