Taking action in cases of medical negligence

Medical Negligence is a very sensitive and complex area of law. 

Things go wrong in hospitals and other medical environments.

When they do, they affect people at a time when they are extremely vulnerable.

It is often difficult for users of medical services to know if a bad outcome is or is not as a result of negligence.

There is a need to know what action to take when they need answers.

Why contact a Solicitor?

The medical profession is rightly held in high esteem. Huge trust is placed in a health professional when you consent to an operation or when you hold out your arm to receive an injection.

When things go wrong the reaction of an injured patient or their family is, understandably, an emotional one. This may, often, be mixed with a a strong sense of the breach of this trust.

There is a perception amongst injured patients and their families that when something goes wrong, the medical profession closes ranks and they cannot get straight answers to the straightforward questions.

Disgruntled patients hire Solicitors, not because of the desire to obtain compensation, but instead by a desire for knowledge about what happened to them. 

The inability to get answers and the desire to get an apology is often the primary reason to litigate.   

In many cases, therefore, we seek to achieve both compensation for Clients with an apology.

Are these types of cases very difficult?

Unlike with other types of personal injuries, medical negligence cases are very complex.

In a lot of cases, the person is sick before they ever go about getting treatment, or they are suffering from a serious underlying condition.

This can complicate the process of finding out if there is a case to answer.

One of the primary tasks which both the client and the Solicitor faces is to distinguish what the outcome would have been but for the negligent act or omission which took place.

Quite often, the other side, will argue that the illness or disease that the person had when they agreed to treatment was the determining factor in the final outcome. 

In the context of a surgical treatment, it will ofen be argued that the injury complained of is within the realm of acceptable error  – “ a recognised complication”.

Another difficulty is the lack of knowledge: when somebody gets injured in a factory, or is in an accident on the road, what led to the event is rarely in dispute. However, in a medical context, the background of the facts can be so vast and complex, that very often it is difficult to understand what happened.

It is often problematic to know if something , in fact, went wrong.

Another issue is that medical negligence cases are still David v Goliath type challenges. They involve you (an individual) taking on a large institution (more often than not, the HSE)  which has deeper pockets and no emotional stake in the outcome.

How would someone know if there has been an act of Medical Negligence?

It is very difficult to establish at an early stage.

It is not unusual for a patient not to be told that an error has occurred.  So typically, a patient or relative becomes suspicious because of this lack of information.

This suspicion is often the only reason that someone would know that there is a need to further investigate the circumstances of the operation or treament.

It can also be extremely difficult to know if a bad outcome is simply a justifiable risk of treatment.

What initial steps should you take to establish a possible case or “cause of action”?

Medical negligence claims, in a similar way to personal injury claims, are made up of a series of hurdles.

If you do not clear the first hurdle you cannot move on to the next.

The first hurldle is often establising if there is a case to answer.

To begin to find this out , we take up copies of all medical records and check them. In some cases we may even send them to a medical records expert for analysis.

We would also write to the doctor, health care professional or institution we believe is responsible for the injuries caused.

Medical experts specialising in the particular area of medicine involved will then be asked to consider whether or not the treatment received was negligent or substandard and if so the extent of the damage it caused.

If we consider that we have enough evidence to prove a case of medical negligence, then we advise starting court proceedings immediately.

Clinical negligence cases can be settled by negotiation without the need to proceed to a full trial but they are rarely resolved without starting court action.

 It is important to bear in mind that the fact that things did go wrong does not necessarily mean that you have a case.

For further advice or if you wish to discuss any other legal area please contact [email protected], telephone 052-6124344 or complete the form below.

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The material contained in this blog is provided for general information purposes only and does not amount to legal or other professional advice. While every care has been taken in the preparation of the information, we advise you to seek specific advice from us about any legal decision or course of action.

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