When dealing with a medical condition, prompt diagnosis and treatment is often essential to achieve the best outcome for a patient’s health.
If treatment is delayed for any reason, it can have serious consequences, such as making a condition harder to treat, requiring more invasive treatment or even meaning that the condition becomes untreatable.
Where delays in medical treatment are caused by medical negligence (also sometimes referred to as ‘clinical negligence’), compensation may be available for those affected.
When might delayed treatment be due to medical negligence?
Delays in medical treatment may be due to medical negligence if it can be shown that:
- Treatment was started later than it should have been, or not at all, due to errors made in the diagnosis or treatment of a patient.
- That those errors were so serious as to breach the duty of care owed to the patient.
- The errors made resulted in a worse outcome for the patient’s health (including both their physical and psychological wellbeing).
Examples of circumstances where medical negligence might be a factor in medical treatment delays include where:
- A patient is not tested promptly and appropriately after showing symptoms that a competent clinical professional would be expected to recognise as significant.
- Tests are not carried out correctly compromising the results and leading to a delay in diagnosis and treatment.
- Test results are lost or not correctly interpreted.
- The correct diagnosis is achieved but the appropriate treatment is not started within a reasonable period of time.
What might delayed treatment compensation cover?
Compensation for medical negligence can potentially cover specific financial costs such as paying for medical treatment, rehabilitation services, care support and specialist equipment, as well as lost income.
It may also be possible to claim for the non-financial impact of negligent medical care, such as pain and suffering and loss of amenity (i.e. not being able to carry out activities the claimant previously enjoyed).
What is the time limit for a delayed treatment claim?
There is a two-year time limit for most types of medical negligence claims, so it is important to keep this in mind when considering pursuing compensation.
Our expertise with delayed treatment claims in Ireland
For 30 years, our medical negligence solicitors in Dublin have helped clients to claim compensation for a wide range of medical errors and injures, including those related to delayed treatment.
We ensure claims are handled effectively from the outset, with no detail overlooked. We work closely with clients to make sure they understand what is happening and what to expect at every stage of the claims process.
Lavelle Solicitors was named Medical Negligence Law Firm of the Year for Ireland at the 2017 InterContinental Finance & Law awards.
Head of Medical Negligence Avril Scally has over 16 years’ experience dealing with a wide range of claims for clients all over Ireland and is a member of AVMA (Action Against Medical Accident) and APIL (the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers).
As well as helping with the legal side of pursuing a medical negligence claim, our team can also assist with accessing specialist care and rehabilitation services.
Our medical negligence solicitors can assist with all types of delayed treatment claims, including (but not limited to) situations where delayed treatment has led to a medical condition:
- Becoming harder to treat effectively
- Requiring more invasive treatment
- Becoming untreatable
- Becoming terminal
- Causing pain and suffering that could have been avoided
How delayed treatment claims work
Establishing that treatment delays were caused by medical negligence
Anyone wanting to pursue a delayed treatment claim must first obtain a report from an appropriate qualified medical expert to confirm that the medical care they received fell below acceptable clinical standards.
For a valid claim, it will need to be shown that two conditions have been met:
A breach of duty of care – i.e. that you were owed you a duty of care by the people treating you and the delays in your treatment represented a breach of that duty of care.
Harm suffered due to that breached duty of care – i.e. that on the balance of probability, the harm to your health was caused by your treatment being delayed. The ‘balance of probability’ means that there is at least a 50% chance that harm to your health was caused by negligent delays in your treatment.
How much compensation is available for a specific instance of delayed treatment will be determined by the impact on the patient of the harm caused. This can include:
- Any financial costs or losses caused by the patient’s injuries
- Future financial losses or costs the patient expects to incur due to their injuries
- The non-financial impact on the patient’s life such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of amenity (not being able to carry out activities the claimant previously enjoyed)
Out-of-court settlements for delayed treatment claims
It is often possible to settle delayed treatment claims voluntarily with the clinician or healthcare provider responsible. This can potentially make the claims process faster and involve lower legal fees.
Taking a delayed medical treatment claim to court
In cases where a negotiated settlement cannot be achieved, court proceedings may be a necessity. Claimants facing this prospect will need to have effective legal representatives who can build and present their cases in the strongest possible way.
Often those living with the impact of negligent medical treatment delays will need immediate financial support to cover costs such as fees for medical treatment, rehabilitation care and other essential support.
Where this is the case, it may be possible to secure interim payments while a claim is ongoing, allowing the claimant to access the support they need sooner.
Fatal delays in medical treatment
Where someone has died due to negligent delays in their medical treatment, an appointed personal representative of the deceased may be able to make a claim under the terms of the Civil Liability Act, 1961, Part 4. They will have two years from the date of death to do so.
In the event that a personal representative is not appointed within six months of the date of death, anyone who was a dependant of the deceased at the time of their death can potentially pursue a claim within the time limit.
Compensation for fatal treatment delays can include damages for:
- Psychological distress – capped at €35,000
- Loss of dependency – covering the loss of financial and practical support from the deceased
- Specific financial losses resulting from the death – including funeral expenses
Find out more about fatal medical negligence claims.
Time limits for delayed treatment claims
In most circumstances, patients have two years to claim compensation for delayed treatment due to medical negligence. This is counted from the ‘date of knowledge’ as set out below. There are also some limited circumstances where patients or their loved ones may have longer to claim.
The date of knowledge
A key point is that the two-year time limit will be counted from the ‘date of knowledge’ i.e. the date when the claimant was first aware of the following key points:
- That they/their loved one has been injured.
- That the injury was significant.
- That the injury was caused by negligent medical treatment.
- The identity of the person responsible for the injury.
The date of knowledge could potentially be weeks, months or even years after the injuries occur, so this can have a significant impact on how long a person has to claim.
Exceptions to the standard two-year time limit for delayed treatment claims
Situations where the time limit may be different include:
- Where the claimant was under 18 when the negligence occurred – the two-year time limit will be counted from their 18th
- Where the claimant is deemed to lack the mental capacity to pursue a claim themselves – there is normally no time limit for someone else to make a claim on their behalf.
- Where someone has died as a result of medical negligence – a representative of their estate will have two years to bring a claim from the date of death.
Our delayed treatment claims pricing
The exact fees for pursuing a medical negligence compensation claim will depend on the circumstances. Factors that may affect these costs include whether the claim can be resolved with an out-of-court settlement or whether court proceedings are required.
Our team will discuss costs and funding options during clients’ initial consultation.
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement. This statement is made in compliance with RE.8 of S.I. No. 229 of 2019.