Medical negligence cases are taken by individuals who believe that a hospital, medical organisation and/or treating clinician has failed to provide a reasonable standard of care (negligence) and but for this substandard care, they would not have suffered an injury (causation).
While no two cases are the same, there are a number of steps you should take if you think you have suffered an injury as a result of medical negligence.
KNOW YOUR TIME LIMITS
The Statute of Limitations for medical negligence in Ireland is two years from the date of your injury, less one day. While there are limited exceptions to this rule, it is, where possible, always best to act within this time limit. Your solicitor will be able to offer further advice on this.
CONTACT A MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE SOLICITOR
It is important to contact a solicitor who specialises in medical negligence cases as soon as possible and they will take a detailed account of what happened. It is also useful if you have prepared your own chronological statement setting out what happened, together with the relevant dates and the names of the various hospitals/clinician involved.
GATHERING YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS
Under the General Data Protection Legislation, you are entitled to a complete copy of your medical records and these will be vital in investigating a possible claim for medical negligence. You can request a copy of your medical records from the relevant hospitals/clinicians directly or you can ask your solicitor to do this on your behalf. If your solicitor is taking up your medical records, they will require a letter of authority and photographic identification.
GETTING AN EXPERT MEDICAL REPORT
The High Court and the Supreme Court in Ireland have held that it is unethical to issue medical negligence proceedings without a supportive medical expert report. Once your solicitor has reviewed your medical records, they will be in a position to determine what kind of medical expert will be required in your particular case. Because Ireland is small and the majority of members of the medical community will know each other, experts instructed to prepare medical reports will be based in the UK, to ensure independence and impartiality from Irish clinicians.
As both elements of negligence and causation must be proven, it may be necessary to obtain several reports.
Over the course of the proceedings, it may also be necessary to obtain further condition and prognosis reports to determine how you have been affected by your injuries and how same will affect you into the future. While it usually possible for liability reports to be prepared on basis of your records alone, a condition and prognosis report may require a physical examination or consultation.
Once you have obtained supportive expert reports with regard to negligence and causation, you solicitor will instruct a barrister to draft a Personal Injuries Summons. This will set out what happened and provide details of the injuries suffered. Proceedings are usually issued in the High Court in cases involving medical negligence. A letter of claim will also be sent to the hospital/clinician involved and the Personal Injuries Summons will be served upon them in due course.
What happens after the Personal Injuries Summons has been served will differ from case to case. The Defendants might concede liability and enter into negotiations/mediation to settle the matter. Alternatively, they may fully defend the claim which can result in a court case where a Judge will hear evidence from you, your experts and the Defendant’s experts before determining liability and how much is to be awarded, should they ultimately find in your favour.
Article by: Aoife O’Kane, Associate Solicitor, Medical Negligence
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.
06 August 2019