How Do You Prove Emotional Distress in a Medical Negligence Case?

Medical treatment

Any individual that has suffered emotional and psychological scarring as a result of a traumatic medical experience is likely to attest to the fact that the recovery process can be both extremely slow and incredibly difficult. If the emotional distress in question stemmed from negligent care or treatment, the aftermath may be even more agonising, which is why many victims of this exact scenario will often seek compensation.

But is it possible to prove that you’ve experienced significant emotional distress as a result of medical negligence, and if so, how can it be done? Before we answer those questions, let’s delve a little further into how such psychological suffering commonly manifests itself.

What complaints are typically associated with emotional distress?

In contrast to a person that may bear the physical signs of substandard medical treatment, an individual whose post-care symptoms are of an emotional nature will naturally find it more difficult to substantiate a medical negligence claim. This is simply because psychological distress is much harder to quantify as it is not evident to the naked eye.

In order to inevitably secure damages, you must be in a position to show that you’ve suffered from a recognised psychiatric injury. The World Health Organisation have published a book on such recognised injuries, which may be helpful to those seeking guidance, but typical psychiatric ailments that fall under this category include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Severe anxiety

While the repercussions from negligent medical care will often be both physical and psychological in nature, those with standalone emotional scars may experience such effects following an incorrect diagnosis, birth-related trauma or an error in administered treatment.

Proving a psychiatric disorder as part of a medical negligence case

It is important to emphasise that the psychological injuries detailed within a medical negligence case must have been caused by the incident in question, and this must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If your medical history shows prior experiences of similar psychiatric ailments, the incident at the centre of your claim may only be seen to have aggravated your condition, rather than serving as the root cause.

But back to the business at hand… The first and most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to proving the presence of emotional distress, whether that be in the form of PTSD or some category of depression, is to obtain a clinical diagnosis of these injuries.

To achieve this, you will need to undergo a review by a consultant psychiatrist, who will also review your medical records. If this expert confirms that you have indeed suffered from one or more psychiatric injuries as a direct result of negligent care or treatment, you will then be entitled to recover damages for that emotional upset.

In instances where both emotional and physical injuries are apparent, your case will likely be even more viable. Oftentimes, people who have suffered very nasty physical injuries will endure secondary injuries as a result of their experience. In such cases, where emotional trauma is accompanied by physical injuries, you will be in a position to seek compensation for both grievances.

Defining your claim and navigating what can be an incredibly complex process is a difficult task, particularly when dealing with the aftereffects of a traumatic medical experience. For this reason, it is integral to seek guidance from a specialist medical negligence solicitor as soon as you decide to proceed with a claim.

Why choose McCarthy + Co. Solicitors?

McCarthy + Co. Solicitors are medical negligence claims specialists with more than 30 years of experience in providing legal advice, guidance and assistance to clients across Ireland. Over our three decades in business, we have handled a significant number of medical negligence cases and successfully negotiated settlements for clients.

We recognise that there are many reasons you might wish to make a medical negligence claim. You may have suffered due to a misdiagnosis, or you could have been injured because a procedure was carried out incorrectly. Either way, medical negligence can cause serious injuries and if you think it might apply to your situation, you should take legal advice as soon as possible.

Get in touch today – we look forward to working with you and ensuring you get the compensation that you deserve.

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John McCarthy specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims. His practice focuses on high-value compensation cases. John qualified as a solicitor in 2003 and holds a diploma in civil litigation. This specialist qualification in the area of personal injury and medical negligence litigation, is awarded by the Law Society of Ireland.