A medical negligence claim may arise in Ireland if you have suffered an injury as a direct result of medical mistreatment or lack of care that you have received. This may also be referred to variously as a ‘medical accident’, ‘adverse incident’, or ‘patient safety incident’. What is important to remember and is often misunderstood by people in general is that this does not necessarily mean that the treatment was ‘negligent while better quality of care or safety measures could have prevented your injury, it may be that the incident itself was in fact completely unavoidable. Medical negligence claims are perhaps more complex that any other genre of personal injury law, a fact that is recognised by the Irish legal system. Unlike almost every other type of personal injury compensation case, the Injuries Board will refuse jurisdiction in respect of medical negligence claims.
Medical professionals, like any other person, can make errors of judgement or neglect to carry out their duties to the required standard. Thankfully, this is not usually the case and the vast majority of medical practitioners perform their daily tasks to the highest possible standard in our hospitals and clinics. When they occur, however, incidents of medical malpractice are often due to the pressure of working long hours in what is very clearly a stressful environment. Other errors may be due to the inexperience of a young doctor or perhaps a more senior doctor or surgeon’s lack of familiarity with a new procedure or practice. A language barrier between doctor and patient causes an obvious risk. There are also instances when errors have been made due to administrative problems such as improper documentation or missing medical records. Indeed, the list of possible causes of medical malpractice is almost endless and any one factor, or combination of factors, may result in a doctor maltreating his or her patient.
We recognise that a medical accident has significant emotional and financial consequences for you and your family and we will do everything we can to make the process run as smoothly as possible for you. Although our aim is to secure proper compensation wherever appropriate, we hope in all cases to obtain an explanation for what happened to you and hold the doctor or hospital accountable for their actions. We strongly believe in the ethos that the ordinary man, woman or child who is the victim of medical negligence is entitled to just as good, if not better, legal representation than that provided to the State, hospital boards and medical consultants. We believe proper access to justice is a fundamental right and not a privilege.
A personal injury claim, be it due to medical malpractice or otherwise is just that; an injury claim. The plaintiff cannot make a successful claim unless he or she has sustained some form of injury either physical or psychological as a consequence of the medical malpractice that occurred. Even in circumstances where the medical staff have indeed acted negligently, perhaps criminally so, it should be noted that with regard to the civil law a plaintiff can only claim compensation for a personal injury that he or she has in fact sustained. In certain circumstances, a near miss or ‘scare’ can be proved to have caused a severe psychological trauma that justifies compensation being awarded.
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement