The Medical Protection Society has suggested that solicitors trial a “pre-action protocol” which is aimed at lowering the costs of hospital negligence claims in Ireland.
Because of the significant expenses involved in bringing legal action against the HSE, the costs of hospital negligence claims can be exceptional. The Medical Protection Society – a non-profit organisation that provides legal assistance to the medical industry – acknowledges this, and has proposed a “pre-trial protocol” which aims to lower the costs of hospital negligence claims in Ireland.
The suggested protocol is intended to promote openness and transparency in communications between solicitors acting on behalf of plaintiffs and defendants, and provide an opportunity for hospital negligence claims to be investigated and resolved before litigation is necessary.
In England and Wales financial penalties are imposed on solicitors who go straight to litigation without first attempting some form of mediation; but, if the MPS´s proposals are successful, penalties should not be necessary when the improved dialogue should lower the costs of hospital negligence claims in Ireland by creating a less adversarial process.
The MPS´s Director of Claims – Emma Hallinan – is proposing that the protocol be trialled voluntarily before legislation has to be introduced for solicitors to engage at an early stage. She said “We recognise the important role that the MPS must play, and have committed to trialling procedural reform before it is introduced in statute. We are in the process of writing to plaintiff lawyers with large medical negligence practices to request that they work with us to pilot this.”
Among the MPS´s proposals, a tariff of general damages would be introduced – similar to the Judicial College´s “Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases” in the UK – which would provide a scale of compensation awards for specific physical injuries caused by hospital negligence ranging from dental damage to catastrophic brain injuries.
Other general damages (for loss of amenity and emotional trauma) as well as special damages to replace lost income and expenses would still have to be resolved by negotiation; however many observers looking at the proposals are in agreement that the MPS is heading in the right direction to lower the costs of hospital negligence claims in Ireland.