If you believe you have received negligent medical care that has caused you unnecessary pain and suffering, the first thing to do is to contact a lawyer who has experience in dealing with medical negligence cases. Proving that a hospital, surgeon, GP, healthcare practice or practitioner is at fault for your injury is a difficult task and you will need legal expertise to guide you through the stages that are necessary to take to bring a successful claim.
Initial stages of proving medical negligence case
Bringing a medical negligence case isn’t as simple as your word against the practitioner or medical organisation. You will need to provide proof that issuing proceedings is justifiable. Initially, this will involve the following:
- Seeking copies of your medical records – and allowing an independent medical expert to assess them as well as assess you and your injuries.
- A detailed written statement – outlining each stage of the medical treatment and where you felt it fell short. Your statement needs to make clear how the treatment has negatively impacted on your quality of life.
- Statements by witnesses – this could include friends or family members who have witnessed the impact of the negligent care on your quality of life.
An experienced medical negligence lawyer is best placed to help you bring on board the right medical experts and collate your evidence in a manner that will enable you to put forward your best claim.
Developing your case
Once your medical records have been assembled and examined and your detailed statement has been finalised, your lawyer will then be able to choose the most appropriate individuals from their network of medical and legal experts to assist them in determining whether both liability and causation can be established against the healthcare organisation or practitioner suspected of malpractice.
To successfully bring a medical negligence claim it is necessary to satisfy a court that one or more medical staff who treated you failed to deliver due skill and care whilst carrying out their professional duties. Whilst the way courts in different countries view this, the “test in Ireland for determining whether the appropriate standard of care has been delivered by a medical practitioner was handed down by the Supreme Court in 1991 in the case of Dunne v. the National Maternity Hospital” says John McCarthy, a solicitor at medical negligence specialists, McCarthy & Co.
In Ireland, many legal texts have been written about what is now referred to as ‘the Dunne principles’, a legal test for medical negligence cases. An important element of the principles is the notion that a medical professional can only be considered negligent if it can be shown that they were guilty of a failure that was so unacceptable, no other practitioner with the same level of skill and expertise would have behaved in the same manner if acting with ordinary care.
This is meant to protect the medical professional from having to practice ‘defensive medicine’ and avoid incriminating doctors who have to make very complicated decisions in emergency situations.
“Opinions between experts as to what constitutes acceptable practice can often vary, and as long as a doctor can show that there is a respectable body of practitioners who would not deem the behaviour complained of to have fallen below an acceptable standard, they will be found by a court not to have been negligent, even if there is another (possibly much larger) school of practitioners who believes that the behaviour did not constitute proper practice” says John.
Even in scenarios where it can easily be established that the medical practitioner’s behaviour fell below acceptable standards to the point where they were negligent, this does not necessarily entitle a claimant to compensation. Claimants must go on to prove that the negligent actions of medical staff are the actual cause of the injuries they sustained.
This means they must satisfy a court that it’s more likely than not that the substandard treatment was the direct cause of the harm inflicted on them. Causation in medical negligence cases is complex as there can be scenarios where injury, loss or damage can occur even if negligent treatment had not been administered. Therefore, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced medical negligence legal team who understand the issues and can determine whether causation can be established.