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Important Steps for a Medical Negligence claim

With the latest news hitting the headlines regarding the misreading of cervical check screening services provided by the HSE, it has become increasingly important to know the steps you should undertake if involved in a medical negligence case.

Medical Negligence is used to describe situations where a patient suffers a personal injury as a result of an error made by the medical practitioner. In the case of the cervical smear tests, the controversy emerged in April 2018 when a 43-year-old women settled for a €2.5 million court action against a US laboratory that the Cervical Check screening service had subcontracted to read smear tests. Ms Phelan developed cancer after receiving a false negative result in her smear test. It later emerged that test results were misread in 209 cases. 

There can be many situations where medical negligence arises – not only a cancer misdiagnosis. It can include errors during a surgical procedure, errors in prescription of medicine, delays in diagnosing an illness or an injury. Should any of the above situations arise, it is always best to consult with your solicitor to ensure that when making your claim to the court, you are fully informed.

As a top-level guide, we have outlined the following steps to undertake should you encounter medical negligence:

1. Keep any medical records that you have from the incident, including photos of any visible injuries sustained as a result.

2. Once you have made contact with your solicitor, he/she will typically request to see your medical records. You can request these from the medical institute in question. Always remember, these records are your records and you are entitled to see them and obtain copies of them. If you require copies of your medical records you should sign an authority and ask your solicitor to write seeking copies.

3. While solicitors work hard to understand the situation and the legal implications, they are not doctors, so they will always outsource an independent medical expert in the field of interest to review the case. This expert will prepare a report which details whether negligence has taken place or not.

4. Your solicitor will write a formal letter of claim and send it to all parties involved in the case. This letter details the negligence that takes place and invites the medical practitioners at fault to settle your claim.

5. What happens next depends on the nature of the claim and the third parties response to the letter. It could be that your claim is brought to a court hearing or that the issue is settled outside of the court. Whatever happens, your solicitor will advise you on the best path to take.

It should be noted that you have two years from the date the negligence took place or from the date when you first had knowledge of it. This can sometimes cause difficulty because due to the nature of medical negligence, it could often be a number of years before a person is aware of it. For this reason, the time limit in medical negligence cases can sometimes be extended. This further strengthens the point of contacting a medical negligence solicitor as soon as you become aware of your injury/illness.

Have questions about medical negligence? Get in touch with our expert team at Flanagan & Co here.


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