Do I Have a Claim for Medical Negligence?

It is a sad fact of life that, relatively frequently, bad things happen to people who undergo medical treatments.  Some complications are very minor in nature and, while inconvenient and unpleasant for a period, they are eventually remedied, either by the body’s natural healing mechanisms or by further corrective medical treatment.  On the other hand there can be complications associated with medical procedures which can be very serious in nature, giving rise to life-changing catastrophic injuries and, in some cases, causing death.

The first thing that must be said is that the fact that someone suffers from a complication as a consequence of an operation or other medical procedure does not, of itself, mean that they have been subjected to medical negligence, even where the complication very rarely occurs when treatments of the nature in question are carried out.

Even the most simple, straightforward and commonly performed surgeries and treatments have associated with them an inherent risk of something going wrong.  In many cases the probability of an adverse outcome is miniscule, with the benefit to be derived from the treatment far outweighing the remote risk that complications could occur.  These problems are prone to arise even where the doctor, surgeon or other medical practitioner who carried out the task did so with flawless expertise.

In situations such as this the person who has suffered the complication does not have any right to be compensated by the medical professionals involved in their treatment, no matter how terrible the adverse effects of the procedure turn out to be.

But there are a very significant number of cases where the injuries or complications which a person suffers from when undergoing a medical procedure could reasonably have been prevented.  If an injury or complication is caused by a clinical practitioner involved in a procedure either doing something that they should not have done, or not doing something that they should have done, that practitioner has been guilty of medical negligence (sometimes also referred to as clinical negligence or medical malpractice).

It’s important to explain the use of the word “guilty” in this context:  the vast majority of medical practitioners persistently do their absolute utmost to look after their patients’ care.  They never cut corners or act in a careless or cavalier way when attending to their patients’ wellbeing.

However, like every other human being, they are liable to make mistakes, even with the best will in the world.  We often find that (initially, at least) the victims of medical negligence whom we represent bear a great deal of resentment towards the medical practitioners who have been the cause of their injuries.  While this is a completely natural reaction to what has happened, when you think about it rationally, it’s not fair to the medical practitioners concerned in the vast majority of cases.  They were just doing their job when a mistake occurred, the consequences of which they never intended and which they feel absolutely terrible about.  While you do get instances where clinical negligence is caused by a devil-may-care attitude or by a desire to put profit before patient care, these are few and far between.

The flip-side of this is that medical practitioners shouldn’t feel aggrieved when a claim for compensation is brought against them, even when (as is mostly the case) they made their mistake when trying to do their job to the best of their abilities.  Let’s not be unrealistic, no-one likes getting sued, but just as the victim of medical negligence doesn’t have any rational basis for holding a grudge against the medical practitioner for the complication which has occurred neither does the medical practitioner have any grounds for resenting the fact that someone who has suffered an injury at their hands is entitled to be compensated for what has happened to them.

In order for someone to succeed in a court case claiming compensation for medical negligence they have to be able to prove two things.  They must first of all show that the medical practitioner involved acted in a negligent manner (either by doing something wrong or failing to do something right) and they must secondly go on to show that this failure on the medical practitioner’s part was the actual cause of the complication which occurred.

The second part of this test is often difficult for people to accept, particularly in misdiagnosis cases.  Consider, for example, a situation where a doctor negligently fails to diagnose that a patient has a serious medical condition such as cancer and instead misdiagnoses that the patient has a relatively trivial ailment, resulting in the wrong treatment being prescribed.

For the doctor to be liable to compensate the patient in damages not only must it be proven that the diagnosis was negligent, but it must also be proved that, had the proper diagnosis been made, a negative medical outcome for the patient could have been avoided or at least mitigated by appropriate medical treatment.  In other words, if the patient’s situation couldn’t have been improved by any treatment even if the correct diagnosis had been made, the patient won’t be entitled to be compensated, even though they were wrongly diagnosed.

The harsh reality is that medical negligence occurs in Ireland on a daily basis and, in many cases, the personal injuries which flow from these negligent acts give rise to an entitlement for the patient to be compensated by the payment of damages.  In order for a patient to establish whether they have such a claim, and to recover the damages which they deserve if they do, it is essential that they retain an expert legal team to investigate their case on a no win, no fee basis as soon as they suspect that they have received negligent medical treatment to maximise their chances of succeeding in their claim.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been affected by medical negligence and would like to arrange a free initial consultation with John McCarthy feel free to call him on 023 883 3348023 883 3348 or email him at john@mccarthy.ie to discuss your case in complete confidence and without commitment.

“In contentious business a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.”

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*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.

John specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims. His practice focuses on high value compensation cases. He has extensive experience in this area of litigation for over 10 years. Read more