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Hospital Negligence Cases

It is quite possible that the only time many people hear about hospital negligence cases is when the case makes headline news due to a catastrophic injury and a substantial hospital negligence compensation settlement. However, thousands of people every year suffer an avoidable loss, injury or the deterioration of an existing condition due to the negligence of a hospital or a medical practitioner who works in the hospital.

This article aims to provide you with general advice about what constitutes hospital negligence and what can be done if you believe you have receive negligent treatment at a hospital. No amount of compensation for hospital negligence can ever undo a loss or permanent injury which could have avoided with greater care, but it can provide a better quality of life for the innocent victim of negligence and their families.

Hospital Malpractice

Hospital malpractice is a term which refers to when a medical practitioner has failed in his or her “duty of care” to provide you with an expected standard of treatment due to a poor professional performance. Medical practitioners assume a duty of care whenever they agree to treat a patient and should they make an avoidable mistake which results in a loss, injury or the deterioration of an existing condition, you may be eligible to compensation for hospital malpractice.

In order for a claim for hospital malpractice to be successful, you – or a solicitor acting on your behalf – will have to demonstrate that “in the circumstances and at the time” a competent medical practitioner would not have made the mistake which led to the injury, or would have followed an alternative course of action which would have prevented your injury from occurring.

Hospital Mistakes

Not every avoidable injury which occurs in a hospital is attributable to hospital malpractice. Behind every surgical procedure is a support team of technicians and administrators who are responsible for conducting medical tests and maintaining patient histories. Should a medical practitioner cause an injury due to being provided with the wrong information, it would not affect your entitlement to claim compensation for hospital negligence but would complicate the process for resolving your claim.

It also has to be remembered that just because hospital mistakes have been made, you are not automatically entitled to hospital negligence compensation. There are many hospital negligence cases in which the patient has sustained an injury which could not have been prevented in any circumstance, or has sustained an injury for which their treatment, prognosis or life expectancy has been affected so insignificantly that it would not be worth their while to make a claim for hospital malpractice.

Infection after Hospital Operation

There are a number of scenarios in which post-operative hospital negligence can result in patients being eligible to claim compensation for hospital malpractice. The most frequent occurrence is when patients contract an infection after a hospital operation which delays their recovery or leads to further injury. Provided that an infection after a hospital operation can be attributed to a lack of hygiene or poor standard of care, it will be possible to make a compensation claim for hospital malpractice.

Other scenarios in which patients may have hospital negligence cases for compensation include when the wrong medication has been prescribed or administered, when the patient has been discharged from hospital prematurely or when there is sub-standard follow up care. Again, a loss, injury or the deterioration of an existing condition will have to occur before it is possible to claim hospital malpractice compensation.

Wrongful Death in Hospital

Hospital negligence cases regarding a wrongful death in hospital are emotionally charged and exceptionally distressing. Claims for a wrongful death in a hospital have to identify when and how the negligent treatment occurred and whether it was due to a tragic lack of care before, during or after a hospital procedure.

The administration of the wrong medicine, an unjustifiable delay in treating a patient or an avoidable error during surgery are the most frequent reasons for claims for a wrongful death in a hospital to arise; however, hospital negligence cases can also be made if you have suffered the loss of a loved one due to an infection after a hospital operation or due to the failure to monitor a patient – especially in claims for the wrongful death of an infant in hospital.

How to Prove Neglect by Hospitals

Proving neglect by hospitals is often complex. A solicitor will engage the services of a medical expert in the field of your particular injury, who will then study your medical history and the notes made at the time of your hospital treatment to ascertain whether the treatment you received from the hospital was negligent, and whether that negligent treatment led to a loss, injury or the deterioration of an existing condition which could have been avoided with greater care.

In some hospital negligence cases, the neglect of the hospital may be obvious – such as if a wrong part of the body has been operated on or if the wrong dose of medicine has been administered – but it still has to be determined how the neglect of the hospital occurred, and to what extent it affected your treatment, prognosis or life expectancy.

How to Sue a Hospital for Negligence

A claim for hospital negligence compensation has to be made directly against the hospital or medical practitioner as the Injuries Board declines all hospital negligence cases because of the complexity involved with proving negligence. The normal procedure is for your solicitor to send a Letter of Claim to the hospital advising them that you are making a claiming compensation for hospital negligence.

If you have a sufficiently strong case, your solicitor will invite the hospital – through the Health Service Executive – to settle your claim; however it may be necessary that you will have initiate court proceedings in order to sue the hospital for negligence. In some cases a hospital will agree to a settlement provided that it does not have to make an admission of liability for your injuries – something which you may not be happy with but may have to concede to resolve your hospital negligence claim.

The Statute of Limitations for Hospital Negligence

In Ireland, the Courts and Civil Liability Act 2000 determines how long a plaintiff has in which to make a claim for compensation when they have suffered an injury due to the negligence of another. The Statute of Limitations for hospital negligence cases is set at two years but, unlike many personal injury claims in which the limitation period starts on the date of a physical accident, a claim for hospital malpractice is allowed two years from the date on which hospital negligence is identified.

This “date of knowledge” is an important factor in hospital negligence cases for, if you have received negligent medical treatment, the date on which your injury is discovered could be a considerable time after the negligent treatment was administered. Hospital negligence cases are often initiated many years after a hospital has been guilty of a neglectful standard of care and, if you are unsure whether you are within the Statute of Limitations for hospital negligence, you should speak with a solicitor without delay.

Hospital Negligence Claims for Children

Hospital negligence claims for children follow a similar procedure as those for adults, but there are a few notable differences. A child is not allowed by law to instruct a solicitor or make a claim for hospital malpractice until they reach the age of eighteen. Therefore, the Statute of Limitations for hospital negligence does not start in cases involving minors until the child reaches the age of majority.

However, it is often impractical to delay hospital negligence claims for children if funds are required to provide specialist care for a young child who has sustained an injury due to hospital negligence. Therefore, compensation for hospital malpractice can be claimed by a parent or guardian acting as the child´s “next friend” provided that there is no conflict of interest and the “next friend” is prepared to accept the financial liabilities of bringing a claim should the hospital negligence case be unsuccessful.

Hospital Negligence Solicitors

Hospital negligence cases are one of the most complex genres of personal injury law in Ireland and, if you or a loved one have sustained an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition which could have been avoided had greater care been taken by a hospital or a medical practitioner who works in a hospital, you should speak with an experienced hospital negligence solicitor at the first practical opportunity.

Most hospital negligence solicitors in Ireland will offer a free initial consultation in order for you to establish that you have a claim for hospital malpractice which is worth your while to pursue – without any obligation on you to proceed with a claim and in total confidentiality. It may be the case that a loss or injury was unavoidable, but it will take no more than a few minutes of your time to speak with one of our hospital negligence solicitors and find out more about hospital negligence cases in Ireland.