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Is It Difficult to Sue a Hospital for Medical Negligence?

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Hospital negligence grey room

Embarking on a legal battle with a hospital can seem daunting and overwhelming in theory. But in practice, while it is undoubtedly an arduous process on many levels, suing a hospital for medical negligence is no more or less difficult than suing an individual.

The most important factor that will contribute to the case’s viability and potential success, is that your claim of negligent care or treatment can be proven through substantial evidentiary support from the appropriate medical experts.

In what instances would you sue a hospital?

Firstly, when making a claim against a hospital, it’s vital to distinguish between one that involves medical negligence and one that is based on an injury sustained on the premises of a hospital, perhaps as a result of a slip, trip or fall. The latter would most likely be classed as a personal injury case, which would require a different course of action, with the process being commenced by submitting an application for assessment of damages to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB). The PIAB is not authorised to deal with medical negligence claims, which are dealt with exclusively by the courts.

However, if a patient has received sub-standard treatment or care in a State-run hospital, which causes loss, injury or even death, this would likely serve as grounds to sue the hospital in question for medical negligence. While there are multiple examples of what is classified as sub-standard care, such incidents may involve a misdiagnosis, surgical error, or the failure to examine a patient correctly and in line with standard procedure.

If you were treated by a private hospital, the scenario would be slightly different. In this case, it is more of a technical distinction rather than one in principle, because it would be necessary to ensure that you are placing focus on the appropriate legal entity, in terms of who your claim is geared towards. But if the hospital is vicariously liable for either the medical staff or any consultant working there, you are perfectly entitled to recover damages from it, in the same way that you would be from a doctor or nurse or any other medical practitioner.

So, generally speaking, if you’ve been treated in a State-run hospital and have received inadequate treatment by one or more practitioners within that facility, you would sue the hospital as an entire entity. This means that you don’t have to individually name any of the practitioners involved, be it the triage nurse or the consultants that examined you; you are simply bringing a case against one defendant nominated by the State Claims Agency (SCA), with this being the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the case of most publicly run hospitals.

The reason for this? Because hospitals run by the State are covered by what’s known as the Clinical Indemnity Scheme (CIS).

What is the Clinical Indemnity Scheme?

The CIS, which was established in 2002, provides blanket cover for all medical practitioners operating within a State-run hospital. Managed by the SCA, the CIS ensures that liability for any instance of clinical negligence that occurs on the part of an employee of a relevant hospital or HSE facility will be assumed by that hospital or facility.

GP services are generally not covered under the CIS, with the exception of instances when those services were provided on behalf of a State Authority that is covered by the scheme.

The CIS makes suing the hospital no more difficult than suing a doctor who was providing you with private treatment.

Why is it important to seek the advice of a medical negligence solicitor when considering a claim?

The very first step to take when you feel you may have a valid medical negligence claim against a hospital is to seek advice from a solicitor with a proven reputation for displaying expertise and success in this area.

Unlike personal injury cases, medical negligence cases are not subject to an initial assessment by the PIAB, which is why it is essential to consult a solicitor with extensive experience in the field of medical negligence to issue legal proceedings in the appropriate court jurisdiction on your behalf.

And the earlier you make this move, the better. Although there are certain exceptions to the rule, it’s important to note that if you intend to make a medical negligence claim against a hospital, it must be actioned within two years of the day of the incident, or what is known as your ‘Date of Knowledge’ if you did not become aware of the fact that you may have been subjected to substandard care until some date subsequent to when the treatment in question was given.

Don’t delay; if you need assistance with a claim that involves medical negligence, the expert team at McCarthy + Co. Solicitors are on hand to guide you through the process, every step of the way. Contact us today to fill us in on your case and let’s take it from there.

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is a seasoned solicitor with almost 20 years of experience, specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims, focusing particularly on high-value compensation cases. His extensive litigation experience spans Circuit Court, High Court and Supreme Court levels. John's practice involves a diverse range of cases, from personal injury and wrongful death to property damage, defective products, professional negligence and judicial reviews.


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