GP Negligence Claims

Is it possible to make GP negligence claims for compensation if my family GP refused to refer me to a specialist who could have identified my symptoms and provided me with treatment earlier?

Answer:

A number of conditions have to be satisfied in order to be eligible to claim GP negligence compensation, and whereas most medical negligence claims in Ireland have to demonstrate that a loss, injury or the deterioration of an existing has occurred due to a poor professional performance, GP negligence claims are far more complicated.

Indeed, one of the primary concerns for a GP in the present economic climate is not whether a patient should be referred to a specialist, but if the practice or clinic to which the GP is attached can afford to refer a patient to a specialist. Although this factor should not affect a citizen´s right to a high standard of healthcare in Ireland, when the justification of GP negligence claims is based on “the balance of probability”, it may be the case that your GP´s financial resources have influenced his or her decision not to refer you to a specialist more than the state of your health.

Bearing that in mind, your claim for GP negligence has to show that your GP did not have the skill – or was not able to demonstrate the skill – to diagnose your symptoms “at the time and in those circumstances”. Furthermore, it also has to be proven that had your GP referred you to a specialist, the specialist would have been able to identify your symptoms and treat them accordingly. Finally, it also has to be established that because your GP did not refer you to a specialist, you suffered the avoidable and quantifiable deterioration of a physical condition.

With so many contentious issues attached to GP negligence claims, the Injuries Board Ireland will decline to process an application for assessment of compensation for GP negligence and you will have to engage a solicitor to act on your behalf. The first thing a solicitor will do is to request access to your relevant medical records which will then be presented to a medical expert. The medical expert should be able to ascertain whether your GP was justified in refusing to refer you to a specialist on medical grounds and also that a specialist would have identified the symptoms that your GP was unable to.

The medical expert will also try to establish the level that your health suffered as a result of your GP´s actions and, should there have been a significant deterioration due to your GP´s negligence or a permanent condition has developed which could have been avoided, will recommend to your solicitor that a claim for GP negligence is pursued. Your solicitor will then send a Letter of Claim to your GP, advising him or her of your GP negligence claim and inviting a response. When a significant health issue has developed and GP negligence is not in doubt, your GP will also be invited to make an offer of settlement.

Usually your GP would pass the letter onto his medical insurers who will conduct their own investigation before liability is admitted, so the whole process to establish your claim for GP negligence compensation will have to be repeated. When the medical insurance company agree that you have been the victim of GP negligence, your solicitor will make his final calculations of how much compensation for GP negligence you will be entitled to receive.

No two GP negligence claims are the same – even when the reasons for bringing them are alike – and how much compensation for GP negligence you will be entitled to will be based on the extent and severity of your quantifiable injury in relation to your age, sex and general state of health prior to the condition developing for which you are making the GP negligence claim. You will also be able to claim GP negligence compensation for any deterioration in your quality of life – indeed possibly even a reduction in your life expectancy – and any financial costs which you have incurred which are directly attributable to your GP´s breach in his duty of care.

However, before any consideration is given to how much compensation for GP negligence you may be entitled to, it is first important to establish that your GP has indeed been negligent and, due to the complicated nature of GP negligence claims, you are advised to speak directly with an experienced medical negligence solicitor at the first possible opportunity.