What is Medical Negligence?

A fairly common question asked of solicitors by people who believe they may have received sub-standard medical care is ‘what is medical negligence?’ and ‘what is medical negligence compensation awarded for?’ However determining what is medical negligence can be surprisingly complicated, and calculating the value of a medical negligence compensation claim is rarely straightforward.

Understanding What is Medical Negligence

Medical negligence can be any action by a doctor, nurse, surgeon, or member of the hospital staff which falls below an acceptable standard of care and which directly causes an injury to be sustained, a disease to be contracted, or the health of a patient to significantly deteriorate. Medical negligence can also involve a lack of action by medical professionals, such as a procedure which should have been completed but which was not arranged or an unnecessary delay to treatment. Whenever a doctor or medical professional fails in their duty of care to you as a patient, and your health suffers as a result, you may well be entitled to make a claim for medical negligence compensation.

If you are unsure what is medical negligence and whether you are eligible to claim compensation for any loss, injury, pain and suffering caused at the hands of a medical professional, you should consult a specialist medical negligence compensation claims solicitor for legal advice.

What is Medical Negligence Compensation Awarded For?

No two medical negligence compensation claims are the same, and each requires a detailed assessment in order to determine eligibility to claim and how much medical negligence compensation you may be entitled to receive.

In order to be eligible for medical negligence compensation, you must have sustained an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to medical negligence, and this would involve attending medical professionals to seek further treatment, obtain a medical report and review this with your legal advisors.

Should You Make A Medical Negligence Compensation Claim?

Before making a decision to start a medical negligence claim for compensation, it is important to be clear in your mind about what you hope to achieve. Medical negligence claims in Ireland are often highly complex. They can take a long time to be resolved, and are often quite difficult to prove. If medical negligence compensation is necessary to cover the cost of treatment or will allow you to receive proper care, then naturally a medical negligence compensation claim should be initiated if you have suffered injury due to a medical procedure, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis or other reason you feel has caused your injury.

However if you are just seeking an apology for a mistake that has been made, or if you just want to have an answer as to how a surgical error happened and want a reassurance that action will be taken against those members of staff who have been negligent, then it may not be in your interests to make a claim for medical negligence compensation. A complaint to the hospital may be sufficient to ensure that action is taken and answers are provided. In either case, you should seek advice from a medical negligence solicitor in the first instance when you will be advised on the procedures which should be followed, and they would review your information and advise you whether it is worth your while to make a claim.

What is Medical Negligence Compensation Most Commonly Awarded For?

Medical negligence awards of compensation are granted for a wide range of medical errors and surgical mistakes that occur when undergoing treatment at a clinic, hospital or GP surgery. Medical negligence can also apply to home help services, or even nursing homes. What is medical negligence compensation commonly awarded for is detailed below, although if you suspect that you have been a victim of any form of medical negligence, and the exact circumstances are not included below, you should still seek the advice of a medical negligence compensation solicitor.

Medical Negligence Claims for Misdiagnosis of a Disease

Failures to diagnose a serious illnesses and the misdiagnosis of diseases accounts for approximately 40% of all medical negligence claims for compensation in Ireland. In addition to being the most frequent reasons for making medical negligence claims for compensation, they are also some of the most serious medical negligence mistakes and can have grave consequences for the victims. Not only is the wrong treatment likely to be prescribed, but a disease can deteriorate significantly until the correct diagnosis is made. Terminal diseases such as cancer require early treatment in order for a patient to have the best chance of recovery, and a failed cancer diagnosis can have devastating consequences.

Medical Negligence Claims for Sub-Standard Treatment

In Ireland, the healthcare system is usually first rate and patients mostly receive a very high level of medical care. However medical professionals are human, and are therefore prone to make mistakes. When these mistakes lead to health problems, or when health deteriorates as a result of a poor standard of treatment, it could constitute medical negligence. When a medical professional is experiencing family problems, is working excessive hours, or is just having ‘an off day’, it could potentially result in standards of care failing. If a lapse in standards causes your health to suffer, you could be eligible to claim medical negligence compensation. If you are unsure what medical negligence is and whether an error has caused a health problem serious enough to warrant a claim for medical negligence compensation, you should seek legal advice immediately.

Failure to Perform Medical Procedures Can Constitute Medical Negligence

The failure to perform a medical procedure may appear at face value to be medical negligence, but what is medical negligence and what is an acceptable alternative treatment may not be quite so clear cut. There may be more than one single treatment or procedure which can be used to treat a health condition or disease. A doctor is required to make an informed decision on the best treatment to prescribe, given a range of factors and your individual circumstances. However, if it can be proven that a competent doctor would have administered a more appropriate treatment, and that it should have prevented an injury being sustained or a deterioration in your health, you could make a claim for medical negligence compensation.

Wrong Site Surgery and Incorrect Surgical Procedures

Wrong site surgery is one of the most clear cut cases of medical negligence, and one of the most serious. Such claims almost always result in medical negligence compensation being awarded, but the amount of compensation you receive will be dependent on your personal circumstances and the effect that the incorrect surgical procedure has made to your life. Left right errors, incorrect recording of surgical procedures on patient medical charts or surgical procedure which should have been performed on another patient can be devastating for the victim. If you have had a healthy body part removed, had an unnecessary surgical procedure performed or have undergone an incorrect surgical procedure, you should discuss this with a solicitor in relation to a medical negligence claim.

Accident & Emergency Room Medical Negligence Claims

Accident and Emergency rooms are hectic places, and doctors and nurses are often be overrun, overworked, and have to put in exceptionally long working hours far and above what is considered to be acceptable in any other line of work. However, even with these working conditions and pressures, the level of care must not fall below an acceptable standard, and the health of outpatients must never be put at risk. When there has been a proven failure in a duty of care, or a rushed diagnosis is made which later proves to be incorrect, it constitutes medical negligence and a claim can be made against the hospital, or doctor who performed the examination and prescribed an incorrect treatment.

Birth Injuries Caused By Medical Negligence

Making a compensation claim for birth injuries involves a highly specialised knowledge of medical negligence. Birth injuries can be highly complex, time intensive, and particularly stressful for the family concerned. Determining what is medical negligence with birth injuries and what is an acceptable risk of the birth process can actually be surprisingly difficult. Medical negligence claims for compensation are possible with birth injuries to a newborn child, such as Erb’s Palsy, Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Hip Displysia and fractures sustained by a forceps delivery.

A medical negligence solicitor should be consulted for advice about what is medical negligence when a mother is injured during childbirth, as it may be possible to claim compensation for birth injuries.

Claiming Compensation for an Infection Contracted in Hospital

MRSA infections are becoming increasingly common in hospitals, with patients contracting this potentially deadly infection while under the care of fully trained medical professionals. An illness or bacterial infection such as this may appear to be a clear cut case of medical negligence; however determining who the respondent is may be difficult. Although claims for compensation can usually be made, even these claims can prove to be long winded and time consuming.

If you have caught MRSA in a hospital, you should seek the advice of a hospital medical negligence solicitor for advice about claiming compensation for contracting MRSA, and about the procedures which must be followed to determine the individual who was responsible – and against whom the claim for medical negligence compensation must be made.